Former U.S. President Donald Trump blamed current President Joe Biden for the Russia-Ukraine conflict, but he also praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for his efforts to formulate "Pretty shrewd" when it comes to military strategy.
According to reports, Putin on Monday recognized the independence of the "Luhansk People's Republic" and "Donetsk People's Republic" and announced that he would mobilize troops to carry out peacekeeping missions in the region. Western leaders slammed the move as an "infringement" of Ukraine's sovereignty and imposed sanctions on Russia, which many felt would be insufficient to deter Russian leaders.
Trump said on Tuesday that if he were president, "it would never have happened", but said he thought "this (Putin) is a genius" as he watched the news unfold.
"This guy said, 'I'm going to declare a large part of Ukraine independent'," he said. "He used the word 'independence' … and then said, 'We're going to help keep the peace.' You have to say that's pretty shrewd."
Clashes between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian troops have reportedly been ongoing since 2014, but violence began to escalate in the spring. Officials have been warning that Putin plans to "invade" Ukraine as he builds up military power along the border, and he insisted on Monday that Ukraine has always been Russia's.
Trump said Putin "loves his country" and that he believed the Russian leader "sees an opportunity" in Ukraine. Trump also said he knew Putin "always wanted Ukraine" because the two had talked about it before.
"I said, 'You can't do this. You're not going to do it.' But I could see he wanted to," Trump said.
The report pointed out that while the White House avoided using the word "invasion" on Monday, Biden called the situation in Ukraine "the beginning of a Russian invasion." He announced sanctions on two financial institutions and moved U.S. troops and equipment to Europe to "strengthen" U.S. allies.