Trump was in ‘awe’ of Putin and treated him like ‘the captain of the football team’, former Australian PM says

Malcolm Turnbull said he was concerned for world security should Trump regain the White House

Dan Gooding
Tuesday 27 February 2024 17:27 GMT
'Trump was in awe of Putin', says former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull

Australia’s former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says that former US President Donald Trump was like a 12-year-old boy in awe of his hero whenever he met Russia’s Vladamir Putin.

Speaking on Australian broadcaster ABC’s Q+A, Mr Turnbull said that Mr Trump’s possible return to the White House posed a “terrifying” threat to democracy, because of his embrace of autocratic leaders.

"He is attracted to dictators and tyrants like [North Korean leader] Kim Jong Un and [Chinese President] Xi Jinping and he threatened to undermine or pull out of America’s longest standing alliances,” Mr Turnbull said, referring to Mr Trump’s recent threat to pull out of NATO.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump hold a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka on June 28, 2019 (SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)

The former prime minister, who was in office when Donald Trump first took office in 2017, said he had not bowed to Mr Trump’s pressures to “suck up” to him, as other leaders had.

During their overlap as leaders of their respective countries, Mr Turnbull said he had seen Mr Trump with Russia’s President a few times.

"When you see Trump with Putin, as I have on a few occasions, he’s like the 12-year-old boy who goes to high school and meets the captain of the football team. My hero!” Mr Turnbull said, calling the reverence shown “creepy”.

The former PM, who left office in 2018, said Mr Trump’s attitude did pose a threat to Australian security, in contrast to his successor Scott Morrison’s recent statements, should the Republican win the US election in November.

"What if Donald Trump forces Ukraine to surrender to Putin? What if Donald Trump pulls out of NATO? Donald Trump has threatened to pull out of NATO,” Mr Turnbull continued.

"Donald Trump stood up in front of an audience and he said to an unnamed European leader, if you don’t spend more money on defence I’m going to encourage Putin to have a go at you. That’s more or less what he said.”

Mr Turnbull said Australia would have to get used to the idea that the United States was no longer aligned in its values as it was a few decades ago.

He did add that Mr Trump was “not a warmonger” but instead an isolationist.

“The scary thing is that for countries like Australia and many European countries, we may find ourselves not dealing just with two autocracies in Russia and China, but what is Trump’s America going to look like?” Mr Turnbull said. “This is a guy leading a party that is no longer committed to democracy as we understand it.”

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