- The Washington Times - Friday, December 18, 2015

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said Friday that he’s always felt “fine” about Russian President Vladimir Putin and that Russia can be a “positive force” in the fight against the Islamic State terrorist group.

“I’ve always felt fine about Putin,” Mr. Trump said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “I think that he is a strong leader, he’s a powerful leader, he’s represented his country and that’s the way the country’s being represented.”

“He’s actually got popularity within his country. They respect him as a leader,” Mr. Trump said. “Certainly over the last couple of years, they’ve respected him as a leader. I think he’s up in the 80s, which is, you see where Obama’s [in] the 30s and low 40s and, you know, he’s up in the 80s.”

“And I don’t know who does the polls — maybe he does the polls — but I think they’re done by American companies, actually,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Putin recently praised Mr. Trump as a “very bright and talented man.”

Mr. Trump said Mr. Putin’s praising him is “not troubling at all.”

“I think … a lot of good things can happen with Russia if we get along well with Russia and if they respect us,” Mr. Trump said. “He does not respect our president. Putin does not respect our president. A lot of people don’t respect our president.”

Mr. Trump said Mr. Putin can be an ally in the fight against the Islamic State terrorist group, also known by the acronyms ISIL or ISIS.

“I think Russia can be a positive force. … They can help us,” he said. “Hey, look — we have a problem with ISIS.”

“Now, probably they knocked down this plane, but Putin doesn’t want anything to do with ISIS,” Mr. Trump said. “He doesn’t want ISIS coming into Russia. That’s, you know, the bottom line. I think that’s a real positive.”

“You know, when they first started he wasn’t really bombing ISIS; he was bombing some other folks that were not ISIS involved, in theory,” Mr. Trump said. “But now he is. And I think that’s a positive force. Having Russia bombing ISIS — anybody that wants to bomb ISIS, congratulations. … I’m all for you.”

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