Those thinking his Russian counterpart was a “genius” had been proven wrong by Russia’s economic crisis, he said.
Mr Obama was giving a wide-ranging interview with NPR shortly before leaving for Hawaii for his annual holiday. He criticised his political opponents who claimed he had been outdone by Russia’s president.
“You’ll recall that three or four months ago, everybody in Washington was convinced that President Putin was a genius and he had outmanoeuvred all of us and he had bullied and strategised his way into expanding Russian power,” he said. “Today, I’d sense that at least outside of Russia, maybe some people are thinking what Putin did wasn’t so smart.”
Mr Obama argued that sanctions had made the Russian economy vulnerable to “inevitable” disruptions in oil price which, when they came, led to “enormous difficulties”.
“The big advantage we have with Russia is we’ve got a dynamic, vital economy, and they don’t,” he said. “They rely on oil. We rely on oil and iPads and movies and you name it.”
Following a disputed referendum in Crimea, Russia unilaterally annexed the peninsula from Ukraine in March. It did so weeks after a revolution ousted Ukraine’s pro-Russian President, Viktor Yanukovych. The US, EU and other countries then implemented a series of economic sanctions against Russia. The Russian currency has since lost half its value against the dollar and the economy has begun to contract.