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Putin playing chess, US playing checkers: Browder

Conflict over military strategy in Syria continues, and the United States faces a tricky task in dealing with the various goals of Russian President Vladimir Putin, one vocal critic of the politician said Tuesday.

"I think the U.S. is playing checkers and Russia is playing chess here," said Bill Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital. "Putin has a lot of different objectives as far as Syria, Ukraine and Russia itself are concerned."

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 so-called Islamic State terror 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.

Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Sasha Mordovets | Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia and the U.S. 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 President Bashar Assad, ultimately stay in power. The U.S. wants Assad out.

On CNBC's "Closing Bell," Browder noted the U.S. faces a "bigger problem" than convincing Putin that "Assad must go." He contended that Putin wants to divert attention from conflict in Ukraine and Russia's economic struggles and possibly force Western nations into dropping sanctions.

A significant drop in oil prices in the last year, as well as sanctions from the U.S. and Europe, have contributed to sluggishness in Russia's economy. Browder argued that Putin has become more "aggressive" to divert attention from economic struggles.

Earlier in the day, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Wesley Clark told CNBC that Putin wants to increase tensions among that organization's nations.

— CNBC's Matthew Belvedere contributed to this report.