ABU DHABI, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Former U.S. president George W. Bush accused Russia on Thursday of meddling in the U.S. 2016 presidential election, calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a "brilliant tactician."
Bush, interviewed on stage at a business conference in the capital of the United Arab Emirates, said there was clear evidence that the Russians had meddled but whether that affected the outcome of the election was another question.
"But they meddled and that is dangerous for democracy," he said, adding that Russia had done the same thing during the Cold War and was adept at trying to manipulate opinion in the United States and Europe.
"Putin is a brilliant tactician who has the capacity to detect weakness and exploit it," Bush said.
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied accusations by U.S. intelligence officials and others of interfering in foreign elections, including the 2016 U.S. vote.
George W. Bush and family
George W. Bush and family
President Bush (L) gets a grand welcome home to the White House from granddaughter Jenna (C) after returning from Philadelphia, September 12, 1991. The president's son George W. (Jenna's father) is at rear and her mother Laura Bush is at right. One of the president's dogs is in the foreground. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Gov. George W. Bush gives his mother and former first lady Barbara Bush a hug after a family portrait session, June 10. The Bush family was in Houston celebrating the 75th and 74th birthdays, respectively, of the former president and first lady.
George W. Bush hits the campaign trail with his father, former U.S. President George H. Bush, his wife Laura Bush, former First Lady Barbara Bush at a rally in downtown Houston, November 7, 1994. George W. Bush is running for Governor of Texas against Ann Richards. REUTERS/Michael Boddy
Texas Gov. George W. Bush (L) and his brother Florida Gov. Jeb Bush share a laugh with their father, former President George Bush during a family portrait session, June 10.The Bush family was in Houston celebrating the birthdays of the former president and the former first lady. aal/ Photo by Adrees A.
George W. Bush, wife Laura Bush and daughters, Jenna (L) and Barbara pose for a family portrait in Kennebunkport, Maine in this August 20, 1998 file photo. With the Republican convention set to begin in Philadelphia on July 31, the political focus has centered on who Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush will pick to be his running mate.
George W. Bush with his mother Barbara Bush, father, George Bush, and grandparents, Prescott and Dorothy Bush in Midland, Texas.
FILE PHOTO NOV77 - George W. Bush and Laura Welch's wedding In November, 1977. Left to right: Marvin, Dorothy, Neil, Columba, Jeb, Laura, George W., Barabara Bush, George Bush, and Dorothy walker Bush.
President-elect George W. Bush's daughter Jenna was admitted to a local hospital December 25, 2000 with "abdominal pains" and underwent an appendectomy, a Bush spokesman said. Jenna (C), pictured in this August 3, 2000 file photo during the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia with her mother Laura Bush and grandfather former President George Bush, was celebrating the holiday her family at the Texas governor's mansion. The family will depart on a scheduled trip to Florida today for a family reunion without Jenna, who will probably join the gathering on Wednesday, the spokesman said.
President-elect George W. Bush's daughter Jenna was admitted to a local hospital December 25, 2000 with "abdominal pains" and underwent an appendectomy, a Bush spokesman said. Jenna (L) and her 19-year-old twin, Barbara, pictured in this August 3, 2000 file photo during the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, were celebrating the holiday with Bush and his wife, Laura, at the Texas governor's mansion. The family will depart on a scheduled trip to Florida today for a family reunion without Jenna, who will probably join the gathering on Wednesday, the spokesman said.
President George W. Bush (R) is hugged by his daughter Jenna while his wife, first lady Laura Bush (2nd R), daughter Barbara (L) and Vice President Dick Cheney look on, after Bush was sworn in at the U.S. Capitol, January 20, 2001. Bush took the oath of office as the 43rd President of the United States during the Inauguration ceremony and pledged he would work to build "a single nation of justice and opportunity.
Former U.S. President George Bush (L) puts his arm around President
George W. Bush (C) as they leave the 18th green with Florida Governor
Jeb Bush after playing an early morning round at Cape Arundel Golf Club
in Maine July 7, 2001. The Bushes are enjoying a family gathering this
weekend at their Kennebunkport home.
U.S. President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush leave church
with their young niece Gigi Koch, daughter of the president's sister
Dorothy, after attending Sunday services at St. Ann's Episcopal Church
July 8, 2001 in Kennebunkport, Maine. The president is in the final day
of a four-day family vacation at his parents' seaside summer home.
President George W. Bush signs the Protect Act of 2003 also known as
the Amber Alert legislation surrounded by former missing children and
their families during a ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House
in Washington April 30, 2003. Former missing child Elizabeth Smart
watches at left. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn
(L-R) First lady Laura Bush, her daughters Jenna and Barbara, and Republican Senator John McCain (AZ) sit in the first row for the debate between Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry and U.S. President George W. Bush at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida September 30, 2004. The debate is the first of three presidential debates before the election November 2. REUTERS/Brian Snyder US ELECTION BS
First family twins Barbara (L) and Jenna Bush, U.S. President George W. Bush's 22-year-old daughters, are pictured at the prime time program of the 2004 Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden in New York, August 30, 2004. Republicans opened their four-day national convention on Monday with salutes to President George W. Bush's wartime leadership and repeated reminders of his aggressive response to the September 11, 2001, attacks. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn US ELECTION REUTERS HK
Former U.S. President George H. W. Bush (C) walks with granddaughter Barbara Bush (L), and daughter-in-law Margaret Bush (R), towards Air Force One before departing Texas for Washington May 11, 2008. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES)
U.S. President George W. Bush (L-R), his wife Laura Bush, their daughter Jenna Hager and her husband Henry Hager arrive to participate in a commemorative tree planting ceremony on the South Lawn at the White House in Washington September 27, 2008. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES)
U.S. President George W. Bush (L-R), his daughter Jenna Hager and her husband Henry Hager participate in a commemorative tree planting ceremony on the South Lawn at the White House in Washington September 27, 2008. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES)
U.S. President George W. Bush and his daughter Jenna laugh together as they attend the 2008 National Book Festival Gala Performance at the Library of Congress in Washington September 26, 2008. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES)
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Vice President Dick Cheney, Jenna Bush Hager, Henry Hager and Barbara Bush, attend the dedication ceremony for the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, April 25, 2013. U.S President Barack Obama is in Texas to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with former president George W. Bush in what could serve as a powerful reminder of the ongoing struggle against terrorism, from the Sept. 11 attacks to the Boston Marathon bombings. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
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In an apparent criticism of the immigration policies U.S. President Donald Trump, Bush called for changes in U.S. immigration rules, saying it was important to recognize that the United States had a history of welcoming people regardless of their religion or where they were born.
"Our system is broken but we've got to fix it. I had tried, but unsuccessfully," he said without naming Trump.
"It is important for our economy and also important for our soul that the immigration system functions well."
On Mexico, he said: "I view it as a relationship vital for our economy and for our stability. We've got to enforce our borders and we've got to enforce our laws.
"There are people willing to do jobs Americans won't do. A lot of Americans don't like picking cotton at 105 degrees. But there are people who want to put food on their family's table and are willing to do that." (Reporting by Stanley Carvalho; Editing by Andrew Torchia and Alison Williams)