Why is Donald Trump so cozy with the Kremlin? A political scientist and Russia expert breaks down the theories

18 Jan 2017

(Salon) As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump promised to ban Muslims from the entering the country and to make Mexico pay for a border wall. He pledged to level the economic playing field with China and renegotiate the “very bad” Iran deal. These policies were red meat for his political base, even if he served them a bit on the rare side as compared with his Republican predecessors.

Trump’s Russia policy is different. His admiration of Vladimir Putin, his promise that “we will be looking at the annexation of Crimea” — presumably in a more favorable light than President Barack Obama did — and his skepticism toward NATO put the incoming president at odds with his party. Establishment Republican elites (including Vice President-elect Mike Pence) have been skeptical of these arguments, and these policy pledges brought Trump few political benefits at the ballot box.

Of course there was much happy talk about Putin among Trump supporters late in the campaign, but this was likely more an anti-Obama and anti-Clinton message than a pro-Putin one. A December poll found that even among Trump supporters only 35 percent of those surveyed said they had a favorable view of Vladimir Putin, while 51 percent of the respondents said they had an unfavorable view. [...]

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