White House press secretary Josh Earnest said there are “serious issues” to discuss when President Barack Obama sits down with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly next week.
The two leaders have had an icy relationship and will be discussing some of the nations’ contentious issues, with the top agenda item being Ukraine, Earnest told reporters Thursday.
“The president has described his previous discussions with President Putin as blunt and businesslike,” Earnest said. “I wouldn’t anticipate significant overt hostility, but I would say there are some serious issues that the United States and Russia have to discuss, and the president is not going to shy away from raising our significant concerns with Russia’s behavior in Ukraine and other places around the world.”
He added that the two presidents will also discuss Russia’s increasing military assistance to embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, whom the United States wants to see ousted from power.
“The president’s private message to President Putin will be similar to the public message — that doubling down on support for the Assad regime is a losing strategy,” Earnest said.