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Trump could be ‘absolute windfall’ for Putin, says Hermitage CEO

Russian President Vladimir Putin stands to make a 'windfall' if President-elect Donald Trump lets his 'emotions' get in the way, the head of Hermitage Capital and long-time anti-Russia activist told CNBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Friday.

There is no relationship between the U.S. and Russia yet, Bill Browder said, beyond hope on the Russian side and some tweets from Trump, there was little concrete indication at this stage of how the bilateral relations would develop.

"If the Russia policy is driven by the defense secretary, the head of the CIA, head of homeland security or various others, then Russians aren't going to get any gifts," contended Browder before describing the alternative possibility.

"If policy is driven by whatever Trump's emotions were at the moment that he made those statements, then it could be an absolute windfall for Vladimir Putin and Russia," he continued.

Stephane de Sakutin, Mandel Ngan, Odd Andersen | AFP | Getty Images

Browder, who has spent several years fighting to bring to justice those responsible for the death in a Moscow prison of his lawyer and friend, Sergei Magnitsky, and is a well-known bête-noire of the Putin regime, expressed his astonishment at the behavior of the President-elect towards various foreign counterparts.

"It bewilders me and it bewilders everybody else around us. It doesn't make any sense why he would be so unfriendly towards a lot of our allies and then so friendly towards a country which is an adversary towards the United States," he said.

However, the successful hedge fund manager was much clearer on Putin's motivations for establishing improved relations.

"Russia comes down to really one thing, which is oil. If the oil price stays here or goes higher then Russia will kind of muddle through. If the oil price goes down, Russia will go down. You can track the rouble, you can track the stock market just off the price of oil," Browder explained.

"They don't have enough money at $51 a barrel to do everything they want to do. It doesn't mean he's going to get kicked out but they don't have enough money. That's why he's so desperate to get sanctions lifted," he affirmed.

"While everybody is saying they are surviving with sanctions, let me tell you every morning Putin is praying for sanctions to be lifted and every evening he is praying for sanctions to be lifted. It would be the biggest single gift that could ever be given to him if it was to happen with the new Trump administration," Browder concluded.

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