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Trump: Putin praise "is a good thing, not a bad thing"

U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump, at a campaign event in Iowa, continued to welcome closer ties between the U.S. and Russia after receiving words of praise from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump, at a campaign event in Iowa, continued to welcome closer ties between the U.S. and Russia after receiving words of praise from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"Wouldn't it be nice if, like, Russia and us could knock out an enemy together, not let us bear the full cost sometimes?" Trump asked his supporters.

"Russia's got plenty of problems, but I will tell you what, if Putin likes me and he thinks I am a good, smart person... that's a good thing, that's not a bad thing," Trump said.

Trump holds the lead in opinion polls in his bid for the Republican nomination and was dubbed the "absolute leader" in the race by Putin on December 17.

Putin, speaking on Thursday at his year-end news conference, told reporters he welcomed Trump's desire for better relations with Russia.

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"He is a very flamboyant man, very talented, no doubt about that. But it's not our business to judge his merits, it's up to the voters of the United States," Putin told reporters.

"He is an absolute leader of the presidential race, as we see it today. He says that he wants to move to another level relations, a deeper level of relations with Russia," Putin said. "How can we not welcome that? Of course, we welcome it."

Trump's remarks about Putin were in stark contrast to his Republican rivals' rhetoric. Republicans have frequently taken to bashing Putin and have used his rocky relationship with Democratic U.S. President Barack Obama as evidence that the administration lacks strength in international affairs.

Obama has been critical of Putin, and called for sanctions after Russia annexed Crimea. In recent months, the two countries have been split on how to fight Islamic State in Syria. Putin has backed Syrian President Bashar Assad, while Obama has called for Assad to step down.

Trump has frequently argued that his business background and ability to negotiate deals would allow him to improve relations with Russia, as well as other nations.

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