Flake: Trump’s flattery of Putin ‘simply bizarre,’ ‘unconscionable’
© Greg Nash

GOP Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump stays out of Arizona's ugly and costly GOP fight Voters will punish Congress for ignoring duty on war and peace GOP Senate candidate truncates Trump tweet in campaign mailer MORE (Ariz.) lashed out at President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House counsel called Trump 'King Kong' behind his back: report Trump stays out of Arizona's ugly and costly GOP fight Trump claims he instructed White House counsel to cooperate with Mueller MORE’s warmer stance toward Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday and questioned why the two are meeting one-on-one next week.

“Singing his praises for no good reason sends a terrifying message to our allies. … Flattering such a man ... is simply bizarre. That the admiration comes from an American president, well, that is unconscionable,” Flake said during a Senate floor speech. 

Trump and Putin are expected to meet Monday in Helsinki. Flake questioned why the two were meeting without staff, noting that the “world seems to be hanging in the balance.” 

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“If the White House is as confused about the nature of the threat we face from Mr. Putin as it seems to be, a meeting between our president and his Russian counterpart for which there is no record could not be more concerning. It is vital that even the most private meetings between leaders not be lost to history,” Flake said.

Trump suggested to reporters on Tuesday that his meeting with Putin could be the smoothest part of the weeklong trip that includes a visit to the United Kingdom as well as the NATO summit.

Speaking to reporters before departing the White House for the meetings in Europe, Trump said, “Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all.”

Flake questioned why Trump continues to “entertain” Putin’s denial of Russia's election interference, floated that Russia should be allowed back into the Group of Seven (G-7) and is creating “conflict” within NATO.

“Why … does the president’s complaint about our closest friends on the global stage unnervingly echo the Russian position? Mr. Putin’s singular foreign policy goal is to weaken democracies and destroy the Western alliance. Could we possibly be helping him any more in his quest than by baselessly attacking our own allies?” Flake asked.

Trump’s meeting with Putin comes after he alarmed allies with his rhetoric at the NATO summit. Trump said Germany was "captive" to Russia, citing an energy pipeline, and used the summit to repeat calls for allies to increase their defense spending. 

Congress took symbolic shots at Trump's rhetoric this week, with the House passing a resolution supporting NATO and the Senate using a procedural vote to signal its support. 

Flake added that “antipathy and hostility” toward allies is “simply inexplicable.”

“Any counternarrative about NATO is willfully destructive, and does real and lasting damage to us in the world,” he said. "Sometimes, if I didn't know better I might say that we purposefully trying to  destabilize the Western alliance and to turn the world upside-down.”