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It’s not just Trump: Mike Pompeo also offered praise for Putin

The former secretary of state said he’s been criticized for saying how much he respects Vladimir Putin. Well, yes, but there’s a good reason for that.


Donald Trump’s gushing praise for Russia’s Vladimir Putin is stunning in a variety of ways, and puts the former president at odds with most of his own party’s national leaders. But it’d be a mistake to say Trump is literally the only Republican who’s offered kind words for Russia’s authoritarian leader in the midst of the current crisis.

The Kansas City Star’s Michael Wilner noted yesterday that there are many former secretaries of state — from Democratic and Republican administrations — active in public life today, but only one has been eager to compliment the autocrat in Moscow.

Mike Pompeo has lauded the Russian strongman over the past month as a “talented,” “savvy,” “capable statesman,” offering his praise during a slew of interviews after his political action committee spent $30,000 on improving his performance in media appearances. “He is a very talented statesman. He has lots of gifts,” Pompeo told Fox News in January. “He was a KGB agent, for goodness sakes. He knows how to use power. We should respect that.”

In fairness, it’s worth emphasizing that Pompeo’s on-air comments were made last month, before Putin deployed troops this week into eastern Ukraine. Trump praised the Russian leader after the invasion, whereas Pompeo commended Putin before this week’s crisis.

That said, it’s not as if the developments from the last few days came out of nowhere. Last month, as the Kansas Republican celebrated Putin’s many “talents” and “gifts,” the Kremlin was assembling military contingents around the Ukrainian border and making outlandish demands, many of which it now appears he didn’t take seriously anyway.

What’s more, Pompeo’s praise wasn’t limited to one on-air appearance. Wilner’s report in the Kansas City Star noted another recent interview in which Pompeo told the Center for the National Interest that Putin is “very shrewd and “very capable.”

The former cabinet secretary added, in reference to the Russian leader, “I have enormous respect for him — I’ve been criticized for saying that.”

Well, yes, I suppose he has been criticized for saying how much “enormous respect” he has for the authoritarian leader of a hostile nation who’s threatening his neighbors and whining about the demise of the Soviet empire.

Indeed, by some accounts, state-run Russian media has apparently been broadcasting Pompeo’s complimentary rhetoric toward Putin.

As the Kansas Republican moves forward with his ambitions for national office, I suspect this won’t be the last time his praise for Putin comes up.