Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump lavished praise on each other from across the continents, marking another strange twist in the 2016 presidential race.
Speaking in Moscow at his traditional end-of-the-year press conference (President Barack Obama will hold his on Friday) Putin called Trump a “really brilliant and talented person without any doubts.”
Trump has insisted on the campaign trail that he’d get along with Putin better than Obama does, and the Russian leader said he welcomed the embrace.
"He says he will want to reach another, deeper, level of relations (with Russia),” Putin said, according to Russia’s TASS. “What else can we do but to welcome it? Certainly, we welcome it.”
Putin said it wasn’t Russia’s role “to evaluate his accomplishments” or his campaign rhetoric, but said Trump “remains the absolute front-runner in the presidential race.”
The New York real estate magnate had kind words as well: "It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond," he said in a statement released by campaign spokeswoman, Hope Hicks. "I have always felt that Russia and the United States should be able to work well with each other towards defeating terrorism and restoring world peace, not to mention trade and all of the other benefits derived from mutual respect."
Trump told Face the Nation in October that that he’d "get along very well” with Putin, who is often at odds with the Obama administration.
“I think that we are very different,” Trump said of Putin, adding, “I think that I would at the same time get along very well with him. He does not like Obama at all. He doesn't respect Obama at all. And I'm sure that Obama doesn't like him very much.
“But I think that I would probably get along with him very well, and I don't think you would be having the kind of problems that you're having right now,” he said.
Other Republicans, including rival Jeb Bush, mocked the exchange.
“That’s a match made in heaven,” Sen. John McCain, R-Az. said of the pairing.
At the White House, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said he hadn’t spent “a lot of time contemplating the consequences of a Trump presidency,” but he insisted that the U.S. and Russia have been able to work together on disposing of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s declared chemical weapons stockpile and reaching an agreement aimed at preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.