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Putin tries to stir the pot by playing the blame game in his Megyn Kelly interview: Ex-diplomat

  • Vladimir Putin was "clearly defending himself by putting all the blame on somebody else," former diplomat Thomas Pickering tells CNBC.
  • "He did very cleverly, very artfully, maybe even in a kind of self-amused way," Pickering says.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's comments in a recent sit-down with NBC News' Megyn Kelly suited his own strategy, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia told CNBC on Monday.

Thomas Pickering spoke the morning after the inaugural episode of "Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly." Kelly interviewed the Russian president such topics as allegations of interfering in the U.S. election and collecting information on President Donald Trump.

"He was clearly defending himself by putting all the blame on somebody else, whether it was the U.S. or 3-year-olds, or smart hackers, or people who could imitate Russia or U.S. interference in somebody else's elections. Anything at all he could spray out there," Pickering, who served as the U.S. ambassador from 1993 to 1996 during the Clinton administration, said on "Squawk Box."

"He did very cleverly, very artfully, maybe even in a kind of self-amused way. All of that I think kind of suits his own strategy. Cause confusion. Get the U.S. in an uproar. Keep things uncertain. ... But playing it like a trout on a fishing line."

Kelly pushed back on Putin's claims, including saying it sounded like the Russian president was trying to justify his attempts to influence elections.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of NBC and CNBC.

—NBC News contributed to this report.

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