Q&A: Trump and Putin - admirers from afar

By Laurence Arnold

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Photo / AP
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Photo / AP

In a crazy political year, it's one of the crazier questions out there: Is the hardline leader of America's historic enemy trying to get Republican candidate Donald Trump elected president?

Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin have exchanged compliments and suggested their two countries could become closer allies if Trump is elected.

Some Democrats are warning that Putin is actually trying to influence the election in Trump's favour. Now Trump is pretty much urging Russia to do just that.

1 What have Trump and Putin said about each other?

Putin praised Trump as talented and colourful. (One thing Putin didn't call Trump is "a genius," as Trump has repeatedly claimed.) Trump called Putin "a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond". Trump also said, "You know, he feels good about me. I feel, frankly, good about him". Trump says Russia and the US should work more closely together. "Wouldn't it be nice if like Russia and us could knock out an enemy together, not us bear the full cost sometime?" Trump said at a campaign rally in December.

2 Have they ever met?

Apparently not, despite Trump's hints to that effect. In a 2013 tweet, Trump wondered if Putin might join him at a beauty pageant in Moscow and "become my new best friend". Though Putin didn't show, an associate of his, Vladimir Kozhin, did, and met Trump.

3 Why does this matter?

Though the Cold War is over, that face-off between the US and the Soviet Union still frames much of the world's military posture. That's why Trump's suggestion that he might not deploy the US military if Russia attacked a fellow member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation caused alarm throughout eastern Europe and drew condemnation even from Republicans. The suspected involvement of Russia in hacking and leaking emails and internal reports from the Democratic National Committee raises the equally alarming prospect that Russia is trying to meddle in an American election.

4 Was Russia really involved in the email hacking?

Hillary Clinton's campaign and some cybersecurity experts think so. The FBI is investigating, and Russia is said to be a leading suspect, though it denies any involvement.

5 What other ties are there?

Trump's campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, worked for Viktor Yanukovych, the former president of Ukraine, who was ousted from office in 2014 because of his closeness to Putin's Russia. Carter Page, an investment banker who is advising Trump on foreign policy, built a career on deals with Russia and its state-run gas company.

- Bloomberg

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