Wars and Military Conflicts

Putin is playing games in Syria: Gen Wesley Clark

Waging war against ISIS

Russian President Vladimir Putin is playing "a lot of different games" on the world stage, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Wesley Clark said Tuesday.

"What he wants to do is cement his position in the Middle East [and] gain greater influence over Europe," Clark told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

On Monday, Putin accused Turkey of shooting down one of his warplanes last week in order to protect the transit of oil sold by the Islamic State terrorist group through Turkey. In response, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he'd resign if there was any proof of his country's cooperation with ISIS, which operates in Syria and Iraq.

Read MoreRussia accuses Turkey of aiding ISIS oil trade

"[Putin] would like to drive a wedge in NATO between Turkey and the rest of the NATO," said Clark, the retired four-star general who finished his career leading NATO forces to victory in the war in Kosovo in 1999. "He'd like to be able to sell more weapons in the region."

Russia and the United States have a common enemy in ISIS and both are engaging in airstrikes to destroy the group in Syria. But Moscow wants to see its ally, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, ultimately stay in power. The U.S. wants Assad out.

"You got to contain ISIS from the outside in," said Clark. "You got to work to get a political consensus between the contending forces on the outside before you can bring force to bear against ISIS."

ISIS, which claimed responsibility for the deadly Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, has "unlimited aspirations," Clark said, stressing that Europe needs to come together to fight the terror group.

Clark said European nations need to coordinate their intelligence networks and watch lists of suspected terrorists, and must find a way to stop people from going back and forth to Syria.

After his unsuccessful run for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, Clark founded and now heads the international consulting firm Wesley K. Clark and Associates.