POLITICS
10/04/2015 03:36 pm ET Updated Oct 04, 2015

Chris Christie Raps Donald Trump As 'Painfully Naive' About Syria

Trump called Vladimir Putin's intervention there "a wonderful thing."

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) called Donald Trump's position on Syria "painfully naive" on Sunday, slamming him for welcoming Russian President Vladimir Putin's intervention in that country.

Christie suggested on ABC's "This Week" that Trump's apparent support for Russian airstrikes amounted to "agreeing with Barack Obama."

"Only Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton could mess up this foreign policy that badly," the Republican presidential candidate added. "And anybody who agrees with allowing the Russians into the Middle East is just painfully naive."  

In truth, President Obama has been extremely critical of Putin's actions in Syria, refusing to cooperate with the Russian military campaign and faulting Putin for not recognizing that Syrian President Bashar Assad is "the problem here." The Obama administration has said that it's coordinating with Russia only to avoid accidentally shooting down one another's planes in Syria.

Christie rejected any suggestion that Putin could be an asset to the U.S. in its fight against the Islamic State. "We know Putin's not fighting ISIS," Christie said. "Putin's there to prop up Assad."

Russia's escalating involvement in Syria is a threat to American security and interests in the Middle East, Christie argued.

"We don't need to be friends with Vladimir Putin, and we don't need to be worried about whether he's in a quagmire," the governor said. "After 40 years, we allowed Russia back into the Middle East. And now who are they partnered with? Iran."

While Christie said the United States should "re-establish its presence" in Syria, he did not endorse creating a no-fly zone or otherwise specify how to accomplish that goal. 

Trump had said last Tuesday that Putin's airstrikes in Syria were a "wonderful thing" because they would weaken the Islamic State. He had also acknowledged that Putin wants to keep Assad in power, but suggested that the dictator may be his country's best option.  

Trump stood by his remarks Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, noting that Putin's involvement might have the added benefit of drawing Russia into a quagmire.

"I'm not justifying Putin, but you watch -- he'll get bogged down there," Trump said. "He'll be there, he'll spend a fortune, he'll be begging to get out."

Christie's criticism of Trump follows other attempts to distinguish himself within the Republican presidential field as a foreign policy and national security hawk. He has highlighted his experience as a prosecutor in national security cases and attacked Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) for opposing the National Security Agency's mass surveillance programs.

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