Days from his first Moscow summit, President Obama declared Thursday that former Russian President Vladimir Putin "still has a lot of sway" in his nation and needs an in-person reminder the Cold War is over.
On next week's trip, Obama will meet not only with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev but with Putin, the prime minister who hand-picked Medvedev as his successor. Said Obama: "I think that it's important that even as we move forward with President Medvedev that Putin understand that the old Cold War approaches to U.S.-Russian relations is outdated. ... Putin has one foot in the old ways of doing business and one foot in the new."
In a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press, Obama also:
* Said he could see abandoning his own proposal to indefinitely hold some terror detainees --"it gives me great pause" -- and said he would not be comfortable ordering such a disposition for Guantanamo Bay prisoners without congressional action.
* In light of recent Supreme Court cases dealing with highly charged questions about the nation's racial progress, said the high court was "moving the ball" away from affirmative action but noted the justices had not foreclosed the continued use of racial preferences in hiring and college admissions, which he said he supports in some circumstances. In any case he said affirmative action is neither the panacea -- nor the problem -- that it's often made out to be.
* With most experts in agreement that there's a good chance Iran could have a usable nuclear bomb sometime during his presidency, he said, "I'm not reconciled with that."
Scheduled to depart Sunday for a trip to Russia, an international summit in Italy and his first trip to Africa as president, Obama praised Moscow for its cooperation in international efforts to persuade North Korea and Iran to abandon their nuclear development programs. After North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test in May, the United Nations approved "the most robust sanction regime that we've ever seen with respect to North Korea," he said.
He expressed optimism he could get international agreement for even tougher action if North Korea persists in defying demands that it dismantle its nuclear weapons and stop production. The U.N. sanctions, for instance, did not include one thing the U.S. wanted: allowing the use of military force to board and inspect ships suspected of carrying banned weapons.