Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin never shy away from voicing their disdain. But there's at least one thing both men say they would enjoy: Each other's company.
The budding bromance between two of the world's brashest figures inched forward Thursday when Putin called Trump "very talented" and the "absolute leader" in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.
“He’s a very lively man, talented without doubt,” Putin said after a three-hour news conference, according to the Interfax news service. He also described Trump as someone he could "get along with" and a "bright and talented" man, while welcoming the American billionaire's commitment to deeper relations with Russia.
The comments were a reciprocation of the more tempered praise Trump has repeatedly bestowed on the Russian leader — a sign that the two view one another with a cautious admiration.
But Trump's compliments for Putin often serve a political purpose: highlighting President Obama's alleged weakness. Trump has warned that Putin "has eaten Obama's lunch," is "toying with Obama" and was "really embarrassing the U.S."
Still, the constant praise for Putin suggests he may be more than just a political tool to Trump.
Trump: "In terms of leadership, he's getting an 'A'"
Just two months ago, Trump said that if he became president, his relationship with Putin would be so strong that the Russian leader would gladly extradite NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
"If I were president, Putin would give him over," Trump told CNN's Anderson Cooper. "I would get along with Putin. I've dealt with Russia."
That comment came just weeks after Trump praised Putin by way of criticizing Obama.
"I will tell you that I think in terms of leadership, he's getting an 'A,'" Trump said of Putin, "and our president is not doing so well."
That interview, with Fox's Bill O'Reilly, came one day after Putin and Obama held their first formal meeting in more than two years
"They did not look good together," Trump said.
"He frankly wants to fight ISIS and I think that's a wonderful thing," Trump later added, suggesting that leaving Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power may be better than the alternative. He also expressed little concern at the notion, expressed by O'Reilly, that Putin could "run Syria" after intervening in the Syrian conflict.
"All right, okay. Fine. I mean, you know, we can be in Syria," Trump said. "Do you want to run Syria? Do you want to own Syria? I want to rebuild our country, Bill."
Trump: "Putin probably comes in to save the day, if Germany doesn't."
In late September, Trump complained that Putin received better treatment in a "60 Minutes" interview than he had. In explaining why, Trump offered a backhanded compliment:
"Putin is a nicer person than I am," he said.
Over the summer, Trump suggested that he and Putin would develop a strong relationship as world leaders.
"I think I'd get along very well with Vladimir Putin. I just think so. People say, 'What do you mean?' I think I'd get along well with him," he told reporters in Scotland in late July. "Obama and him — he hates Obama, Obama hates him. We have unbelievably bad relationships."
Earlier that month, Trump said he saw little reason to worry about the Greek debt crisis and its impact on the European economy, telling Fox Business Network's Maria Bartiromo that if Germany wouldn't help, Putin would.
"Frankly, Putin probably comes in to save the day, if Germany doesn't," Trump said. "So I think that Greece is going to be in better shape than people think."