U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has charged that his opponent, Hillary Clinton, would be unable to stand up to tough adversaries like Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"Hillary likes to play tough with Russia. Putin looks at her and he laughs," Trump said as he campaigned in Virginia on September 6.
Trump's shot at Clinton came one day after the Democrat accused him of encouraging Russia to interfere in the U.S. election through cyberattacks.
Clinton's vice presidential running mate, Timothy Kaine, said she already has proved she can stand "toe-to-toe" with Putin in "hard-nosed negotiations" when she was President Barack Obama's first secretary of state working on deals to reduce nuclear stockpiles and destroy Syrian chemical weapons.
Trump, by contrast, "seems to support Russian interests at the expense of American ones," Kaine said in a foreign policy speech in North Carolina.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the charges flying back and forth between the U.S. candidates over Russia are "just ridiculous."
"They have set our teeth on edge," Ryabkov told Interfax in an interview on September 6. He said that some politicians in Western Europe have openly endorsed one of the U.S. candidates, which, in contrast to Russia, was "truly interfering" in the U.S. election.
Dismissing Clinton's attacks, Trump repeated his vow to work with Putin to "solve the problem" posed by the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria, while Clinton said she would do "whatever it takes" to defeat IS.
Seeking to burnish his foreign policy credentials, Trump released a letter of endorsement signed by 88 retired generals and admirals, which Clinton later dismissed.
The Democrat noted that several Republican national security figures have openly endorsed her because they consider Trump to be dangerous or unsuited for the nation's highest office.
Clinton also upbraided Trump for saying if he were treated like Obama was last week by Chinese authorities he would have stayed on his plane and left Beijing. Obama was forced to exit Air Force One from a rear door at the G20 summit.
"This is a very consequential relationship," Clinton said of Washington's ties with China. "You don't get in a snick and stay on the plane and go home because your security and their security are scuffling over what stairs are going to be put up."