Bill Clinton: Putin 'highly intelligent' with skewed sense of greatness
March 17th, 2014
04:29 PM ET
6 months ago

Bill Clinton: Putin 'highly intelligent' with skewed sense of greatness

(CNN) - Former President Bill Clinton says that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a "highly intelligent" leader but he has a flawed perception of his country's greatness and his quest for power comes at a cost to ordinary Russian citizens.

"Here's what I think about Putin. First of all, he is highly intelligent, deeply, deeply patriotic in terms of Russia but he sees it more in the terms of the greatness of the state and country than what happens to ordinary Russians," Clinton said Sunday at the Global Education & Skills Forum in Dubai.


Clinton talked at great lengths at the forum about the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine over the disputed Ukrainian territory of Crimea during an interview with Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS."

Putin, Clinton said, has "...a sort of fatalistic view of the misfortunes that befall ordinary people when larger things are at stake. "

"I think the largest things that are at stake are the misfortunes that befall ordinary people. It depends on how you look at the world and what you think the purpose of politics is," he said.

Clinton, who took office shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War, said the most effective way to gain respect from leaders like the Russian president is to "avoid embarrassing them in public." To Putin's credit, Clinton called the Russian leader "always pretty transparent" from his experience in dealing with the country.

"I found in dealing with him and, by the way, most other leaders with whom I had differences that it was best to be brutal with them in private and be honest because they respected you if you were," Clinton said.

Clinton said Ukraine should act as a "bridge country" between the East and West but Putin sees the country as either for or against Russia.

The interview comes on the heels of a Sunday vote in Crimea to join Russia - a referendum that Ukraine, the United States and the European Union do not recognize and have called illegal because Russian troops have essentially taken over the autonomous peninsula.

Asked by Zakaria whether President Barack Obama is handling the situation correctly, Clinton said the commander in chief is doing all he can by imposing a series of sanctions on specific Russian officials and lawmakers.

"If he wants to do more, Europe has to go with him because we could make what Russia is doing quite costly to them but only with European support," Clinton said.

The forum in Dubai preceded Obama's warning Monday to Russia that "Further provocations will achieve nothing except to further isolate Russia and diminish its place in the world."


Filed under: Bill Clinton • President Obama • Russia • Ukraine • Vladimir Putin
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Bill from GA

    " a sort of fatalistic view of the misfortunes that befall ordinary people "

    Gee, Bill, that's exactly what we were taught from studies on Russian Literature. The whole theme, summed up nicely.
    Brilliant! Not original, but brilliant!

    March 17, 2014 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  2. Captain Obvious

    "Here's what I think about Putin. First of all, he is highly intelligent, deeply, deeply patriotic in terms of Russia but he sees it more in the terms of the greatness of the state and country than what happens to ordinary Russians," Clinton said Sunday at the Global Education & Skills Forum in Dubai.
    --

    Putin doesn't give a damn about ordinary Russians Willy! But I bet if you polled them, the vast majority of them support him and his power moves than make Obama look like a weakling.

    March 17, 2014 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  3. God MAY Not Be a Liberal, but He IS a Democrat

    If our American Way is so great; why aren't the Republicans bashing Obama calling on Putin to solve the "threat to the Russian-leaning Ukranians" via immigration to Russia?

    If Russia is so great, and these people want to align with Russia, then the Krelim should open their borders not attempt to steal the land, the property. If the GOP united behind the President; united behind true American principles as the shining beacon of Democracy in the World, we could isolate Putin, embarrass him, turn world opinion against him in a LASTING WAY, and affect the way future Russian leaders act.

    March 17, 2014 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  4. smith

    What a mess and nothing can be done to clean it up. Time to move on.

    March 17, 2014 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  5. The Real Tom Paine

    Sounds like CPAC has their next keynote speaker. "Highly intelligent with a skewed sense of greatness" describes most of the GOP candidates for the presidency, so he would fit right in. Besides, their admiration for his leadership style might finally give them a shot at winning in 2016.

    March 17, 2014 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  6. Bill from GA

    "Europe has to go with him because we could make what Russia is doing quite costly to them but only with European support,"

    Tough sanctions could be quite costly to Europe, and eventually to the USA, as Putin can do more harm to EU than we do to Russia.

    But the real reason to stay out of the Crimean situation is that we have no right and no reason to force the Crimeans to accept the rebel government of Ukraine. If the Ukrainians like their rebel government, let them keep it. But we should not attempt to force our will on the Crimeans.

    Sometimes, we don't have to take sides. The Russian intervention in Crimea was largely welcomed by the people. Let them be Russians, without our interference.

    March 17, 2014 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  7. Mark

    the world should take away the world cup from Russia. They may have tricked everyone with Sochi, but now the
    world knows evil Russia's real intentions. Push them and take away the world cup.

    March 17, 2014 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    "Sounds like CPAC has their next keynote speaker. "Highly intelligent with a skewed sense of greatness" describes most of the GOP candidates for the presidency,..."

    Hehe, so does " fatalistic view of the misfortunes that befall ordinary people when larger things are at stake"...particularly when those "larger things" are the bank accounts of the plutocrat class.

    March 17, 2014 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  9. MaryM

    Putin is KGB and that says it all about Putin and his KGB buddies

    March 17, 2014 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  10. Rick McDaniel

    That might fit with a lot of Dems, actually, including Clinton.

    March 17, 2014 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  11. tom l

    "Sounds like CPAC has their next keynote speaker. "Highly intelligent with a skewed sense of greatness" describes most of the GOP candidates for the presidency,..."
    ====

    I don't get it. Bill Clinton said this. Since "the gang" makes it seem that because many repubs have the same assessment I would think that a reasonable person would now recognize that since Bill Clinton has essentially the same viewpoint that it would cause them to reconsider what they have been saying in the past. But, alas, it's "the gang" and anyone who speaks of Putin and doesn't slam him becomes a republican.

    March 17, 2014 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  12. Ol' Yeller

    What is really sad is the not just the lack of support President Obama got from the right, but the outright media (liberal media?) assault from the right, praising Putin for his strength and leadership, yet accusing the Preseident of everything short of surrendering. It was pitiful and sickening.
    When the Dixie Chicks did it to bush there was complete and utter outrage from the right. But when they do it themselves...

    **crickets**

    Please tell us again about President Obama's divisiveness?

    March 17, 2014 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  13. Abbey

    Sounds like he also describing Obama..........lol

    March 17, 2014 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  14. Beth

    That sounds like you, Bill, except you weren't even in the top 3 at Hot Springs High School.

    March 17, 2014 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  15. tom l

    @Silence
    "Tom, do you really think its in the best interest of this country to defend very wealthy private citizens, who are, well, private, and accountable to no one?"
    =======

    That's the difference between you and me. I don't care how wealthy they are. They are accountable as far as they must comply with the law. If they break it, then we're talking about something different. But they've broken no laws that I'm aware of. Your post embodies everything wrong with today's liberal (mainly, "the gang"). All you care about is wealth and what someone else has and what you can do to take money away from them and give it to people that you feel should have it. I disagree. They have their money legally, they don't break any laws, so why should I impose my beliefs (or why should YOU impose your beliefs) on them? It's not my business and it's not your business. I will say the same about George Soros. It's his business if he wants to give to political causes. What I find hilarious (and this is why people on here think that I'm not independent) is that in that very article of Koch, "the gang" is defending Soros. That's ridiculous. So when I call someone out it might appear that I am favoring repubs when all I'm doing is giving another example of the hypocrisy of the gang on here. Both parties are corrupt and don't care about you. Sorry to tell you that. And there's no Santa Claus, either...

    March 17, 2014 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  16. YoonYoungJo

    This might be just the greatest piece of advice for the laymen. Honestly how many normal people have dealings with powerful people. Bill Clinton just provided a an excellent blue print for would be leaders. Advice that most people would never know otherwise. People these days are full of wisdom.

    March 17, 2014 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  17. Ol' Yeller

    Has anyone ever noticed that in right wing world every time something doesn't go their way, be it an election or a news story, or a debate, they create some imaginary nefarious group which they then they talk about incessantly as if it were a true group and not just some self created straw man? I mention this because this is how we got the 'liberal media', despite most large media outlets actually being owned by conservatives. Then there was the 'Hollywood Elite'... and shadowy bunch who somehow control the world or other such nonsense.
    I say this only because some posters on here are now using this same tactic to try and label others on here. If you don't agree with their opinions, or post something they disagree with, then you become one of the 'gang' (cue scary and menacing music... oooohhhoooohhhoooohhhoooooohhhh).
    I make a motion to turn the tables on them and start referring to their little alliance of RWNJ's as the 'klan'.
    Turnabout is fair play, and I believe that name fits quite nicely.
    And if it doesn't... too bad. No one got a choice when they got placed in the gang by the klan..

    March 17, 2014 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  18. smith

    @tom l- Comment 16, You hit the nail on the head.

    March 17, 2014 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  19. ThinkAgain

    AKA Napoleon Complex.

    March 17, 2014 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  20. Silence DoGood

    tom l
    @Silence
    "Tom, do you really think its in the best interest of this country to defend very wealthy private citizens, who are, well, private, and accountable to no one?"
    =======

    That's the difference between you and me. I don't care how wealthy they are. They are accountable as far as they must comply with the law. If they break it, then we're talking about something different. But they've broken no laws that I'm aware of. Your post embodies everything wrong with today's liberal (mainly, "the gang"). All you care about is wealth and what someone else has and what you can do to take money away from them and give it to people that you feel should have it. I disagree. They have their money legally, they don't break any laws, so why should I impose my beliefs (or why should YOU impose your beliefs) on them? It's not my business and it's not your business. I will say the same about George Soros. It's his business if he wants to give to political causes. What I find hilarious (and this is why people on here think that I'm not independent) is that in that very article of Koch, "the gang" is defending Soros. That's ridiculous. So when I call someone out it might appear that I am favoring repubs when all I'm doing is giving another example of the hypocrisy of the gang on here. Both parties are corrupt and don't care about you. Sorry to tell you that. And there's no Santa Claus, either...
    ------
    That original quote on top is not from me. However I can say that I don't care how wealthy someone is either. The difference is the Koch's and like minded groups are being shadowy and deceptive about their goals. The groups Soros supports are clear – he is liberal progressive and that is that. The Kochs though are not being transparent. It is up to patriotic Americans to point out that their agenda as shown by their actions and memberships (i.e. John Birch founders) is to drive towards a corporate America based on and exclusive to radical Christian sects. Then people can decide if they want that future or not and choose with their votes..

    March 17, 2014 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  21. YoonYoungJo

    An interesting thought and counter to my original thought. Perhaps Putin doesn't like to be called out in public is because they work hard to deceitfully craft an image. An image that is extremely fragile because it is based on just that, nothing and deceit. What I can say from past experience, people who don't fear criticism or fear knocks on their public image have one built on reality. That's how most American Senators, Congressmen operate. They can withstand the negativity because they have enough things founded on reality. This doesn't mean every Senator or Congressman doesn't have negative things about them. Heck who doesn't have negative things. I just think Putin doesn't like public criticism because he puts out a false truth of one image when he behaves in an entirely different light.

    March 17, 2014 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  22. Me

    tom l

    @Silence
    "Tom, do you really think its in the best interest of this country to defend very wealthy private citizens, who are, well, private, and accountable to no one?"
    =======

    That's the difference between you and me. I don't care how wealthy they are. They are accountable as far as they must comply with the law. If they break it, then we're talking about something different. But they've broken no laws that I'm aware of. Your post embodies everything wrong with today's liberal (mainly, "the gang").
    _____________________________
    "the gang", that is the truth, go to other liberal blogs and you will find much less hate, ignorance, and spite, you only see this from the usual liberal posters here on CNN!!! Funny thing is this used to be used to describe Conservatives, how the times have changed!!

    March 17, 2014 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  23. odalice feliz

    Bill Clinton is always right

    March 17, 2014 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  24. Chris-E...al

    H0W ? Could anyone trust Irans leadership T0 keep its word ? As they make terror and try to make terror worldwide . The dems gave them a free passport to biuld nukes !

    March 17, 2014 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  25. NameObamasucks

    Bill Clinton is so much smarter than Obama its not even close, Obama is nothing but a divider. I loved Bill Clinton, W , & W's dad. I just hate obama because he thinks hes king dictator and were all stupid and hr brilliant, hes a cheater liar who doesnt enforce the law and forces his garbage down are throats. Bill Clinton got Obama reealected and i just cant understand why he did that, Romney was the right man alot like Bill Clinton able to bring people together and bring the good out in people, obama fuels anger and divides
    everybody with divide and conquer bull garbage. RAND PAUL 2016

    March 18, 2014 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
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