Donald Trump lit up the internet with praise for Vladimir Putin as the Russian president sends troops into Ukraine, congratulating Putin for what he called a “savvy” move and a “stroke of genius.”
In an interview held after his Truth Social app went live, the former New York real estate tycoon sides with the Russian president against the Biden administration.
Intelligence experts fear that, after sending “peacekeeping” troops into breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine, Putin may launch an all-out invasion of his smaller neighbor before it can turn toward Europe and successfully break free from Moscow’s sphere of influence, an assessment Trump appeared to share.
“It’s deeply disturbing for the former president to bandwagon and cheerlead for probably the world’s most belligerent authoritarian,” said Alexander Vindman, a Ukrainian immigrant and retired U.S. lieutenant colonel who testified against Trump at his first impeachment trial.
Trump’s praise of Putin– as he invades Ukraine and launches the largest war in Europe since 1939 — is sad, but not surprising. Trump has consistently admired Russia’s dictator for years.
— Michael McFaul (@McFaul) February 23, 2022
Trump told The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show that when Putin characterized the deployment of military forces to Ukraine’s disputed Donbas region as a mission to maintain the peace, he said to himself, “This is genius.”
“How smart is that? And he’s going to go in and be a peacekeeper, that’s the strongest peace force—we could use that on our southern border,” Trump said, referring to American immigration politics and the border the U.S. shares with Mexico.
“There were more army tanks than I’ve ever seen—they’re gonna keep peace all right,” he said.
The 45th president, who became the only officeholder to ever be unsuccessfully impeached twice, said he knew Putin’s primary interest was always to control the whole of Ukraine.
“I could see that he wanted it. I used to ask him—we used to talk about it at length,” he told the show, adding Biden’s political weakness would soon embolden Chinese President Xi Jinping to take over Taiwan.
Everyone from Republican congresswoman Liz Cheney and former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul to horror novelist Stephen King took to social media to voice their opposition to Trump’s siding with Putin against Biden.
“Former President Trump’s adulation of Putin today—including calling him a ‘genius’—aids our enemies,” wrote Cheney, one of Trump’s few remaining critics in the GOP.
Jon Stewart, the former Daily Show host, said Trump and his supporters have turned the Reagan doctrine on its head. “To them, the American Left and most of Europe are the Evil Empire,” he posted to Twitter, using a term Ronald Reagan famously used to describe the Soviet Union.
Global security order at stake
The New York Times wrote that praise for a foreign adversary facing off against the current White House administration “was extraordinary for any former President, even one with a long history of cozying up to Mr. Putin.”
The Russian strongman’s next move remains unclear at this stage, following multiple series of economic sanctions. On Wednesday, Ukraine declared a 30-day state of emergency across the country but stopped short of imposing martial law.
Later, Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba attended a meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York to warn that a large-scale war would mean “the end of the world order as we know it.”
Since foreign governments will not be able to sit this conflict out, he asked countries not to follow Moscow’s example and recognize the status of ethnic Russian separatists in two breakaway provinces of Ukraine.
“If Russia does not get a severe, swift, and decisive response now, this will mean a total bankruptcy of the international security system and international institutions, which are tasked with maintaining the global security order,” he said. “This is a grim scenario which will throw us back to the darkest times of the 20th century.”
As bootlicking wannabe-autocrat and twice-impeached thief of classified documents Donald Trump calls Putin’s aggression towards the sovereign democratic nation of Ukraine “genius,” Trump’s authoritarian allies abroad and cult followers at home cheer for invasion. https://t.co/JeU7Aesda6
— Rep. Jamie Raskin (@RepRaskin) February 23, 2022
Vindman, who retired from the military two years ago after serving as a White House staffer under Trump, told MSNBC that Americans didn’t understand the feeling of insecurity among Ukrainians that comes with living in the shadow of a neighboring aggressor.
“I wish it’s something we never have to experience,” he said. “But if we leave it up to Trump and [Fox News host Tucker] Carlson, they’re going to bring us there.”