Despite his multiple criminal indictments, Donald Trump has just picked up a unsurprising major endorsement for his 2024 presidential campaign—Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.
Putin was in Vladivostok in far eastern Russia on Tuesday, a day before he met at the Vostochny Cosmodrome with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. While awaiting the arrival of Kim’s slow-moving armored train, Putin spoke on Tuesday to the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok. During that appearance, Putin gave aid and comfort to Trump and MAGA cult members who have been expressing outrage over what they believe to be the political persecution of Trump.
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U.S. officials have expressed concern that Putin and Kim are working on an arms deal that would provide badly needed ammunition and artillery for Russia to use in its faltering war in Ukraine. At the summit, Kim appeared to endorse Russia’s war on Ukraine, declaring at a state dinner with Putin that he is “certain that the Russian people and its military will emerge victorious in the fight to punish the evil forces that ambitiously pursues hegemony and expansion,” CNN reported.
Kim met Trump three times in 2018-2019—in Singapore, Vietnam, and at the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas. At their last meeting, Trump invited Kim to visit the United States.
Putin also used the occasion to shower praise on billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk as “an outstanding person” and “active talented businessman,” suggesting that Russia might want to create its own private space companies, like Musk’s SpaceX.
The Associated Press quoted Putin as saying:
“As for the prosecution of Trump, for us what is happening in today’s conditions, in my opinion, is good because it shows the rottenness of the American political system, which cannot pretend to teach others democracy[.]” [...]
“Everything that is happening with Trump is the persecution of a political rival for political reasons. That’s what it is. And this is being done in front of the public of the United States and the whole world.”
Now this is coming from a dictator whose political opponents end up being sentenced to long prison sentences and in some cases suffering worse fates, such as being poisoned or thrown out of windows.
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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who survived poisoning with a nerve agent, recently had his prison sentence extended to 19 years in a harsh penal colony. Another prominent Kremlin critic, Vladimir Kara-Murza, was sentenced to 25 years in prison earlier this year, after being convicted on charges of high treason, involvement in activities of an undesirable group, and discrediting Russia's armed forces. Kara-Murza and his supporters have called the charges politically motivated.
And Putin is widely suspected of playing a role in the plane crash last month that killed 10 people, including Wagner mercenary group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, who had led a brief armed mutiny in late June.
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In his Vladivostok speech, Putin also threw a fig leaf to Trump when he said that the United States would likely remain anti-Russian, even if Trump were to become president again. The New York Times quoted Putin as saying:
“Though they accused him (Trump) of special ties to Russia, it was complete nonsense, total bullshit, and he more than anything imposed sanctions on Russia[.] [...] So what to expect in the future, regardless of who is president, is difficult to say. But it’s unlikely anything will change definitively, because the current government has configured American society in such an anti-Russian manner and spirit.”
That’s hard to swallow given Trump’s comments on the campaign trail that, if elected, he could talk with Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and end the war in Ukraine in 24 hours.
Putin referred to Trump’s comments on Ukraine in his remarks on Tuesday. HuffPost quoted Putin as saying: “We hear that Mr. Trump says that he will solve pressing problems in a few days, including the Ukrainian crisis. Well, this cannot but bring happiness. This is good.”
Putin’s comments that Trump was a victim of political persecution were certainly welcomed by the disgraced former president who posted this on his Truth Social platform:
Former Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the ranking member of the now-disbanded House Jan. 6 Select Committee, clearly wasn’t fooled. In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, she said: “Putin has now officially endorsed the Putin-wing of the Republican Party. Putin Republicans & their enablers will end up on the ash heap of history. Patriotic Americans in both parties who believe in the values of liberal democracy will make sure of it.”
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The New York Times reported that several Republicans competing with Trump for the GOP presidential nomination rejected Putin’s criticism. Former Vice President Mike Pence said in a statement: “America’s founding principles will always stand the test of time, and Vladimir Putin’s opinion of our constitutional republic holds no value in the United States. Putin should be more concerned about how quickly his military went from being the second most powerful in the world to the second most powerful in Ukraine.”
And former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said: “It’s good to see Vladimir Putin has made his endorsement official—and no surprise, he’s endorsed another autocrat.”
Putin’s comments again call attention to his troubling relationship with Trump. Russia meddled in the 2016 election by spreading disinformation about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton online and hacking emails from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.
Musk’s new policies have made it easier for Russian trolls and bots to spread disinformation on X. Musk’s relations to Putin also came under scrutiny when a new biography asserted that he had disabled his Starlink satellite network in Crimea so the Ukrainian military wouldn’t be able to guide a drone attack on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.
And national security experts fear that Russia might have even greater motivation to meddle in the 2024 presidential election. Trump also has strong motivation to win in 2024 because of the 91 felony counts he is facing. In an interview on MSNBC, former CIA director John Brennan said:
“For Putin it is absolutely essential that Donald Trump wins the election. He’s trying to prolong this war as long as he can, believing that this attrition that is taking place on the battlefield is going to lead the West and specifically the United States to relent eventually.
And Trump clearly has sent very public signals that he would withdraw or pull back from the extent of the support the United States has provided. ... It is Putin’s main lifeline in order to find some way to salvage what has been a debacle in Ukraine for him and that is if Trump is able to return to the White House so that Putin could then have a like-minded individual that he can work with detrimental to U.S. interests certainly and detrimental to Western interests overall.”
And let’s leave the last word to Laurence Tribe, the professor emeritus of constitutional law at Harvard University, who said in another MSNBC interview:
“Vladimir Putin is hardly the person to talk to us about how democracy should work. He uses the word `democracy’ but he means `dictatorship’ … The idea that this man who murders or imprisons for life those people who dare criticize him, the idea that he should be telling us how to run our government is really appalling. And it’s all connected with his aggressive plans for the world. … I think we really are learning what Donald Trump and his movement is all about when we see who their friends are.”
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