Trump And Putin: A One Sided Fantasy Affair?
NEW DELHI: Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump showered praise on Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Commander-in-Chief Forum, saying that Putin "has been a leader far more than our president [Obama] has been.” Trump added that Putin has "great control over his country" and celebrated the Russian strongman’s “82% approval rating." “If [Putin] says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him,” Trump added.
Trump’s rival, Democrat Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, defended her judgment on the recent email scandal -- something the Russians have been accused of having a hand in as reports suggest that hackers who broke into the Democratic National Committee’s e-mail trove were likely agents of the Russian Federation. The reports remain unconfirmed for now, but as the political saying goes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and here Putin and Trump find themselves on the same side.
Trump has previously praised Putin as a forceful leader, adding to that the statement that Putin is a “better leader” than US President Barack Obama. From the beginning of his candidacy, Trump has maintained that he would “get along very well with Vladimir Putin.”
And if mere rhetoric is not enough, take the case of Trump appointing Carter Page to the position of foreign policy advisor. Page, adviser to Russia’s state gas company, has been known to be very pro-Russia and in fact, gave a speech very critical of US policy in Moscow. In the US, experts from both political parties view Page -- hitherto relatively unknown -- with skepticism. In their eyes, Page doesn’t have an adequate understanding of US-Russia relations, and experts are largely distressed with him for his criticism of sanctions, praise for Putin and advisers, and his meek response to what most US policymakers see as Russian aggression. In fact, Page has been known to echo Russian propaganda when it comes to developments in Ukraine and elsewhere -- while American experts at large, Republican and Democrat, have criticised Obama for not reacting strongly enough to Russia’s interference in Ukraine.
And while Trump’s obsession with Putin seems to be largely one sided, the Russian President, has, in turn, seemingly praised Trump -- calling him “flamboyant, talented, without a doubt.” Trump, of course, chose to miss the “flamboyant”, saying that “when people call you brilliant it’s always good.” He echoed the same sentiment at the Commander-in-Chief Forum, saying "I think when he [Putin] calls me brilliant I'll take the compliment, okay?”
As the historian Timothy Snyder says, “It is not hard to see why Trump might choose Putin as his fantasy friend.” While the two leaders may seem to have little in common at first glance, a few layers deeper reveal a kindred temperament. As Trump’s rise is based on racist and prejudiced positions against Mexicans, Muslims and immigrants at large, Putin’s hold over power can be traced to othering the Caucasus, as well as ruling with an iron fist that doesn’t have room for dissent. Snyder perhaps sums it up best when he says, “Putin is the real-world version of the person Trump pretends to be on television.”