Politics

Former SecDef Gates Worries About Trump’s Admiration For Putin

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is worried about GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, and what that admiration might mean for U.S. foreign policy.

In an interview on CBS’ Face the Nation, Gates said, “I worry a little bit about his admiration for Vladimir Putin.”

Compared to other former GOP presidential candidates like Sen. Marco Rubio, who called Putin a “gangster and a thug,” the relationship between Trump and Putin has been considerably warmer. The real estate tycoon has referred to Putin as “very bright” and a “strong leader.”

Trump has declared his intention to repair Washington’s relationship with Russia.

“I believe an easing of tensions, and improved relations with Russia—from a position of strength only—is possible, absolutely possible,” Mr. Trump said in April. “Some say the Russians won’t be reasonable. I intend to find out.”

Putin seems to be returning the affection. He’s called Trump “a brighter person, talented without a doubt.”

Gates contended that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is more hawkish than President Barack Obama, which could be one one reason why Putin has taken a liking to Trump. Another reason, noted by Fyodor Lukyanov, the head of the Russian Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, is that Putin likes Trump’s style of frankness, a style that totally ignores political correctness and gets right down to business.

Currently, relations with Russia have rapidly headed south. The Russian “reset,” pioneered by Hillary Clinton while she was serving as Secretary of State in the Obama administration, has not worked out as planned.

The U.S. protested over Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and has further protested continued incursions into eastern Ukraine. Russia has also taken heat for buzzing U.S. military exercises in the region.

It’s unclear what Trump would do to repair the sullied relationship, but from initial declarations, it doesn’t sound as though he’d just capitulate to Russian interests to satisfy Putin. In May, Trump said he’d order the U.S. military to shoot down Russian jets if they refused to stop unsafely buzzing ships and other assets. Trump said the Russians were taking advantage of the military because of lack of respect for President Barack Obama.

“Normally, an Obama—let’s say a president, because you want to make at least a call or two—but normally Obama would call up Putin and say, ‘Listen, do us a favor, don’t do that, get that maniac, just stop it.’ But we don’t have that kind of a president. He’s gonna be out playing golf or something,” Trump said. “But I don’t know, at a certain point, you can’t take it.”

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