Former President Trump said he did not believe Russian President Vladimir Putin would go through with an invasion of Ukraine an interview with the Washington Examiner announced Tuesday.
“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 in a phone interview. “I thought it was a tough way to negotiate, but a smart way to negotiate.”
Putin sent more than 150,000 troops to the border with Ukraine before beginning a war that has already claimed thousands of lives in three weeks.
“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.” said Trump. “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 turned to critics who have gone after him for calling Putin smart in his tactics leading up to the war.
“I’ve been very, very hard on Putin. I’m getting a bad rap on that,” Trump told the newspaper. “At the same time, I got along really well with him. But I got along with most people [world leaders] very good.”
“I have been very critical of Putin from the point of view of the pipeline, from the point of view of raising billions and billions of dollars in NATO to protect, primarily, Europe against Russia,” Trump added. “No one else did.”
Since the war began, Russia has faced severe consequences, with the United States sanctioning dozens of Russians and banning Russian oil imports.
Trump said at a meeting in South Carolina that he believes that if the invasion does not end soon, it will lead to “World War III.”
“Incidentally, this could lead to World War III,” Trump said. “I can see what happens. Because if you think Putin will stop, it will get worse and worse. He will not accept it and we have no one to talk to him.”
Russia and Ukraine have entered into negotiations to lead to a ceasefire agreement, but no major breakthrough has taken place.