Former President Donald Trump gave Russian President Vladimir Putin a bizarre rave review on Tuesday after Russian military forces began moving into Ukraine and threatening its civilians ― while simultaneously claiming nothing like that would have ever happened under his administration.
Trump appeared in awe of Putin during an interview on a right-wing talk radio program broadcast from Tennessee. He described watching the Monday evening news after Putin declared two sections of Ukraine to be independent and ordered Russian troops to storm the regions for alleged “peacekeeping” purposes.
“I said, ‘This is genius,’” Trump recalled. “Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine, of Ukraine ― Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful.”
“So, Putin is now saying, ‘It’s independent.’ A large section of Ukraine. I said, ‘How smart is that?’ And he’s going to go in and be a peacekeeper. That’s the strongest peace force,” Trump said.
“We could use that on our southern border,” he added, before continuing with his praise. “That’s the strongest peace force I’ve ever seen. There were more army tanks than I’ve ever seen. They’re going to keep peace all right. No, but think of it. Here’s a guy who’s very savvy.”
“I know him very well. Very, very well,” Trump said. The fondness that Trump displayed for the Russian strongman over the course of his presidency and beyond has continued to baffle even some in his own party.
The White House explicitly called Putin’s move an “invasion” on Tuesday after weeks of tension between Russia and Ukraine and its Western allies. Russia began chipping away at Ukraine’s borders in 2014, and more than 14,000 people have died ― including about 3,300 civilians ― since Russian-backed separatists began clashing with Ukrainian forces.
“Who in the Lord’s name does Putin think gives him the right to declare new so-called countries on territories that belong to his neighbors?” Biden said from the White House.
Trump, after heaping praise on the Russian leader, claimed that he would have somehow been able to prevent the buildup of military forces from escalating into action.
“By the way, this never would have happened with us. Had I been in office ― not even thinkable. This would never have happened,” he said, having already repeated his false assertion that the 2020 presidential election was “rigged.”
Putin has said that pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine should control a much larger part of the country than they already do, offering a hint at his intentions in the region.
The White House’s new sanctions target two major Russian banks and powerful Russian individuals, with Biden leaving the door open to more measures if needed.