FORMER US president George W Bush has said “there’s pretty clear evidence that the Russians meddled” in the 2016 American presidential election.

While never mentioning Donald Trump by name, Bush appeared to be pushing back on the president’s decisions on immigration, as well as trying to have warmer relations with Russia.

“There’s pretty clear evidence that the Russians meddled,” Bush said at a talk in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. “Whether they affected the outcome is another question,” he added.

Bush also said that “it’s problematic that a foreign nation is involved in our election system. Our democracy is only as good as people trust the results”.

US intelligence agencies have concluded Russia meddled in the 2016 election to help Trump win. Numerous investigations are under way to determine whether Mr Trump’s campaign aided the Kremlin in its efforts.

Trump has repeatedly denied any “collusion” with Russia.

Speaking of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr Bush called him “zero-sum”.

“He’s got a chip on his shoulder,” Bush said of Putin.

“The reason he does is because the demise of the Soviet Union troubles him. Therefore, much of his moves [are] to regain Soviet hegemony.”

Bush also stressed the need to back Nato and other alliances the US has with the world. Putin “is pushing, constantly pushing, probing weaknesses”, the former president said. “That’s why Nato is very important.”

Bush also said that the United States needs to reform its immigration law.

In 2008 Bush became the first sitting US president to visit the UAE. He spoke on Thursday at a summit in Abu Dhabi put on by the Milken Institute, an economic think tank based in California.

He made his comments while in conversation with Michael Milken, known as the king of high-risk “junk” bonds in the 1980s, who pleaded guilty to securities law violations in 1990 and served 22 months in prison. Milken agreed in a settlement with the SEC to a lifetime ban from the industry and paid a $200 million fine.