Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a Get Out The Vote campaign rally held at the North Charleston in Charleston, S.C. on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

(WASHINGTON) — Former President Donald Trump reacted to Russian President Vladimir Putin saying he prefers President Joe Biden over Trump because Biden is “more experienced” and “more predictable,” is a “great compliment.”

“President Putin of Russia has just given me a great compliment, actually,” Trump said at a campaign rally in North Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday.

“He just said that he would much rather have Joe Biden as president than Trump,” he continued. “Now that’s a compliment. A lot of people said, ‘Oh, gee, that’s too bad.’ No, no, that’s a good thing. And of course, he would say that.”

The latest Trump comment comes on the heels of him recently saying at a previous rally in South Carolina that he’d “encourage” Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to foreign allies of the United States that don’t pay their “fair share” of defense funding — receiving backlash from some critics.

Trump’s latest comment was in response to Putin’s comments during an interview with a correspondent of Russian state television, in which he reportedly said he believes Biden getting reelected would be a better choice for Russia’s interest — though he added he will work with any U.S. leader.

At the North Charleston rally, Trump said it’s a given Putin would prefer Biden’s victory because he himself put a break on Russia’s interest while he was president, especially on the construction of Nord Stream 2, a controversial German-Russian pipeline, which would have carried natural gas from Russia to Europe.

“I stopped Nord Stream 2, and [Biden] approved it right after I left, so Putin is not a fan of mine actually,” Trump said, referring to his role as president in halting the construction of the pipeline by imposing sanctions on it, and Biden’s subsequent waiver of sanctions on the pipeline, which critics believed would give Russia an energy dominance over Europe.

“He doesn’t want to have me. He wants Biden because he’s going to be given everything he wants, including Ukraine,” Trump claimed of Putin and Biden’s relationship. “He’s gonna have his dream of getting Ukraine because of Biden … The only president in the last five that hasn’t given Russia anything is a president known as Donald J. Trump.”

On the campaign trail, Trump has repeatedly touted a good relationship with Putin, calling him “smart” and claiming if he had gotten reelected, the ongoing Ukraine-Russian war would not have happened.

But Trump has also recently taken some heat for suggesting he’d “encourage” Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies that don’t contribute their ”fair share” for NATO — a comment Trump’s allies say was a joke.

“One of the presidents of a big country stood up, said, ‘Well, sir, if we don’t pay and we’re attacked by Russia, Will you protect us?’” Trump said at a rally in South Carolina over the weekend. “I said, you didn’t pay, you’re delinquent … No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want.”

At his rally in North Charleston on Wednesday, Trump doubled down on the idea of not protecting NATO allies that don’t pay their “fair share” but didn’t go as far as to say he’d “encourage” Russia to attack them.

“One of the heads of the country stood up and said, does that mean that if we don’t pay the bills, that you’re not going to protect us? I said, ‘That’s exactly what it means.’ I’m not going to protect you,” Trump said.

In response to Trump’s doubling down on his NATO comments at the North Charleston rally, South Carolina, the Biden-Harris campaign said he gave Putin the best Valentine’s Day present: permissions to “mow down” American allies.

“Donald Trump just gave Vladimir Putin the best possible Valentine’s Day present: his pinky-promise to give Putin the green light to mow down our allies in Europe if he’s elected president,” the campaign said.

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