Why People Are Comparing Donald Trump to Vladimir Putin

September 27th 2016

Danielle DeCourcey

The first presidential debate between Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton had a record-breaking 81 million viewers glued to their television, according to Forbes.

The drama of Monday's debate led one famous Russian to draw a comparison between Donald Trump and Russia's strong man.

Garry Kasparov, one of the best chess players in the world and the chairman of the Human Rights Foundation, said that the debate reinforced that both Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin believe that the "strong image is everything."

Kasparov tweeted a screenshot of his March opinion piece in Newsweek titled "Putin and Trump Share an Authoritarian Spirit." He wrote about the two men, who have expressed admiration of each other, and the similarities he sees in their political rhetoric.

Trump's "incoherent" policy discussions are left intentionally vague to make it difficult to contradict, according to Kasparov.

Kasparov wrote that this tactic is similar to the strategies he sees Putin use in state-controlled Russian media.

"The repetition of the same themes of fear and hatred, and racism, of victimhood, of a country beset by internal and external enemies, of how those enemies will be destroyed, of a return to national glory. How the Dear Leader apologizing or admitting error shows weakness and must never be done. Inspiring anger and hatred and then disavowing responsibility when violence occurs. It’s a match. As is the fixation with a leader’s personal strength and weakness, intentionally conflated with national strength and weakness."

Trump's political campaign slogan is "Make American Great Again," and his proposed strategy includes being tough on Muslim and Mexican immigration and bringing "law and order" to American communities.

Other people on Twitter compared the two leaders. Some people echoed the unproven theory that Putin is trying to get Trump elected.

Not everyone agreed.

Masha Gessen, a Russian and American journalist who is known for her opposition to Putin, offered her take on the two politicians in an essay, "The Trump-Putin Fallacy," in The New York Review of Books.

Allegations that Trump is a puppet for Putin are a way for Americans to deny that Trump is a "thoroughly American creation," Gessen said. She compared it to blaming the neighbor's kid for something your child did.

"Imagine that your teenage child has built a bomb and has just set it off in your house. The house is falling down all around you — and you are blaming the neighbor’s kid, who threw a pebble at your window. That’s what the recent Putin fixation is like — a way to evade the fact that Trump is a thoroughly American creation that poses an existential threat to American democracy."

Trump's foreign policy is "perfectly consistent with his character and thinking," and Putin is not "making or even encouraging him to say these things," Gessen said. But she agreed that Trump and Putin share personality traits.

The alleged Trump and Putin "bromance."

There's a theory that Putin has inappropriate influence over Trump because of previous friendly comments they've exchanged.

Last year, Putin endorsed Trump as his candidate of choice in the presidential elections by calling him "very talented" and an "absolute leader." Trump called it a "great honor" to receive Putin's accolades.

Federal officials in July said they suspected Russian hackers of hacking the Democratic National Committee's emails. At a press conference to address accusations that the hack was made by the Russian government to help Trump, the Republican nominee asked Russian hackers to find Clinton's missing emails.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said at the press conference in July. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Trump's campaign later said that the hacking suggestion was a joke and denied any connection to Russian hackers.

A few weeks ago, NBC's Matt Lauer asked Trump about his relationship with Putin. Lauer asked if Trump felt comfortable being publicly complimented by Putin, a former KGB officer, who invaded Ukraine and supports Iran, according to a transcript by The Washington Post. Trump responded that he would take the compliments, but added that they have no effect on his policy positions.

"Well, I think when he calls me brilliant, I'll take the compliment, OK? The fact is, look, it's not going to get him anywhere. I'm a negotiator. We're going to take back our country. You look at what's happening to our country; you look at the depleted military; you look at the fact that we've lost our jobs. We're losing our jobs like we're a bunch of babies. We're going to take back our country, Matt. The fact that he calls me brilliant or whatever he calls me is going to have zero impact."

Trump said that he dislikes the "system" of government in Russia, but added that Putin is a better leader than President Barack Obama.

"Now, it's a very different system, and I don't happen to like the system. But certainly, in that system, he's been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader."

ATTN: reached out to Trump's campaign, and we will update the article if we receive a response.

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