14:04 Jun. 19, 2016
In response to Trump's flattery, Putin called him a "colorful person" and said he welcomed Trump's proposal for a "full-scale resumption" of U.S.-Russian ties
Donald Trump was in his element, mingling with beauty pageant contestants and business tycoons as he brought his Miss Universe pageant to Russia for a much-anticipated Moscow debut. Nonetheless, Trump was especially eager for the presence of another honored guest: Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump tweeted Putin a personal invitation to attend the pageant, and a one-on-one meeting between the New York businessman and the Russian leader was scheduled for the day before the show.
Putin canceled at the last minute, but he sent a decorative lacquered box, a traditional Russian gift, and a warm note, according to Aras Agalarov, a Moscow billionaire who served as a liaison between Trump and the Russian leader.
Still, the weekend was fruitful for Trump. He received a portion of the million paid by Agalarov and other investors to bring the pageant to Moscow. Agalarov said he and Trump signed an agreement to build a Trump Tower in the heart of Moscow — at least Trump's fifth attempt at such a venture. And Trump seemed energized by his interactions with Russia's financial elite, at the pageant and a glitzy after-party in a Moscow nightclub.
"Almost all of the oligarchs were in the room," Trump bragged to Real Estate Weekly upon returning home.
Trump's relationship with Putin and his warm views toward Russia, which began in the 1980s when the country was still part of the Soviet Union, have emerged as one of the more curious aspects of his presidential campaign.
The overwhelming consensus among American political and national security leaders has held that Putin is a pariah who disregards human rights and has violated international norms in seeking to regain influence and territory in the former Soviet bloc. In 2012, one year before Trump brought his beauty pageant to Moscow, then-Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney called Russia the United States' top geopolitical threat — an assessment that has only gained currency since then.