Former President Donald Trump said he was “surprised” that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine, according to an interview with the Washington Examiner, stating that Putin’s threats were a “smart way to negotiate.”
“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 said. “I thought it was a tough way to negotiate but a smart way to negotiate.”
Trump also said he thought Putin would “make a good deal” with the U.S. regarding trade. “We’ve never made a good trade deal until I came along,” Trump claimed. “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.”
Trump’s remarks on Tuesday are in stark contrast to his initial comments on Putin in the lead-up to the country’s unprovoked invasion on Ukraine. “I said, ‘This is genius,’” Trump said on a right-wing podcast two days before the attack. “Putin declared a big portion of … Ukraine … as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful. … I said, ‘How smart is that?’ And he’s going to go in and be a peacekeeper.”
On Feb. 24, as Russia fired missiles on Ukraine as it first launched its attack, Trump took to Fox News to blast the Biden administration, and falsely claimed, for the umpteenth time, that the 2020 election was “rigged.” He also took the opportunity as the humanitarian crisis unfolded to also rail on immigration.
Despite all of this, Trump told the Washington Examiner he did not have a “soft spot” for the Russian tyrant.
“I’ve been very, very tough on Putin, I get a bad rap on that,” Trump said. Washington Examiner added that Trump also doubled down on his claims Russia’s invasion of Ukraine wouldn’t have happened while he was in office. “When you think of it, who was tougher on Russia than me?” he stated, before later stating he “did the biggest sanctions anybody’s ever done on Russia.”
Trump then attempted to prove his point by arguing that his administration’s agenda to modernize the U.S. nuclear program ran counter to what Putin would have wanted.
“I got billions and billions of dollars” for NATO, he added. “Now, all that money is going against Russia, so I did that. I closed the pipeline. You know the pipeline was closed, and Biden opened it.”
“I’ve been very critical of Putin from the standpoint of the pipeline, from the standpoint of raising billions and billions of dollars in NATO to protect — primarily Europe against Russia,” Trump said. “Nobody else did that.”