Former President Donald Trump said he didn’t believe Russian President Vladimir Putin would order the invasion of Ukraine, adding he believed that the massing of troops along Ukraine’s borders was a negotiation tactic.
“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 the Washington Examiner this week. “I thought it was a tough way to negotiate.”
Trump added that he figured Putin “was going to make a good deal like everybody else does with the United States and the other people they tend to deal with … like every trade deal.”
“And then he went in” and invaded Ukraine, Trump added. “And I think he’s changed. I think he’s changed … He’s very much changed.”
Meanwhile, the former-commander-in-chief categorically denied claims that he was soft on Putin or Russia. Since the 2016 election, Democrats and corporate news pundits have claimed, without evidence, that Moscow colluded Trump’s campaign—the origins of which are now the subject of special counsel John Durham’s investigation.
“I’ve been very, very tough on Putin. I get a bad rap on that,” Trump told the news outlet, adding that Russia would not have invaded Ukraine if he was president. “At the same time, I got along with him very well. But I got along with most [world leaders] very well.”
“When you think of it, who was tougher on Russia than me?” Trump then asked, adding that when he was president, the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline that runs from Russia to Germany was blocked.
Late last year, the Biden administration waived U.S. sanctions on the company building the pipeline. Days after the start of the Feb. 24 Russia–Ukraine conflict, the White House announced it placed sanctions on the firm and its corporate officers.
“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.”
During NATO’s 70th anniversary summit in London in 2019, Trump said that “NATO should always be in dialogue with Russia … [and] can have a very good relationship with Russia.”