Trump's Take on Putin's Move: 'Pretty Savvy'

He also dubbed him 'smart'
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 23, 2022 7:11 AM CST
Trump's Take on Putin's Move: 'Pretty Savvy'
Former president Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021, in Orlando, Fla.   (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

Donald Trump may no longer be the president responding to Vladimir Putin's moves, but his comments on the Russia-Ukraine situation swiftly grabbed headlines. In a Tuesday interview on the conservative Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show (full interview here), Trump spoke about Putin's decision to recognize two breakaway regions in Ukraine's east. NPR flags some of his comments:

  • "I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, 'This is genius.' Putin declares a big portion ... of Ukraine, Putin declares it as independent. 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. That's [the] strongest peace force. ... We could use that on our southern border," he said in reference to the US-Mexico border.
  • "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 go in and we're gonna help keep peace.' You gotta say that's pretty savvy. And you know what the response was from Biden? There was no response."

  • Reaction was swift. At the Washington Post, Philip Bump calls Trump's reaction "not surprising" but "noteworthy." He points out that in the interview, Trump once again claimed that were he president, Putin wouldn't have entered Ukraine. "The impression he hopes to give is one of strength; that Putin feared his response," writes Bump, who points out there's no indication that's true. His take: "It seems much more likely that, if American politics played any role at all, Putin would want to move when he could expect the political right to criticize Biden more than himself. That includes the former president. After all, Putin’s so savvy, right?"

  • Writing for the National Review, Rich Lowry sees some truth in what Trump is claiming about how things would have gone under a Trump presidency, writing, "Trump’s policy on Russia was pretty sound and I believe Putin would have been much more hesitant to try what he’s doing now on Trump’s watch." But he balks at Trump's most recent comments, which he calls "shockingly favorable and morally bankrupt."
  • At Fox News, David Marcus takes a swing at the perception of Trump as "Putin's puppet," and an assertion from the left that perhaps Putin didn't get aggressive under Trump in order to maintain that favorable relationship. "Let's be honest, this explanation makes absolutely no sense and flies in the face of credulity," writes Marcus. "Are we really supposed to believe that Putin held off on invading Ukraine because Trump was too nice to him?"
  • At CNN, Stephen Collinson has another theory as to why Putin left Ukraine alone under Trump. "One of the goals of Putin's pressure on Ukraine—as he has made repeatedly clear—is to drive NATO back to its boundaries at the end of the Cold War and to divide the Western alliance. With Trump in power, the Russian leader didn't need to bother with the latter goal, since his counterpart in the White House frequently berated trans-Atlantic allies and cozied up to US enemies." He also notes that Russia did meddle with the US under Trump, citing cyberattacks like SolarWinds.
(More Vladimir Putin stories.)

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