Russian President Vladimir Putin is “far more” of a leader than Barack Obama, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has said as he pledged to increase U.S. military spending and demand a plan to beat ISIS if he becomes president.
Putin is “very much of a leader,” Trump said on Wednesday in a televised national security forum, where he and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton each fielded 30 minutes of questions.
Trump has made no secret of his admiration for Putin, who last year praised the U.S. businessman as “very outstanding.”
Putin “has very strong control over a country,” Trump said.
“It’s a very different system, and I don’t happen to like the system. But certainly in that system he’s been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader.”
Earlier Wednesday, Trump pledged to increase U.S. military spending — already at levels far higher than any other nation — and to demand a plan to defeat ISIS.
The Republican presidential candidate told supporters he would ask generals to craft a roadmap to the terrorist group’s annihilation.
Trump also outlined proposals for an active army of around 540,000 troops, an air force of at least 1,200 fighter aircraft, a 36-battalion marine corps and a navy of 350 surface ships and submarines — though he provided no details on how he would persuade Congress to pay for it all.
Clinton provided the interviewer, NBC’s Matt Lauer, more specifics, stressing ISIS would be defeated without U.S. ground troops being deployed.
Currently, America has thousands of troops in Iraq and hundreds in Syria, but their mission is to train local forces and not engage in direct combat with ISIS.
Trump leveled unusually harsh criticism against the military in a move likely to enrage the brass in the Defense Department.
He said America’s top officers had been hamstrung by Obama and Clinton.
“The generals have been reduced to rubble,” Trump said, before noting he had “faith in certain of the commanders.”
Most national polls show a tight race with Clinton in the lead as the U.S. presidential race enters its home stretch with just nine weeks until the November 8 election.
However, Trump is ahead by a wide margin of 19 percentage points among military and veteran voters, according to the latest NBC News/SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking poll.