Altman: If Putin reneges on Ukraine, US should ...

Former Clinton Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger Altman told CNBC on Thursday it's too early to know whether the Russia-Ukraine cease-fire agreement favors Moscow or Kiev.

"It will be interesting to see if this agreement is actually any good," said Altman, founder of the investment banking advisory firm Evercore Partners, "and if it actually sticks,"

Russia and Ukraine agreed Thursday to a cease-fire to start Sunday, and to the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the battle-torn east Ukraine region, which has been engulfed in a Moscow-backed insurgency.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel—who along with French President Francois Hollande—helped broker the agreement, said there were no illusions that the deal would be easy to implement.

Merkel also said Russian President Vladimir Putin did put pressure on the pro-Russia separatist leaders to agree to the cease-fire—providing a "glimmer of hope" for a resolution of the crisis.

Read MoreHow long will THISUkraine cease-fire deal last?

Taking a more pessimistic view, Altman said on "Squawk Box" that he'd be surprised if this is the last the world sees of "Russia adventurism" in the region.

If Putin were to fail to back down from his aggressive footing in Ukraine, Altman favors tightening economic sanctions over the U.S. arming the Ukrainian military. "I'd rather tighten the sanctions because Russia has no defense against that."

Russia's economy has been crippled by the sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe, investors fleeing the ruble, and the collapse in the price of oil—a major engine of Russian growth.

"I just think our economic and financial weapons are more powerful," he said. "The most powerful force on Earth today is not stores of weapons ... it's the capital markets."

Morning Squawk: CNBC's before the bell news roundup

Sign up to get Morning Squawk each weekday

Get this delivered to your inbox, and more info about about our products and service. Privacy Policy.
Please enter a valid email address