President Donald Trump has launched attacks on Twitter against more than 400 people and organizations, a list that includes everyone from Snoop Dogg to John McCain to almost every other major world leader, with one notable exception — never Russia, and especially never Vladimir Putin.
In fact, Trump’s public references toward the Russian president both on Twitter and in person have been filled with praise for Putin’s strong-arm tactics and his iron-fisted rule over Russia, which has come under greater scrutiny as new evidence of Russian election interference emerges.
The relationship between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin has been a source of controversy since the allegations first emerged that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election to release dirt on Hillary Clinton. Though Trump has continually denied these charges, more evidence is emerging that Russia was actively meddling in the election through the use of what the Daily Beast described as “troll farms” that targeted voters on social media in order to sow discord among voters and help elect Trump.
That has turned attention to Donald Trump’s favorite medium to connect with the American public, his Twitter page. Trump has used the platform to launch attacks or insults against hundreds of perceived enemies, a list that includes Jay Z, John McCain, every major American news network, the Emmy Awards, and even the Buffalo Bills. There have been so many attacks that the New York Times has compiled them into a comprehensive list of 425 instances of Trump going on the attack on Twitter.
But, as critics note, never has he said a bad word about Vladimir Putin. In fact, the more than 80 public statements Trump has made toward Putin (compiled here by CNN) have mostly been filled with praise for Putin’s autocratic leadership, along with occasional insults toward Barack Obama for what he saw as weakness in dealing with Putin.
The purported chummy relationship has come into even sharper focus this week after Vladimir Putin released a video bragging about Russia’s nuclear might with an animation of bombs raining down on Florida. CNN national security analyst Samantha Vinograd believes the video was meant to be a message directly to Donald Trump, a warning against speaking out against Russia or taking action to punish Russia. Trump has still failed to put into place bipartisan sanctions passed against Russia last year.
“I do think Vladimir Putin was speaking to one audience,” she said. “It wasn’t anyone in Russia. It was Donald Trump.”
“He was trying to get the President distracted from anything that Trump may be doing to hold Russia accountable for the ongoing attack on the United States,” she said. “The President’s inaction makes Vladimir Putin think, ‘Why wouldn’t I say all this? Why wouldn’t I show that I can violate treaties and laws and talk about strategic attacks all around the world?’ Vladimir Putin has no reason to feel constrained in any way.”
If the video was meant as a warning for Donald Trump not to step out of line with regard to punishing Russia, it appears to be working. Trump has not responded to the video on Twitter and still has no negative mentions of Vladimir Putin.