President Donald Trump is expected to sit down for a one-on-one with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday. While the summit, which has become increasingly controversial given Friday's indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers, is set to be Trump and Putin's first official meeting, the two leaders already have something of an established relationship. In fact, the pair have been exchanging compliments and praise for years now. So,
what's Putin had to say about Trump? The Russian president hasn't been shy about making flattering his U.S. counterpart. Putin's praise of Trump began well before the real estate mogul had even won the 2016 presidential election when the Russian president hinted in 2015 that he just might be Team Trump. Since then, Putin and Trump appear to have developed something of an affectionate relationship, despite the U.S.' investigation — and recent indictment — into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Trump hasn't just
heaped praise on Putin — most often complimenting the Russian president's leadership — he's also talked about his hope of becoming Putin's friend for years. Trump's reported desire to be Putin's "new best friend" dates back to at least 2013. But the flattery isn't exactly one-sided; Putin has volleyed more than a few compliments Trump's way since the real-estate mogul waded into politics. But are Putin's comments genuine or is his flattery of Trump merely a strategy?
"Talented Without A Doubt"
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Putin began to publicly praise Trump during the 2016 presidential election, claiming the real-estate mogul was more than a serious contender in the U.S. presidential election. "He is a very bright person, talented without any doubt," the Russian president
told reporters in December 2015. "It is not our business to asses his worthiness, but he is the absolute leader of the presidential race." Handout/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Putin continued to support Trump after his November 2017 victory, echoing Trump's dismissal of allegations that Russia had meddled in the U.S. election at Trump's benefit. "All of it was invented by people who oppose President Trump to undermine his legitimacy," Putin said of the Russian probe at his
annual news conference in December 2017. "I'm puzzled by that. People who do it are inflicting damage to the country's domestic political situation, incapacitating the president and showing a lack of respect to voters who cast their ballots for him."
"Quite Serious Achievements"
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Putin followed up his dismissal of Russian election meddling allegations with praise for Trump's presidency. "We can objectively see quite serious achievements even during his short time in office,"
he said of Trump, who had, at the time, been in office for nearly a year. Sean Gallup/Getty Images News/Getty Images
In October 2017, Putin weighed in on the mounting criticism and resistance to Trump's presidency that was unfolding in the United States. "Mr. Trump has been elected by the American people, and at least because of this he should be respected, even if we disagree with his position,"
Putin said. "This is a sad negative element of the U.S. political system. One can argue, but one should not show disrespect, not even to him personally, but also to the people who voted for him." John Moore/Getty Images News/Getty Images
In that same interview, Putin claimed Trump had won his presidential election "honestly" and didn't need anyone's advice on what to do. "He won honestly,"
he said of Trump. "I believe that the president of the United States does not need any advice because one has to possess certain talent and go through this trial to be elected, even without having the experience of such big administrative work. He has done this."
"He Listens To What I'm Saying"
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But while Putin said he didn't think Trump needed advice on how to manage the presidency, he did claim that the U.S. president listens to his advice regarding North Korea. "I believe I have mentioned that President Trump — well it's his first presidential term and he's gaining momentum, he's building up his experience in this field and we've had a dialogue on this issue [North Korea],"
Putin said. "He listens to what I'm saying, he listens to my arguments."
"They Are Stopping Him From Delivering"
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Putin has even defended Trump against criticisms that he's too unpredictable. "His unpredictability is not related to him exclusively," Putin said in October 2017
when asked his opinion about claims that Trump was too unpredictable. "It is also related to a very strong opposition within the country. They are stopping him from delivering almost any of his election platforms and plans. As soon as he makes a decision on migrants, a court blocks it straightaway. It happens all the time. So, it is wrong to say that his unpredictability depends only on him. No, it depends on the entire American political system."
"He Made A Very Good Impression"
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The Russian leader continued to compliment Trump, noting his dealmaking prowess and the impression the U.S. president had made on him. "It's possible to negotiate with him, to search for compromises," Putin was reported to have said
during an interview broadcast on Russian television in March 2018. "On a personal level he made a very good impression on me." Drew Angerer/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Recently, Putin admitted that he and Trump talk regularly. "Donald Trump and I have, firstly, met more than once at various international venues and secondly, we regularly
talk over the phone," the Russian president said in June.
Although the exact topics set to be discussed between Trump and Putin at the pair's Helsinki summit still remains something of am mystery, Friday's indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers in the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails means Trump won't be able to avoid questioning his Russian counterpart about allegations of election meddling. But will Trump and Putin's relationship remain so embedded with public espressions of flattery following Helsinki? Only time will tell.