Former US president Donald Trump posited that Russian president Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine was driven by a desire to recreate the Soviet Union in which there was “a lot of love”.
In a Sunday appearance on Fox News host Jeanine Pirro’s radio programme, Mr Trump said that Mr Putin “wants to make his country larger or he wants to put it back the way it was,” even though “it actually didn’t work very well”.
Russia began its invasion of Ukraine on 24 February in what has quickly become one of the largest military conflicts in Europe since the conclusion of the second World War. Both sides have suffered thousands of casualties, while millions of Ukrainian civilians have been forced to flee to safety in other countries and hundreds have been killed.
In a series of comments the day after his appearance on Ms Pirro’s radio show, Mr Trump stated that the Russian invasion of Ukraine — which he praised at its outset — had been a failure, but that Mr Putin’s “big ego” would drive him to become “more and more ruthless” as the conflict continues.
Russia is already facing massive sanctions from Western countries opposing the invasion, and has seen half its foreign reserves frozen and its currency greatly devalued.
Under the leadership of President Joe Biden, the United States has helped lead the effort to impose sanctions and funnelled billions in military aid to Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was set to address the US Congress virtually on Wednesday morning.
Mr Trump, of course, has not had a such a straightforward relationship with either Mr Putin or Mr Zelensky. During his tenure as president, Mr Trump praised Mr Putin and other strongman world leaders, while he was ultimately impeached after pressuring Mr Zelensky to investigate Mr Biden in the buildup to the 2020 presidential election.
Mr Trump had blocked the release of military aid to Ukraine, a senior White House official testified, and would release it only on the condition that the country investigate his political rival. The US Senate ultimately acquitted Mr Trump of the impeachment charges, as it would do again in 2021 after Mr Trump was impeached again for inciting the coup attempt at the US Capitol on January 6.