During Russian President Vladimir Putin’s marathon annual news conference on Thursday, the controversial leader heaped praise on Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, calling the candidate “tremendous,” “very bright,” and “talented without any doubt.”
By Thursday evening, Trump had released an equally warm statement that would seem to belie the current state of affairs between Russia and the United States:
It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.
I have always felt that Russia and the United States should be able to work well with each other towards defeating terrorism and restoring world peace, not to mention trade and all of the other benefits derived from mutual respect.
Jeb Bush, Trump’s rival for the Republican presidential nomination, quickly critiqued Trump for being “flattered by praise from a despot.” But as my colleague Krishnadev Calamur noted, Trump already fancies himself as someone who could get along with “a lot of the world leaders that this country is not getting along with.”
The subtext here is, perhaps, that Trump is a strongman that other strongmen would have a beer with. Or like Putin, Trump might destroy a city and then rename the main street in that city after himself.