President Trump must be much tougher on Russia if the Kremlin’s rising power in the world is to be kept in check, according to former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.
In an exclusive CNN interview, Saakashvili praised President Trump for agreeing to supply anti-tank weapons to Ukraine and for taking recent military action against Russian mercenaries in Syria.
But he said more had to be done, including increasing sanctions on those close to Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader.
“Putin hates America. No matter who the American president is, the only good American president is a weak American president,” Saakashvili told CNN in Amsterdam.
“In many ways Trump is on the right path, strengthening the US military, as Putin only understands the language of sheer force,” Saakashvili said.
“But the United States is not just about geopolitical issues and must also continue to be tough on democracy issues and anti-corruption issues because these issues are related to security concerns,” he added.
Saakashvili was Georgia’s leader during the tiny nation’s brief 2008 conflict with Russia. He lost the presidency in 2013 elections, fleeing abroad amid allegations of abuse of power. He returned to the region in 2014 after being appointed governor of Odessa in neighboring Ukraine, but was expelled from that country last month after emerging as a strong critic of the Ukrainian President.
Saakashvili, now stateless and living in exile in the Dutch capital, said the “damaging” controversy over allegations of Russian meddling in the US election was obscuring what should be broader concerns about the rise of Putin’s power and influence.
“People say the Western model is not good for us personally. Because we are the rulers of our country and the next thing we’ll end up in Amsterdam, or even worse in a prison or dead,” Saakashvili said.
“So [they think it is] better to look at Putin. He is eternal, he stays in power forever, he controls the media, there is no opposition in his country, nobody can touch him, he can even influence the US election.”