Former President Donald J. Trump called Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine “genius” and called President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia “very savvy” for describing the troops aligned on the Ukrainian border as peacekeepers.
Mr. Trump made his remarks on Tuesday on a conservative talk radio show hosted by Clay Travis and Buck Sexton. He praised Mr. Putin — something he did repeatedly as president and during his 2016 campaign — as well as Mr. Putin’s tactics on Ukraine.
“Putin is now saying, ‘It’s independent,’ a large section of Ukraine. I said, ‘How smart is that?’ And he’s going to go in and be a peacekeeper,” Mr. Trump said. “That’s the strongest peace force I’ve ever seen. There were more army tanks than I’ve ever seen. They’re going to keep peace, all right. No, but think of it. Here’s a guy who’s very savvy.”
Mr. Trump’s favorable remarks toward Mr. Putin’s aggression comes after he broke with decades of American precedent and was deferential toward Russia during his time in the White House.
Since Mr. Trump left office, Republicans have split on how to respond to Russian aggression. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and others have called for harsh sanctions against Russia, while Trump supporters such as the Fox News host Tucker Carlson and J.D. Vance, the Senate candidate in Ohio, have argued that the United States should not punish Russia.
In a statement released Tuesday morning, Mr. Trump said the Russian aggression toward Ukraine would not have happened if he were still president.
During the radio interview, Mr. Trump said he and Mr. Putin discussed a potential invasion of Ukraine when Mr. Trump was in the White House. “I knew that he always wanted Ukraine. I used to talk to him about it,” Mr. Trump said. “I said, ‘You can’t do it. You’re not going to do it.’ But I could see that he wanted it. I used to ask him. We used to talk about it at length.”