clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Donald Trump appears to like Vladimir Putin more than he liked Obama

"I see you, Vlad."
"I see you, Vlad."
Christopher Gregory/Getty Images
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.

Donald Trump, who is actually running for president of the United States, had some things to say about Russian President Vladimir Putin in a Fox News interview that ran on Monday night:

Putin has no respect for our president whatsoever. He's got a tremendous popularity in Russia, they love what he's doing, they love what he represents.

Trump went on to advocate for improving ties with Putin, explaining that his 2013 trip to Russia (he was there for the Miss Universe pageant) made him perfect for such a job. "I would be willing to bet I would have a great relationship with Putin," he said.

"I was over in Moscow two years ago, and I will tell you — you can get along with those people, and get along with them well," Trump explained. "You can make deals with those people. Obama can't."

Here's video, courtesy of Mediaite (starts around 4:14):

Trump's affinity for Russia's strongman makes a certain kind of sense: Trump would make a fantastic Russian oligarch. But there's a serious political point here: this kind of nuttery isn't great for Trump, but it's a boon to other Republican presidential candidates looking to highlight their own, less insane foreign policy views.

Trump is super unpopular among Republicans, and positions like "We should cuddle up to the anti-American strongman in the Kremlin" aren't exactly going to endear him to the GOP base. That, as Dan Drezner points out, sets up other candidates to smash him: "Eviscerating Trump on the debate stage could be a way for a Cruz or a Paul or Christie or a Perry to stand out."

That's especially true on foreign policy, an increasingly important issue for Republican voters and especially for big donors. Jeb Bush, for example, is having a lot of problems articulating a strong position on foreign policy. That's helped Marco Rubio, a senator who's spent years developing his foreign policy bona fides, become the favorite among some leading hawks.

Bashing Trump's Putin babble is a good opportunity for Bush to do something pretty entertaining — and demonstrate his ability to sell the GOP company line on foreign policy in the process.

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.