Donald Trump appears either unfamiliar with Russia’s annexation of Crimea or directly supportive of the intrusion that began in the winter of 2014, further chilled U.S.-Russian relations and has left thousands dead.
In a conversation about Trump’s nebulous relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin during an interview with ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, the topic shifted to why the Republican Party’s platform was softened on the subject of arming Ukraine to push back against Russian aggression.
Trump said he had been unaware of the platform change, though he had heard about it ex post facto. Then, he pledged that he’d be tough on Russia when it came to Ukraine.
TRUMP: It’s ― look, you know, I have my own ideas. He’s not going into Ukraine, OK, just so you understand. He’s not gonna go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down. You can put it down. You can take it anywhere you want ―
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, he’s already there, isn’t he?
TRUMP: OK― well, he’s there in a certain way. But I’m not there. You have Obama there. And frankly, that whole part of the world is a mess under Obama with all the strength that you’re talking about and all of the power of NATO and all of this. In the meantime, he’s going away. He take ― takes Crimea. He’s sort of, I mean ―
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you said you might recognize that.
TRUMP: I’m gonna take a look at it. But you know, the people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were. And you have to look at that, also. Now, that was under ― just so you understand, that was done under Obama’s administration.
Trump’s ties to Russia have been under a microscope in recent weeks after it appeared that Russian agencies were behind the hacking of DNC emails that were leaked right before the Democratic convention.
That he might be the beneficiary of a foreign agent’s meddling in a U.S. election is damaging enough. But the ABC interview showed either an ignorance of a major geopolitical crisis or favoritism to Russia’s incursion. The former will likely raise additional questions about Trump’s readiness for the Oval Office. The latter will spook Putin critics everywhere.