In 2001, George W. Bush proclaimed
himself a big fan of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Why? Because he
had a favorable "sense of [Putin's] soul."
It's a statement that hasn't aged well over the past decade. Bush acknowledged as much yesterday during an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, saying the kind-souled former KGB officer he encountered upon taking office has "changed" into someone only concerned with "accumulating power." Explains Bush:
The last anecdote in the book about Putin is at the opening games in China, and Putin is sitting down the aisle from me and Laura, and [Russia] had just invaded Georgia ...Vladimir came down, and you're trying to have this heated conversation with a smile on your face, because the TV cameras are watching you. And the last thing I said was I've been telling you for years that [former Georgian President Mikheil] Saakashvili was hot blooded. Vladimir said I am hot blooded. And I said no, Vladimir, you're cold blooded.
I think to a certain extent, [Putin] changed...the first conversation [in 2001] was about Soviet debt saddling the Russian Federation. And one of the later conversations we had was he was asking me how their mortgage-backed securities were doing. So in other words, he'd gone from ...debtor to creditor.
The Schroeder-Chirac relationship with Putin emboldened him … to kind of accumulate power. And so I always had a relationship with Vladimir where we could discuss things very frankly. It's just that he became more assertive, and, it seemed like, accumulated more power amongst a few there in Russia.
(H/T to The Daily Caller)