How close are Putin and Trump?

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Presidential candidate Donald Trump has demonstrated an unusual admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin during his campaign.

During NBC’s “Commander-in Chief” forum, Bloomberg editor-in-chief John Mickelthwaite interviewed Putin for two hours and asked him about which candidate the Russian president would prefer to win the US election:

“Are you really telling me that if you have a choice between a woman who you think may have been trying to get rid of you and a man who seems to have this great affection for you, almost bordering on homoerotic, you’re not going to make a decision between those two because one of them would seem to be a lot more favorable to you?”

Putin evaded the question, but the odd relationship between the two men has been anything but secret. The New York Times described it as a “bromance.” Last year, the Russian president complimented Trump, calling him “bright and talented” and “the absolute leader of the presidential race.”

Mickelthwaite says he had hoped to “goad” Putin into answering using the word “homoerotic” — but that was controversial. He defended the use of the word, citing Trump’s incessant praise for Putin’s strength.

Masha Gessen, a Russian and American journalist, author, and activist known for her opposition to Putin, took issue with the use of the word.

“I think it’s a really bizarre way to try to basically discredit a candidate, who fully deserves to be discredited, but don’t use borderline homophobic language to do that,” Gessen said.

However, she does agree that Trump’s admiration is misdirected.

“He sees Putin with astronomical support numbers,” Gessen said. “What I think he doesn’t quite realize is — not that he has the intellect to understand this — is that that kind of what he calls leadership is only possible in an authoritarian system.”

President Barack Obama pointed out Trump’s inconsistencies in a jab at the Republican Party during a campaign stop for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

“[Trump] loves this guy,” Obama said. “Their nominee is out there praising a guy saying he’s a strong leader because he invades smaller countries, jails his opponents, controls the press, and drives his economy into a long recession.”

So would Putin actually prefer Trump in the Oval Office?

Mickelthwaite says maybe not.

“Putin probably might, in the end, rather have a weak Hillary than Trump. Putin likes being the great unpredictable and if you had Donald Trump in the White House, you would have someone more unpredictable than he is.”