Trump’s assertion that Washington should collaborate with Moscow in order to defeat ISIS is based on wishful thinking. His position does not take into account Russia’s ongoing actions in Syria that work against bringing about a sustainable end to the humanitarian disaster and terrorist threat. Putin’s primary objective in Syria is to maintain the power of the Assad regime, which routinely kills its own citizens while sponsoring terrorism, emboldening Iran, and inciting instability in the region. Overall, contrary to Trump’s statements, relying on Russian cooperation in Syria is not a viable path toward defeating ISIS.
We share Governor Pence’s view of President Putin. Putin’s brutal and authoritarian rule, his invasion of neighboring states, his support for the murderous Assad regime, and his virulent anti-American propaganda make him unworthy of any respect, praise, or admiration from an American presidential candidate. As for Putin’s approval rating, he controls the media, especially television, he snuffs out any perceived threats, and has created a climate of fear that deters Russians from answering pollsters’ questions candidly. Small wonder that Putin has impressive poll numbers. Moreover, Putin described Trump by saying he was “bright” or “colorful,” not “brilliant,” as Trump has claimed. Putin even clarified this in an interview with Fareed Zakaria in June when he said, “I said in passing that Trump is a vivid personality. Is he not? He is. I did not ascribe any other characteristics to him.” For a comprehensive assessment of U.S.-Russia relations, see the Russia chapter in JHI’s book, Choosing to Lead.