WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama said Wednesday that Russians are looking to the West as places with opportunities to succeed, a trend that worries the Kremlin.
Russia, he said, "feels surrounded, in part because people look at the West and they look at Europe and they look at America and they say this is a place where, if we put in effort, without connections, without being born to the right place, without having to pay a bribe, we might be able to succeed."
In comparison, Russia is a country that is unattractive to foreign investors and has a population that is shrinking, said Obama at a Democratic National Committee dinner.
Moscow's move to annex Crimea from Ukraine therefore stemmed from weakness rather than strength, the president said, reiterating a point that he had already made in March.
The United States has slapped visa and other limited sanctions on selected Russian figures in reprisal for Moscow's absorption of Crimea after the ouster of Kiev's pro-Kremlin president.
Washington has warned of more damaging sanctions if Russia takes further steps against Ukrainian territory.