US needs to be forceful in dealing with ‘aggressive’ Putin: George W. Bush

U.S. leaders need to be cautious in dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who President George W. Bush described as a “smart tactician” looking to reinstate Soviet-era influence.

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“The problem is, his whole attitude on most issues is, ‘I’m going to win and the U.S. is going to lose,’” Bush told FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo during an interview on Wednesday. “I’m not very surprised, he is a very aggressive person who wants to reinstate Soviet influence, even though the Soviet [Union] no longer exists.”

Although Bush and Putin reportedly maintained a good personal relationship during the 43rd president’s time in the Oval Office, Russia regarded U.S. efforts to build an anti-ballistic missile defense installation in Poland as a potential national security threat, and in response, tested a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile. Putin infamously warned Washington that if it moved forward with the plans, it would turn Europe into a “powder keg.”

While the former president said he makes it a point not to second-guess his successors, Bush still had a word of advice for President Donald Trump as U.S.-Russia relations have become increasingly strained over allegations that Moscow meddled in the 2016 presidential election on behalf of the Trump campaign. Both Putin and Trump have denied the accusations.

“I always felt it’s important for the U.S. to be very forceful in dealing with Putin,” Bush said. “Not belligerent, but forceful.”