Donald Trump brands Vladimir Putin a 'genius' for invading eastern Ukraine
'What went wrong was a rigged election and what went wrong is a candidate that shouldn’t be there and a man that has no concept of what he’s doing'
White House press secretary Jen Psaki criticised Donald Trump for defending Vladimir Putin’s invasion of parts of Ukraine and for calling the Russian president’s move “genius” and “smart”.
“As a matter of policy, we try not to take advice from anyone who praises President Putin and his military strategy, which I believe is what happened there,” she said, while responding to a question about Mr Trump’s comments on the ongoing issue of tensions with Russia over its military buildup near Ukraine.
On Tuesday, Putin recognised Ukraine’s entire Donbass region as independent countries, and announced that Russian forces would move to secure their sovereignty. The areas are largely controlled by two separatist governments, but some of the territory is still held by Ukraine’s government.
The development led to US president Joe Biden announcing a new range of sanctions targeting Russian oligarchs and financial institutions, while vowing that his administration would work with Germany to kill the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project.
During an interview with a conservative radio show on Tuesday, former president Donald Trump was asked: “This White House is stating that this is an ‘invasion’. That’s a strong word. What went wrong here? What has the current occupant of the Oval Office done that he could have done differently?”
Mr Trump responded to hosts Clay Travis and Buck Sexton: “What went wrong was a rigged election and what went wrong is a candidate that shouldn’t be there and a man that has no concept of what he’s doing.”
Continuing his rant, he said: “I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, ‘This is genius.’ Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine—of Ukraine. Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful. 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. 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. No, but think of it. Here’s a guy who’s very savvy, I know him very well. Very, very well,” Mr Trump added.
Ms Psaki was asked during the press briefing whether there were any concerns that Mr Trump’s comments could lead to support for Ukraine becoming a more partisan issue among the American public.
The White House press secretary responded: “You know, I think that is up to members of the Republican Party to make the decision, to make the determination.”
She added: “There has been a long history, decades of history, which President Biden was a part of when he was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, of standing up to the efforts of any country to seize the territory of another country, standing up for efforts by the United States to rally global support against inappropriate and illegal actions by another country.”
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