Okay. Support or oppose President Obama's policies, I think we can all agree statements like this are just stupid:
Obama downplayed Moscow's role in the world, dismissing President Vladimir Putin as a leader causing short-term trouble for political gain that will hurt Russia in the long term.Let's have a cursory look at the statistics, shall we?
"I do think it's important to keep perspective. Russia doesn't make anything," Obama said in the interview.
"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," he said.
First of all, a cursory look at industrial production indices [Rosstat] shows that nearly all segments of Russian industry have increased production since 1992 (except for textiles, leather, and wool - hardly bleeding-edge sectors).
Secondly, Russian defence industry [Wiki] employes between 2.5 and 3 million people, and generates over 13 billion dollars' worth of annual exports, making the RF the world's second largest arms exporter.
Russia is also IT (third-largest exporter), aerospace, fishing and forestry, not to mention nuclear technology. Oh, and space technology. I could go on.
This is not to say Russia's economy is on par with developed countries or that it is developing splendidly. But to deny the existence of some quite sophisticated industries within the Russian Federation and to use such a denial to dismiss the country is to ignore reality.
Now, I think I know why President Obama has dismissed Russia in such a way; the reason is the same as for his comment that Russia is a regional power as opposed to a global one. Russia's position from the end of the Yeltsin era onward has been that statehood or Great Power-ness, the restoration of Russia's international status, economic growth and internal stability are inextricably linked (Gonzalo Pozo, Russian Foreign Policy from Putin to Medvedev, in: Dale et al., First the Transition, Then the Crash: Eastern Europe in the 1990s, p. 77-78).
More generally, though, while Russia's overarching foreign policy goal has been consistent over the post-Soviet period - it has craved to be recognised as a co-equal partner in world affairs - the methods have changed. Initially, Russia aimed for integration with the West, which Western countries flatly refused (offering the consolation position of a junior partner), and even enlarged NATO, which Russia considered a major breach of faith.
Why did the West act like that? Because the western countries apparently decided that there was no chance for Russia to be both strong and hostile to the West at the same time. Yet that is exactly what seems to have happened.
I think that this strategy of denying that the Russian Federation is of importance is risky indeed. If it does not work - if Russia is not brought to heel - the West will have to contend with a considerable power and a Security Council member acting against Western interests for the foreseeable future.