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Obama: 'Russia Doesn't Make Anything'

U.S. President Barack Obama holds a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a G8 summit in Northern Ireland in June 2013.

U.S. President Barack Obama has downplayed Moscow's role in the world, dismissing Russia as a country that "doesn't make anything."

In an interview with the British weekly “The Economist” posted online on August 2, Obama said: "Immigrants aren’t rushing to Moscow in search of opportunity. The life expectancy of the Russian male is around 60 years old. The population is shrinking."

Obama made the comments as Ukrainian government forces continue to battle pro-Russian separatists in the country's east.

The West has imposed sanctions on Russia, accusing Moscow of supporting the Ukrainian rebels -- which the Kremlin denies.

In the interview, Obama criticized President Vladimir Putin as a leader who causes short-term trouble for political gain.

"I think President Putin represents a deep strain in Russia that is probably harmful to Russia over the long term," he said.

The U.S. president added that the West has to “respond with resolve” to Russia's "regional challenges."

“We have to make sure that they don’t escalate where suddenly nuclear weapons are back in the discussion of foreign policy,” he said.

Last week, the U.S. government accused Russia of conducting tests that violate a 1987 nuclear treaty designed to eliminate ground-launched missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

Describing U.S. tensions with China as "manageable," Obama told “The Economist” that the West needed to be "pretty firm" with Beijing.

"They're not sentimental, and they are not interested in abstractions. And so simple appeals to international norms are insufficient," he added.

China frequently skirmishes with the West over intellectual-property issues and is engaged in territorial disputes with its neighbors in the South China Sea.

"There have to be mechanisms both to be tough with them when we think that they're breaching international norms, but also to show them the potential benefits over the long term," Obama said.

With reporting by and Reuters
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