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Markets rule, 'Russia is on its knees': Altman

Russia considers itself a global superpower, but it is looking small compared to the power of the global capital markets, Evercore Partners' Roger Altman told CNBC on Wednesday.

What Russia's currency crisis has exposed is how profoundly weak the country has become, the investment bank's founder and executive chairman said on "Squawk Box." The commodity-centered economy now faces massive financial flight, a lack of meaningful foreign investment and highly leveraged corporations, Altman added.

"We live in an era where the global capital markets are the super power in the world, and when they move against you, as they've moved against Russia as we've all seen in the ruble, there's nothing that can stop that," Altman said. "The global capital markets have spoken, and Russia is on its knees."

Read MoreRussia starts selling its foreign currency stock

The Russian Central Bank raised interest rates Monday night to put a floor beneath the plummeting ruble, but the currency continued to fall Tuesday. Russia's finance minister said Wednesday the country would sell its foreign currency stock.

A statement from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry may indicate the United States wants to find a way to assist Russia as a way of moving toward stabilization of relations, Altman said.

Kerry says Russia sanctions could end if Putin takes right steps

But even if the United States reached out to help Russia stanch its currency crisis, it would be difficult for President Vladimir Putin to accept a helping hand, he said. That is because Putin has built much of his popularity on anti-Western rhetoric.

"Putin's popularity has soared in recent months because of his annexation of Crimea, his move into eastern Ukraine, all of his talk about restoring Russian greatness, relegitimizing Russia as a great power," he said. "All of that has made him very, very popular among the Russian people, which is why I don't think we'll see any pullback for the time being."

Altman said people who have spent time with Putin tell him the Russian president is neither knowledgeable about economic and financial matters nor interested in them.

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One of the biggest indirect effects of Western sanctions on Russia has been the freezing of investment and financing into Russia, Altman said. Few European and American companies will be likely to allocate capital to endeavors in Russia, he added.