Vladimir Putin takes centre stage

October 20, 2016 09:27 am | Updated November 17, 2021 06:28 am IST - Washington

Candidates running for the presidency of the U.S spent substantial time discussing the President of a foreign country — Vladimir Putin of Russia.

Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton introduced Mr. Putin into the debate when she was asked to explain her comments in favour of “open borders” made at a closed-door meeting and made public by the Wikileaks recently. She touched upon the question peripherally and moved on to argue that the real question to be asked and answered is why Russia was trying to influence the American election. She said Mr. Putin was personally overseeing the publication of hacked emails of her advisers in order to help Mr. Trump win the election.

“You are very clearly quoting from WikiLeaks,” Ms. Clinton told the moderator. “What is really important about WikiLeaks is that the Russian government has engaged in espionage against Americans. They have hacked American websites, American accounts of private people, of institutions. Then they have given that information to WikiLeaks for the purpose of putting it on the internet. This has come from the highest levels of the Russian government.”

Mr. Trump who has not accepted the Obama administration’s position that Russia was behind the hacking of Democratic Party’s computer network said it could be any one. “It could be Russia, it could be China.”

The Republican then went on to reiterate one of this favourite points in the campaign – that the U.S and Russia could cooperate in the fight against Islamic State. “Now we can talk about Putin. I don't know Putin. He said nice things about me,” he said, adding that he would like to have a good relationship with Putin. Mr. Trump said Mr. Putin has “no respect” for Ms. Clinton or President Barack Obama.

“Well, that's because he would rather have a puppet as president of the United States,” Ms. Clinton told Mr. Trump. “You’re the puppet,” Mr. Trump replied.

“We have 17, 17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyber attacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin,” Ms. Clinton said. “And they are designed to influence our election. I find that deeply disturbing.” “She has no idea whether it is Russia, China or anybody else,” Mr. Trump said.

“She doesn't like Putin because Putin has outsmarted her at every step of the way,” Mr. Trump said. Russia and Mr. Putin surfaced again when the candidates discussed West Asia. Mr. Trump said Ms. Clinton’s policies have destabilised the region and made Mr. Putin the most powerful influence in the region.

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