Bill Clinton: Putin 'highly intelligent' with skewed sense of greatness
March 17th, 2014
04:29 PM ET
9 years 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.

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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. J.V.Hodgson

    Clinton's assessment is succinct and accurate, especially as to how Putin looks at a federated Russia in the 21st century. Putin cannot and will not give up Crimea and particularly the soviet military access to Sevastopol port and it's access from there to the Mediterranean. Putin sees this a territorially close national security issue along huge borders with Ukraine and Russia and EU economic interference in Ukraine and also worse still a longer term EU/US aim of Nato membership for Ukraine.
    That said Clinton is also correct that the effects of sanctions are much more damaging to the EU and also a much greater National security risk to the EU than the US via conventional war whereas for the US war could only be even remotely viable VIA nukes.... as Russian conventional forces would win over Ukraine within days and the EU military would be a spectator. Putin has said he will not conduct a military war with Ukraine... bur he will keep Crimea and he will play tough politics in the May Ukraine elections.
    For Crimea a lot of us need toy read Tennysons poem on the British miltary. it has the famous or infamous lines of:- "Into the valley of death rode the six hundred
    Cannon to right and left of them volleyed and thundered" etc etc

    March 18, 2014 02:34 am at 2:34 am |
  2. Marie MD

    putin is like so many other little men who think they can and will own the world.
    @beth, and how many of your classmates can claim they were President of the US? crickets . . . . . . .
    @tom I, not all of these rich people made their money legally.
    @rick, as always you are wrong. The teaklans are trying to control our lives while at the same time shoving their "religious" beliefs on us.

    March 18, 2014 06:32 am at 6:32 am |
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