Given the circumstances, it’s tempting to think Donald Trump would at least try to maintain some rhetorical distance from Russia’s Vladimir Putin. After all, the former American president has been dogged by serious allegations for many years about his benefactor in Moscow, including the fact that the Republican sought, received, benefited from, and lied about Russian assistance that helped elevate him to the White House.
And yet, for reasons he hasn’t explained, Trump just can’t seem to help himself.
Last week, for example, the former American president celebrated the fact that Putin was echoing his talking points about the 2024 election and Trump’s multiple criminal indictments. As we discussed soon after, given the atrocities and alleged war crimes Russia is committing in Ukraine, the Republican might’ve even considered a stay-off-my-side posture. But Trump instead thought the smart move would be to highlight Putin’s condemnations of the United States and willingness to endorse his conspiratorial nonsense.
As part of Trump’s “Meet the Press” interview with NBC News’ Kristen Welker, Trump went even further down the same road.
Former President Donald Trump said Thursday that he appreciated recent praise from Russian leader Vladimir Putin. In an exclusive interview with NBC “Meet the Press” moderator Kristen Welker, Trump said it meant “what I’m saying is right,” referring to his positions on the war in Ukraine.
In case anyone’s forgotten, in February 2022, as Putin faced international condemnations, the former American president offered rather enthusiastic praise for the Russian leader, touting Putin’s aggressive moves against Ukraine as “genius” and “very savvy.”
In the months that followed, Trump repeatedly claimed he had a secret plan to negotiate a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine “within 24 hours,” going so far as to boast that it’d be “easy” to end the crisis.
It was against this backdrop that the former president told Welker that he still won’t divulge the details of his secret plan — which almost certainly does not exist in reality — except to say that there are “certain things” he would tell Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Russia’s authoritarian leader recently said, “We surely hear that Mr. Trump says he will resolve all burning issues within several days, including the Ukrainian crisis. We cannot help but feel happy about it.” Evidently, Trump was delighted by the comments.
“Well, I like that he said that,” he said on “Meet the Press,” adding, “Because that means what I’m saying is right.”
No, actually it doesn’t. Putin’s validation of Trump’s absurd boasts does not mean Trump is “right”; what it means is that he and his Russian ally have linked arms — yet again. To see an endorsement from the Kremlin as evidence of merit is to abandon any sense of propriety.
“If you are on the same side as Putin, you might want to rethink your position,” former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said last week. He wasn’t referring to U.S. policy in Ukraine, but it’s an observation with broad applicability.
This post updates our related earlier coverage.