Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once the richest businessman in Russia until Vladimir Putin seized his companies and put him in prison, told Newsmax TV that President Donald Trump should proceed with extreme caution in any negotiations with the Russian strongman.
"One thing that Mr. Trump I think needs to be aware of is that, unlike in business negotiations, there is no sheriff as an arbiter above all of this," Mikhail Khodorkovsky told Newsmax's John Bachman on Monday.
"Whatever Putin promises, or gives you the impression that he's promising, is not backed up by anything. That is a major fundamental difference. Another major fundamental difference is that Putin does not believe in the concept of a win-win strategy.
"If you take half a step backwards in the negotiations, in the hope and the assumption that your negotiating partner, in this case, Putin, will also concede half a step back in order to reach an agreement, that would be an erroneous position to take."
Khodorkovsky added Trump would be wise to approach Putin in the same way one would in negotiating with a "gangster."
"I personally think that Putin really likes it when he's perceived as a tough and dangerous person," Khodorkovsky said. ". . . He's a terrible guy; he manipulates people; and indeed Russian propaganda is working to show that Trump is a dependent figure, dependent on Putin."
Khodorkovsky, who was an oil tycoon, got into trouble when his political ambitions put him at odds with the Kremlin. Arrested in 2003, he served 10 behind bars years on tax-evasion and fraud convictions. He was pardoned in 2013 and left the country and established the British-based Open Russia Foundation.
Khodorkovsky told Bachman, in a post-Putin world, Russia's best foot forward would be not to create another authoritarian regime.
"For this to take place, there needs to be a large selection of political forces that are in opposition to the current regime," Khodorkovsky said. "In other words, this cannot be one big monolithic, authoritarian opposition in opposition to the authoritarian power, because then we'll just exchange one Putin for another.
"We need to have a coalition of opposition forces. For that, you need young politicians. This is what the Open Russia Foundation is doing. We are helping young politicians to gain experience and to gain public recognition. This is very much in contradiction to what the Kremlin is doing.
"Because, for the Kremlin, what is important is to show the public that there is no alternative to it. The Kremlin really doesn't like us . . . The reason they hate us is because we're showing society there is an alternative to Putin, that there are alternative political figures and forces in the country, and this alternative is better than what the Kremlin is offering today."
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