Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday praised Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to send Russian troops into Ukraine to support Russian-backed separatists in the Luhansk and Donetsk provinces. In an appearance on the right-wing talk radio program “The Buck Sexton Show,” Trump broke his conspicuous silence on the crisis to applaud the Russian dictator.
“This is genius,” he said of Putin’s decision on Monday to officially recognize the breakaway provinces and authorize the use of Russian military personnel to assist them. “So Putin is now saying it’s independent — a large section of Ukraine. I said, how smart is that? And he’s gonna go in and be a peacekeeper. We could use that on our southern border. That’s the strongest peace force I’ve ever seen. There were more army tanks than I’ve ever seen. They’re gonna keep peace, all right.”
Trump is a long-standing fan of Putin’s. In 2013, he wondered on Twitter if the Russian autocrat would attend his Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and whether the two would become “best friends.” Putin did not show up. In the following years, Trump repeatedly spoke highly of Putin’s strategic acumen, noted the strongman’s intention to “re-build the Russian Empire” and defended Putin’s habit of killing dissidents and journalists, arguing that the United States does the same thing.
Putin’s recent move is widely considered an assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty. As NPR explained, “The announcement is a serious escalation that effectively kills the Minsk accords, which set out a series of military and political steps designed to resolve the status of the two breakaway regions and end the 8-year-old conflict there.”
It is unclear exactly what Trump would like the U.S. military to do on the southern U.S. border.
Trump went on to heap more praise on Putin and to claim that Russia would have been less aggressive if he were still in the White House.
“No, but think of it,” the former president continued. “Here’s a guy who’s very savvy. I know him very well — very, very well. By the way, this never would have happened with us. Had I been in office, not even thinkable. This would never have happened. But here’s a guy that says, ‘You know, I’m gonna declare a big portion of Ukraine independent.’ He used the word ‘independent.’ ‘And we’re gonna go out, and we’re gonna in, and we’re gonna help keep peace.’”
During the 2016 campaign, Trump publicly encouraged Russia to continue its efforts to hack into the campaign email system of his opponent, Hillary Clinton, as part of the enemy nation’s effort to help him win. Once in office, he sided with Russia over U.S. intelligence agencies in accepting Russia’s claims not to have been involved in election interference.