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    Sunday, April 14, 2024

    Putin backs ‘old-style’ Biden over Trump

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, center left, talks with employees of the Uralvagonzavod factory in Nizhny Tagil, Russia, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024. (Ramil Sitdikov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

    Vladimir Putin praised Joe Biden as a more reliable alternative for Russia than Donald Trump, making his first public comments on the American presidential election.

    “He’s a more experienced person, he’s predictable, he’s an old-style politician,” the Russian president said of Biden in a state television interview when asked which of the two leading candidates would be better for Russia, according to a video released by the Kremlin.

    His intervention highlighting Biden’s political longevity and traditionalist approach amounted to doubtful praise for a US president battling perceptions at home that he’s too old to seek a second term. After Biden denounced Trump on Tuesday for “shameful” threats to allow Russia to invade some NATO allies, it also undercut claims that the incumbent is the only one tough enough to stand up to Putin.

    In the interview, the Kremlin leader dismissed a question about 81-year-old Biden’s mental acuity by praising his sharpness at their last summit in Geneva nearly three years ago. “Even then, there was talk he wasn’t competent, but I didn’t see anything like that,” said Putin, 71. “Yes, he looked at his notes, but I also looked at mine. It was nothing.”

    Even as he praised Biden, Putin also had approving words for Trump about his position on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which Moscow views as a threat.

    “There is probably some logic from his point of view,” he said of the Republican frontrunner’s comments that he wouldn’t want the US to defend NATO allies against a Russian attack if they weren’t meeting pledges on defense spending.

    “Trump’s always been called a non-systemic politician,” Putin added. “He has his own view of how the US should develop relations with its allies and there have been sparks in the past, as well.”

    At a rally in South Carolina on Wednesday evening, Trump said Putin, by praising Biden, “has just given me a great compliment. That’s a good thing.”

    Eight years ago, Putin publicly praised then-candidate Trump amid accusations that the Kremlin sought to interfere in the 2016 election in his favor. Those allegations cast a shadow over the 2017-2021 Trump presidency.

    Kremlin officials say privately they’re not sure Russia would benefit if Trump returned to the White House in November’s election, as his first term was marked by unpredictability and produced no breakthrough in relations with the US. After meetings with Trump, one Kremlin insider said Russia just didn’t understand him.

    Still, Putin denounced the Biden administration’s approach to Russia as “harmful and mistaken.” The Kremlin leader regularly criticizes the US for its support of Ukraine’s campaign to repel Moscow’s invasion, among other issues.

    While Trump has repeatedly spoken in glowing terms about the Russian leader, Biden this week accused the former president of kowtowing to Putin.

    Those comments came after Trump last weekend claimed he’d told the president of one NATO member country that he’d let Russia do “whatever the hell they want” if the nation didn’t hit the bloc’s defense-spending targets.

    Putin didn’t waver over his decision to start the war in Ukraine. “We can only regret that we didn’t act earlier,” he said.

    He reiterated that the US and its allies should concede they’ve failed to defeat Russia. “If they see they aren’t getting their result, then they need to make changes,” he said. “But that’s a question for the art of politics, which is the art of compromise.”

    Putin also expressed disappointment with last week’s two-hour interview with Tucker Carlson, a conservative commentator and Trump supporter. While he was “grateful” that western leaders could hear him speak at length since “we’re unable to conduct direct dialogue” now, Putin said he’d expected “tough questions” from Carlson that didn’t come.

    “I was not just prepared for this, I wanted it, because it would give me the opportunity to respond with equally sharp answers,” Putin said of his first western interview since Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. “He gave me no cause for doing what I was prepared to do. That is why, to tell the truth, I did not fully enjoy that interview.”

    More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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