(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."