Bill Clinton: Putin's View of Greatness Hurts 'Ordinary People'

Monday, 17 Mar 2014 12:46 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Russian President Vladimir Putin is "highly intelligent" and a patriot for his country, former President Bill Clinton says, but his view of greatness hurts "ordinary people."

The former president, speaking in an interview Sunday during the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai with CNN's Fareed Zakaria, said Putin has "a sort of fatalistic view of the misfortunes that befall ordinary people when larger things are at stake."

Clinton said his own view of being a leader is considering that "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."

Story continues below video.

Clinton said in his years of dealing with Putin, he always found that the Russian leader was open about his motives, including with Ukraine.

"The one thing I will say about him is he was always pretty transparent," Clinton said. "He never pretended to be what he wasn't, and I found in dealing with him — and by the way, with most other leaders with whom I had differences — that it was best to be brutal with him in private and be honest because they respected you if you were, and then as long as you could, to avoid embarrassing them in public."

Clinton said it's generally possible to work with a leader like Putin, and he hopes the situation in Ukraine is "not going to spin out of hand."

But he still criticized Sunday's referendum in Crimea,  even though the interview was conducted before the election's results were final, as being "phony," calling the vote "unconstitutional and a farce." The election showed 97 percent of the residents of Crimea, which for centuries has aligned itself with Russia, voting to leave Ukraine, reports The Huffington Post.

Putin is making the situation unclear, Clinton said, although he believes a solution is possible.

"If he wants to keep pushing the envelope and going in now to eastern Ukraine, I don't know what's going to happen. It's a very dangerous situation, and it's unnecessary," Clinton said.

He noted that Putin sees people in Ukraine and Crimea as "either for Russia or against Russia," but noted that 20 years ago, he and Putin signed an agreement promising that Russia would respect the territorial rights of Ukraine in order to keep it from joining the European Union.

"Crimea is a special case because [late Soviet Premier Nikita] Khrushchev gave it to Ukraine in '52 thinking Moscow would always run the whole show anyway," Clinton said.

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