TRANSCRIPT: President Obama's Interview with ABC's Jake Tapper

President Obama expresses confidence about his foreign policy approach.

ByABC News
July 7, 2009, 9:50 AM

July 7, 2009— -- ABC News' senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper spoke with President Obama on his first trip to Russia as president. The following is a transcript of that interview.

JAKE TAPPER: We were just joking about how the media seems to be a little bit more focused on -- on funeral in California right now. Is it -- in all seriousness -- is it annoying at all that you're doing this very serious summit here and many of my colleagues are more consumed with celebrity death?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, this is part of American culture. Michael Jackson -- like Elvis, like Sinatra -- when somebody whose captivated the imagination of the country for that long passes away, people pay attention. And I assume at some point people will start focusing again on things like nuclear weapons.

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TAPPER: Last time you were here in 2005, you were held up a little by a guard. What have you seen that has changed in Russia? Are their human rights worse?

OBAMA: What I think has happened, the last time I was here in 2005, you had already started to see the Russian public concerned less with democracy and human rights than they were in consumption and a growing economy, and I think there was a renewed confidence that in some ways had pushed those other issues out to the side.

What I am encouraged by is -- in conversations with President Medevedev -- is that there -- is a growing recognition that if they want to diversity their economy, continuing to develop the entrepreneurs of the sort that I just spoke to at this graduation, that issues like rule of law, transparency, democracy are going to continue to be important and I think that after the wild swings of the 90's and the last decade or so you're starting to see Russia balance out. And I think that they want to pursue economic growth but I think that they recognize that some of the nagging issues around civil society still have to be fixed.

TAPPER: Whether it's this summit with President Medvedev or anything else, can you point to any reason why you're encouraged why your approach to Iran and North Korea is the right approach? And ultimately will be successful in reducing the threat in those nations?

OBAMA: Well in North Korea, what we saw was a very strong unanimity around a very strong sanctions resumed that I think it's fair to say that even two or three years ago might not have been imposed by either Russia or China. They might have blocked it in the Security Council. We've already seen a ship of North Korea's turned back because of international effort to implement the sanctions and I think that is a positive step forward.

Obviously North Korea continues to be highly unpredictable; they're going through succession changes. The intelligence that the international community gets out of North Korea is very murky, and so we've still got problems there.

Now on Iran, I think that the governing elites there are going through a struggle that has been mirrored painfully and powerfully on the streets and in my mind the fact that we have both said we are willing to work with Iran at the same time as we have been very clear about our grave deep concerns with respect to not just the violence, not just the detentions that have taken place, has created a space where the international community can potentially join and pressure iran more effectively than they have in the past.

But ultimately we're going to have to see whether a country like Russia for example is willing to work with us to apply pressure on Iran to take a path toward international respectability as opposed to the path they're on. That's not something we're going to know the results of for several more months as we continue to do the hard diplomatic work of putting this coalition together to tell Iran "make the better choice."