Trump says he believed Putin “negotiated” before invading Ukraine

Former President Trump told the Washington Examiner in an interview that he is “surprised” that Russian President Vladimir Putin followed up on his threat to invade Ukraine.

Why it’s important: Trump, who maintained close ties with Putin during his presidency, has condemned the invasion as a “crime against humanity” but called Putin “very knowledgeable” in recognizing two breakaway “republics” in eastern Ukraine as independent two days before Russia forces launched an attack on the entire country.

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What he says: “I’m surprised,” he told the examiner on Tuesday. “I thought he was negotiating when he sent his troops to the border. I thought he was negotiating.”

  • “I thought it was a tough way to negotiate, but a smart way to negotiate,” Trump continued.

  • “I figured he would make a good deal, like everyone else does with the United States and the other people they usually trade with – you know, like any trade deal. We never made a good trade deal before I came along, he 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 changed a lot.”

  • Trump said he gets a “bad rap” on his relationship with Putin. “I have been very, very hard on Putin,” he said. “At the same time, I got along really well with him. But I got along with most people [world leaders] very good.”

Nothing worthwhile: Former National Security Adviser John Bolton said in an interview earlier this month that it is inaccurate to say that Trump’s behavior “deterred the Russians.”

  • “In almost every case,” Trump would complain that the United States was “too harsh” on Russia, Bolton said.

  • Trump has also been accused of withholding funding for Ukraine’s military to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the Biden family. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) Says the move directly damaged Ukraine’s ability to defend itself now.

Go deeper: The latest on the Russia-Ukraine crisis

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