Breaking news: Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are not dating. Much to the disappointment of shippers the world over, Trump denounced the rumors during his interview with ABC's George Stephanopolous, which aired Sunday morning. Facing questions about his reported relationship with the Russian president — which he's talked about in a public forum before before — Donald Trump spoke about Vladimir Putin and went to great lengths to prove they definitely aren't dating.
"Well, I don't know what it means by having a relationship," Trump said (that makes you a little nervous for Melania, doesn't it?). "I mean he was saying very good things about me, but I don't have a relationship with him. I didn't meet him. I haven't spent time with him. I didn't have dinner with him. I didn't go hiking with him. I don't know — and I wouldn't know him from Adam except I see his picture and I would know what he looks like."
Imagine Trump's longing gazes at his computer screen as he stares at Putin riding a horse shirtless or crushing an opponent in a judo match. At least now the world knows how Trump would probably answer the "describe your perfect date" question in a beauty pageant.
All jokes aside, this latest self-contradiction on Putin is characteristic of Trump's behavior throughout the campaign, and isn't a particularly reassuring sign for a potential presidency. His answer to Stephanopolous' question was cagey, indirect, and a pretty easily disproven lie, which is a common thread for a lot of his statements. As Stephanopolous points out in the interview, Trump has mentioned having a relationship with Putin in 2013, 2014, and 2015, including a speech at the National Press Club in which Trump mentioned a direct conversation with the Russian president.
It might seem like a slip of the tongue, but considering the current situation with Russia and the problems that Putin specifically has instigated over the years, this self-proclaimed relationship with Putin puts a serious dent in Trump's foreign policy credibility. Russia's relations with NATO are extremely strained, and as one of the central countries in the organization, the United States must stand with NATO. That could get extremely complicated if Trump, who has been so publicly supportive of Putin, becomes president, jeopardizing decades of peace across the North Atlantic.
Trump and Putin might not be dating, but their relationship, whether it does actually exist or Trump simply exaggerated it to make himself look better, is troubling nonetheless. A firm relationship with Russia is one of the biggest foreign policy issues facing the next presidency, and Trump has shown that he might not offer the most protection against that threat if he takes the Oval Office.