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Difference between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump

Difference between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump

Donald Trump (left) and Vladimir Putin (right)

The election of former TV-star, billionaire Donald Trump as 45th president of the United States shocked and surprised (almost) the entire world. While many believe that, due to his inexperience in the political and military environment, he is unfit and unable to rule the country, many others seem to be sure that his different approach is exactly what America needs. The 2016 presidential campaign was market by scandals, rumors, inflammatory tweets and controversial comments. Above all, Mr. Trump and his entourage were accused of being in collusion with Russian hackers with the aim of tilting the results of the elections in favor of the Republican Party.

Indeed, the conflictual relationship between the Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton and the former KGB agent, Russian President Vladimir Putin is well known. Mr. Putin had accused Ms. Clinton of paying protesters to oppose his third candidacy as a president in 2011-2012 and, during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, Russian media have portrayed the Democrat candidate as a warmonger. On her side, Hillary Clinton has always been very outspoken about the Russian interference in the U.S. elections and, in particular, about the preferential treatment enjoyed by Mr. Trump in this regard.

While Donald Trump has always denied and rejected all accusations, it is undeniable that his relationship with his Russian counterpart appears stronger than any relationship Putin ever had with previous U.S. Presidents. Furthermore, Trump’s victory instantaneously erased the fears concerning a possible clash between the United States and Russia. In fact, while the Cold War officially ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the tensions between the two superpowers were never completely eased and had recently grown over contentious issues in Syria and Crimea. With Hillary Clinton pledging to create a no-fly zone in Syria and to take action against Russia’s meddling in foreign elections, many breathed a sigh of relief after Trump’s victory.

Since Tuesday, November 8, 2016 – date of the U.S. Presidential elections and of Donald Trump’s victory, many comparisons have been made between the American and the Russian Presidents. Their similarities have paved the way for a reconciliation between the two countries; yet, striking differences between the two remain.


The first big difference between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump lies in their personal background. The first is a former KGB agent who has always been involved in the Kremlin’s political life, while the latter is a former real estate agent and TV personality with no experience in the political environment. Furthermore, Putin has always shielded his private life from the public – although we know that he was married to Lyudmila Ocheretnaya for over 30 years. The couple had two daughters – born in 1984 and 1985 – and consensually divorced in 2013. Conversely, the tycoon’s private life has always been under public scrutiny. In 1977, Trump married the Czech model Ivana Zelnickova, with whom he had three children: Donald Jr, Eric and Ivanka. The two divorced in 1992 and the following year Trump married the actress Marla Maples, with whom he had one daughter: Tiffany. Finally, the 45th President of the United States married the Slovenian model Melania Knauss in 2005. The current first lady and the magnate have one son: Barron.

Vladimir Putin

Born in St. Petersburg in 1952, Vladimir Putin graduated from Leningrad State University and joined the KGB – the main security agency of the Soviet Union – in 1975. He retired as intelligence officer in 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and began his career in the Kremlin.

  • In 1994, Putin became the head of external relations and first deputy major within Anatoly Sobchack’s (mayor of Leningrad) administration;
  • In 1998, Putin joined President’s Boris Yeltsin’s administration as a deputy head of management;
  • In the same year, he became head of the Federal Security and head of the President’s Security Council;
  • In 1999, Putin was appointed Prime Minister;
  • In 1999, Yeltsin resigned as president and appointed Putin as “acting president” until official elections – which were held in early 2000;
  • In 2000, Putin was elected president;
  • In 2004, Putin was re-elected;
  • In 2008, due to term limits, Putin had to leave the presidency – leaving the seat to Dmitry Medvedev; and
  • Putin was re-elected president in 2012 and has been in power since.

Donald Trump

Born in Queens, New York, in 1946, Donald Trump is the first U.S. president without any previous military or political experience. Son of a real estate agent, Donald Trump followed his father’s footprints and became president of the family firm in 1974. During his career, he built luxurious palaces, opened casinos and faced major economic downturns – which were followed by major comebacks.

  • In 1980, Donald Trump worked in the construction of the Grand Hyatt New York hotel;
  • In the same year, Trump opened hotel-casinos in New Jersey and Atlantic City, bought the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach and acquired the Plaza hotel in Manhattan;
  • In 1983, Trump opened the luxurious Trump Tower;
  • In 1987, Trump published his memoir “The Art of the Deal” – which soon became a best-seller;
  • In 1989, Trump was featured on the cover of Time magazine;
  • In early 1990s, an economic downturn forced Donald Trump to file for bankruptcy several times;
  • Despite the huge losses, the tycoon was able to get back on track by reducing his ownership shares of the various businesses (including the Trump’s Taj Mahal, Trump’s Castle, Trump’s Plaza Casinos, Trump Plaza Hotel and Trump’s Entertainment Resorts);
  • In 2004, Trump became the host of “The Apprentice,” a reality show in which participants competed for a management position in one of the tycoon’s companies; and
  • In 2015, Donald Trump announced his intention to run for presidency and to “Make America Great Again.”

Vladimir Putin vs Donald Trump

During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump often praised Vladimir Putin for his firm leadership, while the Russian president acknowledge the talent and the tycoon. For instance, in December 2015, Putin defined Trump as “the absolute leader of the presidential race.” In response, Trump issued a statement saying, “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond. I have always felt that Russia and the United States should be able to work well with each other towards defeating terrorism and restoring world peace, not to mention trade and all of the other benefits derived from mutual respect.”

Despite the mutual respect (is that actually true?), the differences between the two leadership styles are many:

  • They both have intimidating approaches and want to appear as “strongmen.” However, Putin promotes his agenda using hidden and subtle means whereas Donald Trump is not afraid to openly make contentious statements and to confront his opponents;
  • In Vladimir Putin’s Russia, news agencies are under tight governmental control. In the first two weeks of his mandate, Putin harshened the norms limiting freedom of expression. Moreover, nongovernmental agencies (including widely known organizations such as Amnesty International) are constantly under threat. Since the beginning of his mandate, Donald Trump has been attacking several press agencies and denouncing media outlets for spreading “fake news.” His stance and attitude towards the media could seriously endanger freedom of expression and opinion in the country – although the United States rank much higher than Russia in the latest Freedom House report;
  • Both Presidents do not leave space to their opponents. However, in Russia, political opponents are often mysteriously murdered, while in the United States political opponents are discredited through the media or via “twitter attacks;”
  • Vladimir Putin is calm and quite – particularly when dealing with the press or when making public statements, whereas Donald Trump is well known for his often not-so-diplomatic manners;
  • As far as foreign policies are concerned, both Presidents want to “make their countries great again” and to re-gain the role of global superpower. Putin is implementing his agenda by expanding Russia’s influence over neighboring countries (i.e. Crimea, Syria etc.), while Trump has pledged an increase on military expenditure and has promised to strengthen the U.S. borders; and
  • Putin has been cautious in addressing violent extremism – as Russia hosts nearly 9.4 Muslims (almost 6.5% of the entire population), whereas Donald Trump has always strongly condemned violent extremism conducive to terrorism and has issued the (contentious) Muslim bans to prevent immigration from seven (only six with the second Executive Order) Muslim majority countries.


Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are two of the most powerful men in the world. Both are incredibly rich and have strong personalities. While the relationship between the two appears to be quite smooth, the two have different backgrounds and different leadership styles. Putin is a former KGB security officer and has a long experience within the government, whereas Trump is a former real estate agent and TV host with no previous experience in the government. The Russian president is secretive and prefers to implement his agenda without calling the world’s attention on his actions while the American president is more outspoken and histrionic. The election of President Trump might have eased the underlying tensions between Russia and the United States but the mandate of the tycoon has just begun.

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1 Comment

  1. Not a bad write-up, but your failure to point out that Trump’s ban on some Muslim countries was nearly, if not completely identical to the ban imposed by his predecessor Barack Obama, which could lead some to believe he was anti-Muslim.

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References :

[0]Donald Trump, History, available at http://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/donald-trump

[1]Donald Trump’s Bankruptcies, Snopes, available at http://www.snopes.com/2016/08/01/donald-trumps-bankruptcies/

[2]Freedom in the world 2017, Freedom House, available at https://freedomhouse.org/report/fiw-2017-table-country-scores

[3]Russia Wants Immigrants the World Doesn’t, Bloomberg, available at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-03-14/russia-s-alternative-universe-immigrants-welcome

[4]Trump and Putin: Comparing the men behind the meeting, BBC news, available at http://www.bbc.com/news/world-40522656

[5]Vladimir Putin, History, available at http://www.history.com/topics/vladimir-putin

[6]What Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have in common, The Economist, available at https://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2016/03/beyond-satire

[7]What we know about Russia's interference in the US election, The Guardian, available at https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/16/qa-russian-hackers-vladimir-putin-donald-trump-us-presidential-election


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