Among most congressional Republicans, Vladimir Putin is not a popular figure. The GOP’s foreign policy has been largely defined by skepticism of Russia – even after the Cold War ended – and the country’s authoritarian president has only heightened the party’s attitudes.
And so it must come as something of a shock to Republicans to see their party’s presidential nominee not only speak highly of Putin, and not only cozy up to Putin, but even surround himself with pro-Putin advisers. By most measures, Donald Trump is running as the most pro-Russia U.S. presidential candidate in generations.
That leaves some in the GOP in an exceedingly awkward position. How does a senator like Tom Cotton (R) of Arkansas reconcile his support for Trump’s candidacy with the senator’s antipathy towards Russia’s autocratic leader? CNBC’s John Harwood asked him about this the other day.
HARWOOD: One of the questions that has been raised about Donald Trump is, “Is he more friendly with Russia than it is in America’s best interests to be?”COTTON: Vladimir Putin was a KGB spy and he never got over that. He does not have America’s best interests at heart and he does not have any American interests at heart. I suspect, after this week, when Donald Trump is the nominee and he begins to receive classified briefings, similar briefings to what I receive as a member of the Intelligence Committee, he may have a different perspective on Vladimir Putin and what Russia is doing to America’s interests and allies in Europe and the Middle East and Asia.
Oh. So according to the Arkansas senator, Trump is only pro-Putin because Trump doesn’t know what he’s talking about. How reassuring.
But it’s also a position in need of further exploration. What if, after Trump begins receiving briefings from intelligence officials, he doesn’t change his mind, and his pro-Putin posturing remains the same?
And how confident can anyone be that information given to Trump will be kept confidential?