Outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama in his final White House presser offered a cautious note on developing friendlier ties to Moscow, saying a constructive US-Russia relationship is "in America's interest and the world's interest."
President-elect Donald Trump has proposed friendlier ties to Moscow, which he said would lead to greater partnership on a series of sticky global issues from Syria to Ukraine, reports the CNN.
The ties between the incoming and outgoing administrations have strained over Trump's relationship with Russia, which the U.S. accuses of meddling in the presidential election.
Obama yesterday said that fostering warmer ties during his presidency was stymied by Russian President Vladimir Putin's combative stance when he returned to power in 2012.
Putin's "adversarial spirit" had "made the relationship more difficult," he said.
In his question-and-answer session with reporters, Obama said that after two terms of political warfare with Republicans, he was emerging unbowed in his faith in the US and its citizens.
"I believe in this country. I believe in the American people. I believe that people are more good than bad. I believe tragic things happen. I think there's evil in the world, but I think at the end of the day, if we work hard and if we're true to those things in us that feel true and feel right, that the world gets a little better each time."
Conceding that Trump may not take his advice on issues, Obama said he would avoid weighing in on specific policy matters during his post-presidency, using his time instead to write and "not hear myself talk so darn much."
He also hoped that once Trump gets into office and is hit with the intricate details of governing, his thinking might shift on issues such as Obamacare and jobs.
"Once he comes into office and he looks at the complexities of how to in fact provide healthcare for everybody, something he says he wants to do, or wants to make sure that he is encouraging job creation and wage growth in this country, that may lead him to some of the same conclusions that I arrived at once I got here," Obama said. "But I don't think we'll know until he has an actual chance to get sworn in and sit behind that desk."
During the conference comes, Obama also defended commutation of sentence for national security leaker Chelsea Manning and a pardon for Gen. James Cartwright, convicted of lying to investigators in a leak probe.
He said that Manning has already served a "tough prison sentence." He said he looked at the particulars of the case the same way he had any other person whose sentence he had commuted.
"I felt that in light of all the circumstances, that commuting her sentence was entirely appropriate," he said.
The decision has been lambasted by Republicans, who have accused Manning of being a traitor for disclosing hundreds of thousands of pages related to classified U.S. programs.