Putin, a former KGB agent, is playing chess while Trump is struggling to learn the rules of checkers.

Russian President Vladimir Putin praised Donald Trump’s accomplishments and ridiculed the Russia investigation during a press conference Thursday, calling the probe into Russian interference “madness” and accusing those who support the investigation — including the entire U.S. intelligence community — of “working against the interests of their own country and against the duly elected President.”

Hours after making the comments, Putin called Trump for a friendly chat about U.S.-Russia relations, marking the third time they’ve talked in the last four weeks.

According to Bloomberg News, Thursday’s phone conversation came after a request from the Trump administration. During the call, Trump reportedly thanked Putin for heaping praise on him earlier in the day.

No word on whether Trump also thanked Putin for helping him in his quest to undermine the integrity of the U.S. intelligence community.

The call — and the circumstances surrounding it — are just the latest sign that Trump is more interested in strengthening his budding bromance with Putin than defending the U.S. from Russian aggression.

Whatever Trump’s intentions are, it’s clear that Putin is exploiting Trump’s ego to undermine U.S. national security. In his press conference Thursday, Putin echoed talking points used by Trump and his allies, saying that meetings between Russian officials and Trump campaign associates were standard protocol — while conveniently failing to mention that lying about such meetings is not so standard.

He also played into Trump’s paranoia about the “deep state,” asking, “Why do you have this spy hysteria, Russia meddling hysteria?”

Putin, a former KGB agent, is playing chess while Trump is struggling to learn the rules of checkers. When Putin speaks about Trump, he does so with an agenda — and he knows how to appeal to Trump’s ego. He studies Trump carefully, even going as far as asking his staff to include Trump’s tweets in his briefings.

“Putin has been in power for so many years and, by character, he knows how to handle things and how to outsmart others, including presidents of the United States,” said one-time KGB general Oleg Kalugin.

Trump, meanwhile, is just happy to accept praise, regardless of who it comes from or what their intentions may be — and in the case of Putin, his intentions are not good. As Franklin Foehr wrote in July 2016, “Vladimir Putin has a plan for destroying the West—and that plan looks a lot like Donald Trump.”

Based on recent events, things appear to be going exactly as planned.