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Specter of Putin casts a shadow over the Trump-Biden debate

  • Russian leader Vladimir Putin was invoked roughly a dozen times in the 90-minute debate between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.
  • The two candidates, who have navigated the White House relationship with the Kremlin for a mandate each, shared opposing views of the Russian leader.
  • Putin has seldom commented on the fate of U.S. elections, vowing to "work with any U.S. leader," but fleeting expressing preference for Biden to assume the top job.

There appeared to be an additional presence on stage with Democratic U.S. President Joe Biden and Republican former President Donald Trump in last night's CNN electoral debate: Vladimir Putin.

The Russian leader was invoked roughly a dozen times in the 90-minute volley of verbal blows on domestic and foreign policy between the two candidates. Both have navigated the White House relationship with the Kremlin for a mandate each and shared very different views of the Russian leader.

Trump — who has denied accusations that Moscow interfered in his favor in the 2016 election — claimed that Putin would be deterred from conflict if he respected the leadership of opposing global superpowers.

"As far as Russia and Ukraine, if we had a real president, a president that knew — that was respected by Putin, he would have never — he would have never invaded Ukraine," Trump said, according to a CNN transcript of the debate.

Dubbing Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy as "the greatest salesman ever," Trump again criticized the extent of the U.S.' financial support for Kyiv throughout the conflict. Two months ago, Washington approved a foreign aid bill that earmarked roughly $60 billion for the war-torn country.

"I will have that war settled between Putin and Zelenskyy as

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