President Barack Obama said Wednesday that Russia doesn’t want a confrontation with the United States.
"They’re not interested in any kind of military confrontation with us, understanding that our conventional forces are significantly superior to the Russians,” the president told Major Garrett of CBS News, according to a Washington Post Blog. "We don’t need a war."
The remarks came two days after the Associated Press reported that a Russian fighter jet made multiple close passes near an American warship in the Black Sea.
The fighter pilot’s actions increased tensions in the region of Eastern Europe around Ukraine. Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula last month and has been amassing troops on Ukraine’s eastern border since that time.
"This provocative and unprofessional Russian action is inconsistent with international protocols and previous agreements on the professional interaction between our militaries," said Pentagon spokesman, Army Col. Steve Warren.
According to a Time magazine story, Garrett asked the president if the “buzz” from the fighter jet should be regarded as an attempt by Russian President Vladimir Putin to send a signal to Washington.
“As commander-in-chief, I don’t make decisions based on perceived signals,” Obama responded. “We make decisions very deliberately, based on what’s required for our security and for the security of our allies. And the Russians understand that.”
The president reiterated that Russia annexed Crimea "in an illegal fashion,” and he suggested that Russia has supported separatist militias in other parts of Ukraine. Those efforts by Russia are "causing chaos,” according to Obama.
But the president stopped short of detailing what, if any, further action the U.S. was willing to take in order to slow Russian aggression.
“What I’ve said consistently is that each time Russia takes these kinds of steps, that are designed to destabilize Ukraine and violate their sovereignty, that there are going to be consequences,” he said according to CBS News.
"The question now becomes whether or not this can be deescalated and resolved — in a way that gives Ukrainians a chance to make their own decisions about their own lives," Obama said.
Diplomatic officials from the United States, Ukraine, Russia and the European Union are scheduled to meet Thursday in Geneva. That will be the first meeting between the four parties since the crisis in Ukraine erupted.
Putin expressed hope that the talks could offer “real dialogue.”
“I think the start of today’s talks is very important, as it’s very important now to think together about how to overcome this situation and offer a real dialogue to the people,” he said.