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Donald Trump on Russia: Same as Obama, with Swagger

Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has pledged a strong military and foreign policy–yet his policy on Russia is virtually indistinguishable from Barack Obama’s failing policy.

Trump pledges that he will earn more respect from Russian leader Vladimir Putin than Obama has done. But he also says that he intends to find areas of agreement with Russia. This week, he endorsed Russia’s intervention in Syria, ostensibly to attack ISIS terrorists.

Trump acknowledged to CNN’s Don Lemon that Russia may be attacking the opponents of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, but implied that the alternative might be worse, and that it would be good for Russia to “knock the hell out of ISIS.”

Asked about Russia at last month’s second presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, Trump said that he would be more successful than President Obama at earning Putin’s respect: “I would talk to him. I would get along with him. I believe–and I may be wrong, in which case I’d probably have to take a different path, but I would get along with a lot of the world leaders that this country is not getting along with.”

Eight years ago, then-Sen. Barack Obama made similar pledges to use what he called “tough diplomacy” to negotiate with Iran and other rogue regimes, which he said would be more successful than war at earning respect.

There is no substantive difference between these policies. Both would let Russia cement its geopolitical gains in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Trump’s approach would differ only in that he would earn Putin’s respect through a military buildup, while Obama is cutting the military and stressing diplomacy through “deconfliction” talks.

On Iran, Trump has adopted a pragmatic, tough but credible approach. On Russia, he appears to offer more of the same.

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