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A vacation on Ireland’s coast should have provided relief from the depressing realities of the U.S. election season.

But it’s hard to escape when every Irishman or woman you meet asks the same question, differing only in the choice of adjective:

“You Americans aren’t really going to elect that awful (or dangerous or bigoted) Donald Trump, are you?”

My reply: “I still believe most Americans have the common sense to grasp that Trump presents the greatest threat to U.S. security and democracy since the end of the Cold War.”

Anyone who doubts the threat need only observe Trump’s repeated praise for Russia’s Vladimir Putin. “I’ve already said he is really very much of a leader,” Trump gushed to NBC’s Matt Lauer, “far more than our president has been a leader. The man has very strong control over a country.”

Take a look at what the Donald finds so appealing about the ruthless Putin, and see what we could expect from a President Trump.

Putin has dismantled every check and balance that might have limited his power. Governors, once elected, are controlled by the Kremlin. Any political opposition at a national level has been crushed.

Boris Nemtsov was assassinated. Oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky was sent to a Siberian jail. Anticorruption fighter Alexei Navalny received a suspended prison sentence on trumped-up charges.

Trump claims he “doesn’t happen to like the (Russian) system, while praising the ex-KGB colonel who designed it. Perhaps the GOP nominee dreams of the day when he can muzzle pesky Democrats, while putting Hillary Clinton behind bars on Trumped-up charges.

Putin has an 82 percent approval rating, Trump has crowed. What Trump didn’t mention is how Putin earns his popularity. It isn’t through improving the economy, which depends primarily on oil and has tanked as prices plummeted. Putin’s determination to maintain central state controls has thwarted efforts to diversify Russia’s exports.

Trump should pay attention to how Putin diverts Russians’ attention from his economic sins.

First, the Kremlin seized control of all privately owned national TV stations. Journalists have been beaten and killed. The Kremlin, of course, denies any connection and Trump brushes off questions on the subject. No surprise, given Trump’s hostility to journalists.

Yet you’d think the Donald would pause at other steps Putin has taken to distract the public: stirring Russian xenophobia and nationalism and blaming the country’s ills on conspiracies by Russia’s enemies.

Trump’s role model has invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea. He is trying to undermine NATO, the European Union and Western democracy as a system, financing far-right parties in Europe and an anti-Western information war.

None of this appears to bother Trump, who has his own enemies, and has made clear he’s willing to junk NATO and America’s alliances in Asia.

Trump also seems indifferent to Putin’s anti-democracy efforts, which include hacking efforts to influence the U.S. election. Indeed, last week the Republican nominee gave an interview to the Kremlin’s mouthpiece, RT, in which he denounced U.S. media as “unbelievably dishonest.”

Which leads me to the most dangerous aspect of Trump’s Putin-ophilia. The GOP candidate appears totally oblivious to how he is letting himself be used.

Putin seeks to promote an alternative model of “managed democracy.” He works to weaken Western democracies, with money, propaganda and violence at the edges.

Any U.S. leader must keep Putin’s machinations in mind. Yet Trump is so narcissistic he thinks he can easily outmaneuver Putin. The Donald keeps repeating that Putin called him “brilliant.”

Here’s the Trump mindset, as South Carolina’s Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham succinctly put it: “Other than destroying every instrument of democracy in his own country, having opposition people killed, dismembering neighbors through military force and being the benefactor of the butcher of Damascus, (Putin’s) a good guy.”

In Ireland, they joke that Trump is “Putin’s poodle.” Should Trump reach the White House, that line won’t be funny at all.