On the Money

Trump's courting of Putin 'sinister' and may spell doom for American leadership, Kasparov says

Cold warning
Cold warning

If anyone could advise President Donald Trump on what his next move should be with Russia, it's Garry Kasparov.

For more than a decade, the former world chess champion has publicly challenged Russian President Vladimir Putin as a pro-democracy activist. While over the past year, Trump has repeatedly voiced support for Putin, both to reports and on social media.

Meanwhile, Kasparov—who was arrested and detained in 2007 and 2012 for protesting Putin in Russia—has been watching, and he hasn't been amused.

Kasparov tweet

In an interview with CNBC's On The Money, Kasparov said "Trump's admiration for Putin can be explained by Trump's admiration for strong man, for the way these strong men rule their countries." However, Kasparov, who now chairs the Human Rights Foundation, said he thinks "there's probably something more sinister."

In a news conference last month, Trump said, "If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what folks? That's an asset, not a liability." The president has also talked about benefits of a warmer relationship with Russia. At least in theory, could that bring benefits to both countries?

"Dialogue is always good," Kasparov told CNBC, "but the question is what are you going to discuss and what price are you willing to pay for improving relations?"

Garry Kasparov
David Levenson | Getty Images

Kasparov says he believes Trump "wanted to cut a deal with Putin, no matter what, at the expense of America's traditional allies. And that would be the end of American global leadership."

Recently, Trump called NATO obsolete and has talked of wanting the member countries to pay more for defense.

U.S. intelligence has accused Russia of interfering in the 2016 election. Kasparov told CNBC that's not the first time Putin has tried to influence polling in other countries.

"Putin is not just attacking US elections, but he has been doing it throughout Europe, trying to bring ultra-nationalist or far-left parties into power."

Kasparov further warned about Putin in his book, "Winter is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped." The activist said to CNBC that "Putin's Russia is a one-man dictatorship with a fascist ideology, that is annexing territories from neighboring countries and supporting global instability."

Putin's tactics are "the core of his domestic propaganda. He has nothing else to offer to the Russian people. That's why attacking the United States, attacking the free world, creating chaos and instability," Kasparov told CNBC. "That's the only justification for his endless staying power."

With the former KGB operative in power for the foreseeable future, Kasparov cautioned it may be part of the Putin's long-term survival strategy.

"As long as Vladimir Putin stays in power, he will continue these polices of confrontation."

On the Money airs on CNBC Saturday at 5:30 am ET, or check listings for air times in local markets.