Obama slaps down '60 Minutes' reporter's claim that Vladimir Putin is 'challenging' his 'leadership'
President Barack Obama reacts to Steve Kroft's assertion that Putin is challenging his leadership (Screen capture)

In a Sunday evening interview with CBS' 60 Minutes, President Barack Obama shot down reporter Steve Kroft's assertion that Vladimir Putin is "showing leadership" in the Middle East by attempting to prop up the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

"You said a year ago the United States, America leads," said Kroft. "We're the indispensable nation. Mr Putin seems to be challenging that leadership."

Obama flashed a brief expression of irritation before asking, "In what way? Let's think about this."

"Well, he's moved troops into Syria, for one," Kroft went on. "He's got people on the ground. Two, the Russians are conducting military operations in the Middle East for the first time since World War II, bombing the people that we are supporting."

"So that's 'leading,' Steve?" Obama said. "Let me ask you this question. When I came into office, Ukraine was governed by a corrupt ruler who was a stooge of Mr. Putin. Syria was Russia's only ally in the region and today, rather than being able to count on their support and maintain the base they had in Syria which they've had for a long time, Mr. Putin now is devoting his own troops, his own military, just to barely hold together by a thread his sole ally."

"He's challenging your leadership, Mr. President," Kroft insisted.

"Steve, I've got to tell you," the president said, "if you think that running your economy into the ground and having to send troops in in order to prop up your only ally is leadership, then we've got a different definition of leadership."

Watch the video, embedded below: