- Former President Trump told The Washington Examiner he was “surprised” when Putin invaded Ukraine.
- “I thought it was a tough way to negotiate but a smart way to negotiate,” said Trump.
- Last month, Trump praised Putin’s justification to invade Ukraine as “genius” and “savvy.”
Former President Donald Trump said he was “surprised” when Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, according to an interview with David Drucker of the Washington Examiner.
Trump said he was under the impression that Putin was going to do some sort of negotiation with Ukraine.
“I’m surprised — I’m surprised. I thought he was negotiating when he sent his troops to the border. I thought he was negotiating,” Trump told Drucker in a phone interview on Tuesday evening. He added: “I thought it was a tough way to negotiate but a smart way to negotiate.”
His remarks come after he praised Putin’s justification for invading Ukraine as “savvy” and “genius” last month. Putin began by declaring two pro-Kremlin separatist regions in Ukraine, Donetsk and Luhansk, as independent republics. On February 24, the Russian leader ordered what he characterized as a “special military operation” in Ukraine, effectively declaring war on the sovereign country.
In the months leading up to the invasion, Putin had amassed about 150,000 troops on Ukraine’s doorstep.
“I figured he was going to make a good deal like everybody else does with the United States and the other people they tend to deal with — you know, like every trade deal. We’ve never made a good trade deal until I came along,” Trump added. “And then he went in — and I think he’s changed. I think he’s changed. It’s a very sad thing for the world. He’s very much changed.”
The former president also insisted in the interview that he’s been “very, very tough on Putin.”
“At the same time, I got along with him very well. But I got along with most very well,” he added, referring to world leaders. “When you think of it, who was tougher on Russia than me?”
According to the Examiner, Trump also repeated his claim that Putin would not have invaded Ukraine if he’d been president. And he claimed that he stood up to Russia by opposing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and getting NATO “billions and billions of dollars.”
“Now, all that money is going against Russia, so I did that,” the former president said.
But former Trump administration officials have said that his actions and statements in many ways emboldened Putin and paved the way for him to invade Ukraine.
Trump was impeached in 2019 on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The articles of impeachment were related, in part, to Trump’s efforts to strong-arm Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy into launching politically motivated investigations against the Bidens ahead of the 2020 election and withholding vital military aid while doing so.
The hold on the security assistance was lifted after Politico reported on Trump’s actions and House Democrats launched an investigation into the matter.
In 2018, Trump shocked American allies by eschewing years of US foreign policy and telling Group of Seven leaders that the Crimean peninsula was part of Russia. His remarks were especially jarring to the leaders of other member states given that it was Russia’s decision to annex Crimea in 2014 that led to its expulsion from the G8.
But Trump told reporters before that year’s G7 summit that he believed Russia should be admitted back into the alliance, and he also reportedly wondered aloud at the summit why world leaders sided with Ukraine over Russia.
Fiona Hill, a key witness in Trump’s first impeachment who served as the Trump White House’s top Russia expert, recently told CNN that Trump’s actions said “to Russia that Ukraine was a playground.”
And his former national security advisor, John Bolton, struck a similar chord, telling Mother Jones that Trump cared more about a “spaghetti bowl of conspiracy theories” than about Ukraine.