WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama said Donald Trump’s embrace of Russian President Vladimir Putin was unprecedented and said he was troubled that other Republicans were supporting the Republican presidential candidate’s positions on Russia.
“Mr. Trump’s continued flattery of Mr. Putin and the way he appears and the degree to which he appears to model many of his policies and approaches to politics on Mr. Putin is unprecedented in American politics,” Obama said at a White House news conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
Saying “Mr. Trump rarely surprises me these days,” Obama said he was much more concerned to see support for the candidate’s stance on Putin and Russia from Republican officials who historically had been anti-Russia.
Historically, Republican politicians have often taken or appeared to take a harder line on Russia’s predecessor, the Soviet Union, the United States’ Cold War foe.
Obama said Russia’s behavior has undermined international norms and said any suggestion that the United States has encroached on Russian interests is wrong.
“We think that Russia is a large, important country with a military that is second only to ours and has to be a part of the solution on the world stage rather than part of the problem,” Obama said.
“But their behavior has undermined international norms and international rules in ways we have to call them out on,” Obama said, citing “Russian aggression in Ukraine” and other actions.
Russia has been internationally condemned for its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and its support of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe, Jeff Mason, Roberta Rampton; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Jonathan Oatis