Vladimir Putin behaving like 19th century emperor, says Bill Clinton

Russia will pursue political dominance not co-operation, says former US president

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Russia's President Vladimir Putin has shunned the world's political order in favour of domination over fellow nations in a manner previously seen in the 19th century, former US president Bill Clinton has said.

The Russian president has acted more like his country's past emperors, with scant regard for modern political relations, he said.

Mr Clinton made his comments during a virtual talk for Dubai's Tech for Humanity Awards on Tuesday.

“Russia does not plan on political co-operation with its neighbours — they basically want political dominance,” said Mr Clinton.

“Putin has this 19th century concept that Russia would work better if the leader was what Catherine the Great and Peter the Great were.”

He identified the Russian invasion of Ukraine as the one of the greatest dangers facing world peace.

“There was an attempt at the end of the Cold War to create a Europe that was united, basically democratic and completely at peace,” said Mr Clinton, who served in the White House from 1993 until 2001.

“There was an enormous amount of social and economic change.”

He said one of the key breakthroughs in establishing that peace was convincing Ukraine to give up its nuclear weapons.

Former president Bill Clinton speaks about the war in Ukraine at a tech awards event in Dubai on March 22, 2022. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Mr Clinton said he met with former Russian president Boris Yeltsin and other leaders at the time to help establish deals that would guarantee peace in the region.

“It was very important to preserve the dignity and the respect for the countries of the former Soviet Union and give them a chance to work out their own future,” he said.

“We worked together to manage the expansion of Nato.

“Ukraine was the third biggest possessor of nuclear arms at the time but they gave them up.”

West allowed Russia to 'avoid Ukraine recognition'

Mr Clinton said that he pushed for Russia's recognition of Ukraine's territorial integrity to be officially ratified, but Russia declined to commit.

“I received a letter back saying because the dividend was not ratified by a treaty that Russia does not agree with it,” he said.

“It still terrifies me that nobody has thought about that. What’s playing out in Ukraine is getting a lot of headlines — but I’m not sure if people are seriously studying what happened.”

Russia began its invasion of Ukraine at the end of February.

So far, the UN estimates 10 million Ukrainians have been displaced by the conflict, with a third of them becoming refugees.

Mr Clinton also took the opportunity to warn about the dangers that nuclear weapons still pose to the world.

“The more countries that have nuclear weapons, the more dangerous the world is,” he said.

“Nuclear material can be sold, stolen or given away and it’s one of the reasons there have been so many differences of opinion about how to deal with Iran.”

Abraham Accords have brought stability

Mr Clinton lauded the UAE for its efforts to normalise relations with Israel and the signing of the Abraham Accords.

“The Arab states and Israel speeded up their reconciliation partly because they have a common adversary and face threats from terrorism,” he said.

“The Abraham Accords were a moment of opportunity that came out of both hope and fear.

“For too many years in the Middle East, economics and politics were kept separate.”

He added the agreement was a clear framework for countries in the region to work together.

The former US president also suggested the UAE and the wider GCC could become leaders in the battle against climate change.

“It’s in a great position to lead on this, even though oil is still important to the economy and will be for some time,” he said.

“The reason I say this is because the region has an almost unlimited capacity for solar and wind power.”

The awards, organised by Forbes and the Aviram Family Foundation, celebrate the achievements of Middle East and North African start-ups in creating solutions to environmental and social challenges.

Updated: March 22, 2022, 4:10 PM