AP Photo/Luca Bruno

The latest joke in our absurd presidential campaign is that Russian President Vladimir Putin sees Donald Trump as a strong leader. This is causing belly-laughs in the Kremlin.

People in Putin’s inner circle say that Putin considers Trump a buffoon, easily manipulated by flattery, without a scintilla of knowledge or depth about the world outside his golf courses. Moreover, Trump’s stated willingness to recognize Putin’s annexation of Crimea, to lift sanctions, not to object to the occupation of an area in Ukraine, to withdraw promises of support for NATO allies in the Baltic, and for NATO as a whole, is the Russian dictator’s dream.

Putin was a big winner in the Brexit vote as it shook the strength of the EU, a rival political power (and was probably bemused at Trump’s happiness that it was good for business of his golf course in Scotland. Geopolitical benefit for Putin vs. more business (perhaps) for Trump’s golf course is, in Trump’s world, a win. Keep that in mind.)

According to Putin insiders, he sees Trump as a weaker, far more ignorant, wholly self-absorbed version of Neville Chamberlain. Easy-pickin’s.

Putin also knows Trump cannot resist a good deal, ie, that benefits him personally. If Trump were president, Putin knows he can offer bargain-basement terms on choice property in Moscow and in St Petersberg, for example, for Trump’s company to build hotels in exchange for geopolitical concessions from the U.S. that have no impact on Trump’s wealth.

And, here’s the kicker: Trump would walk away believing HE got the better of Putin, and brag about it!

Putin, remember, was KGB. He has used psy-ops on U.S. leaders before. Learning that George W. Bush was religious, Putin displayed a cross around his neck at their first meeting, pointing out that his grandmother had given it to him. Soon thereafter, W proclaimed that he had looked into Putin’s eyes, seen his soul, and that he was someone we could work with.

Indeed, Bush, who also looks like Hercules compared to Trump, is an object lesson in claims of “global strength.” When Putin invaded the Republic of Georgia, and took permanent control of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, what did the ‘strong’ Bush Administration do? Nothing. Trump likely has no idea where Georgia is, and has never heard of, and cares nothing for those two other states.

When Putin did the same in Crimea and now occupies part of Ukraine, what did the Obama Administration do? Impose sanctions (those are the ones Trump will lift) of increasing scope, reiterate its commitment to the Baltic States (the ones Trump would betray), and provide aid to the Ukrainian government.

Who acted with more strength, Obama or Bush?

There has been speculation that Putin might not seek another term. But, if Trump were the US President, it is hard to believe that this psyops master would give up on the opportunity of a lifetime, having a U.S. leader literally eating out of his hand with little effort.

Now, of course, Putin must publicly disavow such favoritism, and build up Trump as a tough opponent in order to insure his election.

But there is no reason to believe it. After all, as presidential candidate, Trump has already signaled his readiness to appease Russia, hired a campaign manager who waged another campaign to undermine NATO, and even begged Russia to violate U.S. law to hack the Clinton campaign. And, of course, has undisclosed ties to Russian oligarchs himself.

What more could Putin want? He is licking his chops.

Brace yourselves for an October surprise.