Vladimir Putin is the world leader most admired by Ukip leader Nigel Farage, who has spoken of his admiration for the Russian President's style of operating.
"If you poke the Russian bear, he will respond," Farage said in an interview with GQ magazine.
His comments emerged just days after the Ukip leader said the European Union had "blood on its hands" for encouraging rebellion in Ukraine, Syria and Libya.
While stressing that he did not approve of Putin's annexation of Crimea, he said EU leaders had been "weak and vain".
The Ukip leader was quizzed for GQ magazine by Labour's former director of communications Alistair Campbell, in his first interview in his new role as the glossy monthly's "arch-interrogator".
Asked which current world leader he most admired, Farage replied: "As an operator, but not as a human being, I would say Putin.
"The way he played the whole Syria thing. Brilliant. Not that I approve of him politically. How many journalists in jail now?"
Putin has been blamed by the West for prolonging the Syrian conflict by supplying arms to dictator Bashar Assad and blocking moves to censure or sanction him at the United Nations, but was widely seen to have outwitted the US last year when he brokered a deal under which Damascus agreed to give up its chemical weapons.
On German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Farage said: "She is incredibly cold. I always say - I agree this is a bit rude - but whatever you think of the public image of Merkel, in private she is even more miserable. I warm to more extrovert people."
Asked by Campbell to say "something nice" about the three major party leaders, the normally garrulous Mr Farage was almost lost for words, describing each of them as "nice".
Cameron is "a perfectly nice fellow who stands four-square for nothing," Miliband a "nice chap, not very worldly - I would love to see him in a working men's club in Newcastle", while Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg - who took on Farage in a TV debate last week - was a "very nice guy, just wrong".
Farage said there was "absolutely no doubt at all" that the Prime Minister decided to offer an in/out referendum on Britain's EU membership because of pressure on his party from Ukip, adding: "It was the last thing he wanted to do. He was Mr No, No, No."
Conservatives have tried to win over Ukip supporters with the argument that the only realistic way to secure the referendum they want is by ensuring Cameron is returned to 10 Downing Street in 2015 with an overall majority.
Potential defectors from the Tories are being warned that they risk letting Labour in if they "vote Ukip, get Miliband".
But Farage dismissed the idea that he is hoping for a Conservative victory.
Asked who he would like to win the election, assuming Ukip does not, he replied: "I don't care... If I was back in the London Metal Exchange I'd not give a toss, because 100% of the legislation affecting me is made in Brussels."
And he was little better prepared to answer questions from Campbell on policies currently on the Ukip website, saying that he "hadn't seen it for ages".
He said he "hadn't seen the wording" of the law and order policy on the website, and when told that it makes the claim that "violent crime is erupting on our streets", he admitted: "Oh, I do need to look at this."
On the subject of what he might do after leaving politics, though, he did have an answer, telling Campbell he would like to be a US-style radio "shock jock".
"I have always had a real yearning for radio, and I look at how American radio is developing," he said. "Potentially I would be very interested in being a shock jock, though Ofcom might be tricky. Some of the American stuff is appalling, wild stuff, crazy conspiracy theories."Suggest a correction