Republican nominee Donald Trump has called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “stronger leader” than U.S. President Barack Obama. He has said the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State should leave Syria to Moscow. And he has hinted he may not defend NATO allies against Russian incursion.
But on Tuesday night, he asked why Obama gets a “free pass” for, presumably, allowing Russia to take Crimea.
“Russia took Crimea during the so-called Obama years,” Trump tweeted. “Who wouldn’t know this and why does Obama get a free pass?”
The irony of hitting Obama for not preventing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014 was apparently lost on the social media prolific and apoplectic real estate magnate.
Trump has suggested he’d recognize Crimea as part of Russia if elected, and beyond taking sovereign territory, also has directly urged Moscow to take Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s emails. He frequently expresses his admiration for Putin, noting recently that the Russian leader who has cracked down on political opposition has high popularity in national polls — a point Obama mocked earlier Tuesday in a rally for Clinton.
“Well, yes, so did — Saddam Hussein had a 90 percent poll rating,” Obama said in his Philadelphia speech, comparing Putin’s tactics to those of the deceased Iraqi strongman. “I mean, if you control the media, and you’ve taken away everybody’s civil liberties, and you jail dissidents, that’s what happens.”
“I have to do business with Putin. I have to do business with Russia. That’s part of foreign policy,” Obama continued. “But I don’t go around saying that’s my role model.”
To help answer Trump’s rhetorical question: “Who wouldn’t know this?” here are a few choice examples of when he himself apparently did not.
July 27: “Yes, we would be looking at that.”
— Trump’s response to a reporter asking whether, if elected, he would recognize Crimea as part of Russia and lift sanctions on Moscow.
July 31: “He’s not going into Ukraine, O.K., just so you understand. He’s not going to go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down. You can put it down. You can take it anywhere you want.”
— Trump, speaking of Putin, on ABC’s “This Week”
“The people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were. And you have to look at that, also.”
— Trump later in the same show
When I said in an interview that Putin is "not going into Ukraine, you can mark it down," I am saying if I am President. Already in Crimea!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 1, 2016
Photo credit: Kommersant Photo / Contributor