President Donald Trump reportedly treats Russian President Vladimir Putin as a confidant while bullying and ignoring other world leaders.
Trump consults Putin on international policy and the two commiserate over American forces they believe to be acting against them, according to The Washington Post.
“The president thinks he can be friends with Putin,” former national security adviser H.R. McMaster said, according to US officials cited by the Post. “I don’t know why, or why he would want to be.”
Putin, meanwhile, appears to be playing to Trump’s likes and dislikes, often showering the US president with praise and flattery. The Post reported that the Russian leader also often strikes a chord with Trump by focusing on some of his key grievances.
For instance, he and Trump commiserated about how the “fake news” and the “deep state” are working against them, a senior US official told The Post.
“It’s not us,” Putin reportedly told Trump. “It’s the subordinates fighting against our friendship.”
Former US intelligence chiefs have suggested the overtures from Putin, who is a former KGB intelligence officer, are part of his effort to recruit Trump as an unwitting Russian asset.
This week’s report is the latest indication of Trump’s disregard for his staff’s advice for him not to publicly express his affinity for Putin through invitations to meet and congratulatory phone calls.
Nevertheless, the two leaders are slated to meet in Helsinki, Finland on July 16 for a highly anticipated summit. This is the second meeting arranged against Trump aides’ wishes. and the third time Trump and Putin will meet since Trump took office last year.
Trump’s coziness with Putin and other authoritarians, like North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, stands in sharp contrast to his increasingly tense relationship with the leaders of key US allies like Germany, France, and Canada.
Just last month, Trump publicly bashed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the annual G7 summit and later sent a strongly worded letter to several NATO leaders condemning them for what Trump characterizes as taking unfair advantage of the US.
Senior officials told The Post that when Trump speaks to American allies, he trades collaborative conversation for one that is “assertive, brash, and even bullying.” He also frequently brings up his businesses and offers unsolicited advice.
Moreover, despite Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US election, its aggressive global posturing, and US officials’ warnings to Trump, the president recently defended Putin at a rally in Montana.
Last month, Trump also told Fox News he thinks the two could solve the situations in the Ukraine and Syria just by meeting, progress which wasn’t evident after their last meeting and that Trump aides reportedly doubt.
“I could say: ‘Would you do me a favor? Would you get out of Syria,'” Trump said. “‘Would you do me a favor? Would you get out of Ukraine?'”