The first time I saw this news on Thursday morning, I thought it had to be parody. But no, it's real — multiple credible outlets are reporting that Vladimir Putin has spoken up about Donald Trump, and the Russian leader thinks the Donald is "a very outstanding person." Here's the BBC's translation:
"It is not our business to determine his merits, that is up to US voters," Mr Putin told reporters after his annual televised news conference.
"But he is the absolute leader in the presidential race. He is a very outstanding person, talented, without any doubt."
"He wants to move to another level of relations, a closer, deeper level of relations with Russia," he said. "How can we not welcome this? Of course we welcome this."
The feeling is more or less mutual. Throughout the campaign, Trump has often said they would get along well. "I think I’d get along very well with Vladimir Putin. People say 'what do you mean?' I just think I’d get along well with him," Trump said in a July 31 press conference.
While the rest of the Republican field has decried Putin's adventurism in places like Ukraine and Syria, Trump has actually kind of welcomed it. Here's what he said about Syria in a November 10 Republican debate:
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 stablemates, 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.
(To be clear, Russia's bombing runs in Syria are mostly targeting non-ISIS rebels, and Putin was not Trump's "stablemate" in the 60 Minutes green room. In fact, the two men were interviewed by different journalists on different continents.)
In any case, Putin may merely be weighing in on the side of the most pro-Russia candidate in the US election. It wouldn't be the first time he intervened on behalf of a friendly quasi-authoritarian abroad.