GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump spoke in praise of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin during Tuesday night’s Republican debate in Milwaukee, insisting that he was “all for” Moscow’s actions in Syria against ISIS.
Asked by Fox Business host and debate moderator Maria Bartiromo what he would do to respond to Russia’s continuing worldwide aggression, from Ukraine to the Middle East, Trump responded: “First of all, it’s not only Russia. We have problems with North Korea, where they actually have nuclear weapons.”
“Nobody talks about it. We talk about Iran and that’s one of the worst deals ever made,” Trump said.
“As far as Syria, I like if Putin wants to go in,” he said in support of the Russian president. “I got to know him very well because we were both on 60 Minutes, we were stable mates, we did well that night.”
“You know that, if Putin wants to knock the hell out of ISIS, I’m all for it 100 percent and I can’t understand how anybody would be against that,” Trump added.
The billionaire Republican nominee’s statement follows similar remarks at a mid-September debate in which he insisted that he would “get along with” Putin, implying he would develop a rapport with the Russian leader.
Trump’s assertion on Russian actions in Syria is based on talking points originating from the Kremlin — provably false propaganda that insists Moscow is only targeting the Islamic State. Putin himself has gone on the record to express such sentiments.
But videos and reports from the ground in the region have surfaced to prove that the Russian President misled the public about his true intentions in Syria.
The Russian forces backing Assad have only targeted ISIS with less than 10% of their air strikes, focusing the vast majority of their fire on rebel groups fighting against the Syrian dictator, the Pentagon has said.
“Greater than 90% of the strikes that we’ve seen them take to date have not been against ISIL or Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said in October. “They’ve largely been against opposition groups that want a better future for Syria and don’t want to see the Assad regime stay in power.”
In fact, the Institute for the Study of War has done comprehensive mapping of the region to prove that Russian air strikes continue to target areas where ISIS has little or no presence.
Despite this evidence surfacing between the debate in September and last night, Trump continues to remain friendly to Putin, who is backing a regime in Syria that has executed a wholesale slaughter campaign against its own citizens.
The GOP contender, praised by supporters for his stances on immigration and the economy, has struggled in the past with questions regarding Middle East geopolitics. In a September radio interview, Trump revealed that he could not differentiate between anti-American terror groups Hezbollah and Hamas, nor could he identify the leaders of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. He insisted, however, that “they’ll all be changed” and “they’ll all be gone” after his first few days in office.