George W. Bush: Putin ‘changed’

Former President George W. Bush on Thursday said Russian President Vladmir Putin had “changed” and blamed Russia’s oil wealth for encouraging his confrontational attitude against the West.

“I think he changed,” said Bush in an interview on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper,” when asked if he misjudged Putin early on. “Of course, a president should open the door and give people a chance, except for the despicable tyrants.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Bush early in his first term said that he had looked into Putin’s eyes and found a man he could trust.

The former president Thursday said that when he was in office he believed Putin had wanted to work with the West, but after the price of oil went up, his attitude shifted.

“I think it changed his attitude,” he said. “And I think it emboldened him to follow in his game that pretty much zero-sum, you know, I win and you lose and vice versa.”

Bush said he tried to convince Putin that both Russia and the United States could benefit from friendly ties in the global arena, and that he’s sure President Obama is making the same argument.

“It seems like Vladimir Putin takes a different attitude in such situations,” Bush added.

Many Republicans have criticized Obama, saying the administration must take more forceful measures to punish Russia after its aggression in Ukraine.

Earlier this week, Obama announced a new round of sanctions that target Russian government officials, institutions and businessmen.

During the interview, Bush also discussed his efforts to help military veterans and commented on the controversy involving L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling, calling his racial remarks “despicable.”

Sterling was heard on an audio recording last weekend warning his girlfriend not to post photos with black celebrities on her Instagram account and to not bring African-Americans to the team’s games.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced on Tuesday that Sterling would be banned from the league for life and will be fined $2.5 million.