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Trump endorses Putin’s intervention in Syria

Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

During Tuesday night's Republican debate, Donald Trump took a pretty novel position for a Republican — he cheered Vladimir Putin's military intervention in Syria, weirdly citing his experience meeting the Russian leader in a TV green room:

As far as Syria, I like if Putin wants to go in, and I got to know him very well because we were both on "60 Minutes," we were stable mates, we did well that night. You know that. If Putin wants to knock the hell out of ISIS, I’m all for it 100 percent and I can’t understand how anybody would be against that.

Jeb Bush then attempted to interject, saying, "They're not doing that," but Trump just rolled right over him:

BUSH: They’re not doing that.

TRUMP: Hold it. They blew up — wait a minute. They blew up a Russian airplane, he cannot be in love with these people. He‘s going in and we can go in and everybody should go in.

Trump, a longtime Putin fan, is totally wrong here. Russia isn't really paying very much attention to ISIS: Its principal objective is propping up Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad's regime, which is more threatened by rebels than by ISIS. According to State Department data, 90 percent of Russian airstrikes have targeted other Syrian rebel groups. This map, from the invaluable Institute for the Study of War, shows that Russian bombs are mostly hitting rebel-held territory (in tan) and barely hitting ISIS territory at all:

(Institute for the Study of War)

So, yeah: Trump is flatly wrong. Putin isn't bombing ISIS.