» News » In last presser, Obama warns Russia: 'We can do stuff to you'

In last presser, Obama warns Russia: 'We can do stuff to you'

December 17, 2016 10:40 IST

The United States is stronger and more prosperous than it was eight years ago, US President Barack Obama has said, attributing it to a series of steps taken by him during his two four-year terms.

IMAGE: US President Barack Obama waves as he leaves the podium after speaking to journalists during his last news conference of the year at the White House in Washington, US. Photograph: Carlos Barria/Reuters

"Almost every country on Earth sees America as stronger and more respected today than they did eight years ago. In other words, by so many measures our country is stronger and more prosperous than it was when we started. It is a situation that I'm proud to leave for my successor," Obama told White House reporters during his last yearender press conference.

On foreign policy, Obama said when he came into office when the US was in the midst of two wars.

"Now nearly 180,000 troops are down to 15,000. Bin Laden, rather than being at large, has been taken off the battlefield, along with thousands of other terrorists," he said.

"Over the past eight years no foreign terrorist organisation has successfully executed an attack on our homeland that was directed from overseas. Through diplomacy, we have ensured Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon without going to war with Iran," Obama said.

"We opened up a new chapter with the people of Cuba. And we have brought nearly 200 nations together around a climate agreement that could very well save this planet for our kids," he added.

Recollecting January 2009 when he became the 44th President of the United States, Obama said unemployment rate was on its way to 10 per cent. Today it is at 4.6 percent, the lowest in nearly a decade, Obama stated.

"We've seen the longest streak of job growth on record, and wages have grown faster over the past few years than at any time in the past 40," he said.

"When I came into office, 44 million people were uninsured. Today we have covered more than 20 million of them. For the first time in our history, more than 90 per cent of Americans are insured. In fact, yesterday was the biggest day ever for healthcare, more than 670,000 Americans signed up to get covered, and more are signing up by the day," Obama said.

"We've cut our dependence on foreign oil by more than half, doubled production of renewable energy, enacted the most sweeping reforms since FDR to protect consumers and prevent a crisis on Wall Street from punishing main street ever again. None of these actions stifled growth as critics are predicted. Instead, the stock market has nearly tripled," he said.

Obama highlighted that since he signed Obamacare into law, US businesses have added more than 15 million new jobs, and the economy has undoubtedly become more durable than it was in the days when the US relied on oil from "unstable nations" and banks took risky bets with American people's money.

Last year the poverty rate fell at the fastest rate in almost 50 years, while the median household income grew at the fastest rate on record, he said.

"In fact, income gains were actually larger for households at the bottom and the middle than for those at the top. And we have done all this while cutting our deficits by nearly two-thirds, and protecting vital investments that grow the middle class," said the US President.

Obama said after he leaves office he intends to continue to work with organisations and citizens doing good across the country on these and other pressing issues to build on the progress that the country has made.

IMAGE: People watch Obama on a large screen inside the Newseum as he participates in his last news conference of the year in Washington, US. Photograph: Kevin Coombs/Reuters

'Russia behind cyberattacks during polls'

President Obama alleged that Russia possibly under President Vladimir Putin's directions carried out cyberattacks during the US polls, as he urged his successor Donald Trump to ensure that the American election process is not under potential "foreign influence".

"What I can tell you is that the intelligence that I've seen gives me great confidence in their assessment that the Russians carried out this hack. Not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin," Obama told media persons, indicating Putin's involvement.

"They hacked into some Democratic Party e-mails that contained pretty routine stuff, some of it embarrassing or uncomfortable because I suspect that if any of us got our emails hacked into there might be some things that we would not want suddenly appearing on the front page of a newspaper or a telecast, even if there was not anything particularly illegal or controversial about it," he said.

A worried Obama also lashed out at Russia for its alleged effort to influence the US election, saying the country does not produce anything and lacks innovation.

"We've got to think what is happening to our political culture here. The Russians can't change us or significantly weaken us. They are a smaller country, they are a weaker country, their economy doesn't produce anything that anybody wants to buy except oil and gas and arms. They don't innovate," Obama said.

Obama assured Americans that the ballot itself was not rigged and promised to "send a clear message to Russia or others not to do this to us, because we can do stuff to you."

"But they can impact us if we lose track of who we are. They can impact us if we abandon our values. Putin can weaken us just like he's trying to weaken Europe if we start buying into notions that it's OK to intimidate the press, or lock up dissidents, or discriminate against people because of their faith or what they look like," he said.

Terming it a "pretty hierarchical operation", Obama said there was not a lot of debate and democratic deliberation, particularly when it comes to policies directed at the US. "We have said and I will confirm that this happened at the highest levels of the Russian government and I will let you make that determination as to whether there are high-level Russian officials who go off rogue and decide to tamper with the US election process without Vladimir Putin knowing about it," he said.

Obama said he had raised the issue when he met Putin recently in China.

Obama also hoped his successor Donald Trump will show equal concern to ensure that the American election process is not under a potential "foreign influence".

"My hope is that the president-elect is going to similarly be concerned with making sure that we don't have a potential foreign influence in our election process. I don't think any American wants that. And that shouldn't be a source of an argument," Obama said.

The US President also called for bipartisan unity on the issue.

© Copyright 2019 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.