Donald Trump Weighs in on Ukraine, Says It's a 'European Problem'

Former President Donald Trump has weighed in on the increasing U.S. tensions with Russia as both countries prepare for a possible military conflict if Russia invades neighboring Ukraine.

"I would really say it is a European problem," Trump told conservative radio host Glenn Beck in a Friday morning interview.

"Europe should be totally involved," Trump said after Beck asked if the U.S. should be involved in arming Ukrainians or engaging in other actions amid the rising tensions in the eastern European region.

Trump said that Germany made a bad energy deal with Russia in agreeing to send Russian gas to Germany through the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. German and U.S. officials have threatened to issue sanctions against the developing pipeline project if Russia invades Ukraine. But Trump said Germany will never do this because it is too energy-dependent on Russia.

"Russia has total control over Germany," Trump said, "and [Germany] can't fight them because of what is happening with the energy."

When Beck asked Trump how he would stop Russian President Vladimir Putin from invading, Trump suggested that Putin could be economically threatened by driving down the price of oil. However, Trump also criticized the administration of President Joe Biden for being so public about its negotiating tactics.

"I think two weeks ago, he had no intention of [invading]," Trump said. "He was just negotiating and doing his schtick. Now, he's seeing it's like a clear path because of the stupid people he is dealing with."

Though Trump has said, "There's never been a president as tough on Russia as I have been," numerous political analysts noted his reluctance to publicly criticize Putin and his repeated praise of Putin during Trump's 2016 election campaign and presidency.

During his campaign, Trump suggested that he was OK with Russia keeping the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, which it aggressively seized in 2014.

"You know, the people of Crimea, from what I've heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were. And you have to look at that," Trump said in a late July 2016 interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos.

"Putin's not going into Ukraine, OK, just so you understand. He's not going to go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down. You can put it down. You can take it anywhere you want," Trump added.

When asked in February 2017 about allegations of Putin using violence against his political enemies, Trump replied, "There are a lot of killers. Do you think our country is so innocent?"

Trump also supported Putin's opposition to NATO, calling the organization "obsolete" and saying that the U.S. should withdraw from it because its European members didn't invest as much money into it as the United States did.

When signing a bipartisan bill imposing new sanctions against Russia in July 2017, Trump said the new law contained "clearly unconstitutional provisions."

In August 2019, Trump argued that Russia should be welcomed back into the Group of Seven (G7), an international group that collaborates on economic and security policies. The group suspended Russia's membership in 2014 after Putin annexed Crimea.

Russia has built up its military, it said, to prevent Ukraine from joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a multinational force seeking to limit Russia's military influence in Europe. Russia has also said it's defending Russian ethnic nationals living in the war-torn east Ukrainian region of Donbas.

Western officials estimate between 100,000 and 127,000 Russian troops amassed near the Ukraine border. Russian soldiers, ground, air and naval forces far outnumber Ukraine's.

In a phone call earlier this week with Ukrainian President Vlodomyr Zelensky, Biden said a February invasion by Russian forces was a "distinct possibility" despite ongoing diplomatic talks with Russia. However, Russian and Ukrainian officials have both said that an invasion isn't necessarily inevitable.

Biden has said that Russia will have "a heavy price to pay" if it invades. He also said a Russian invasion would "change the world" and be the largest military operation of its kind since World War II.

Trump Ukraine Russia invasion European Problem
Former President Donald Trump has called the rising tensions over a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine "a European problem." In this photo, Trump speaks about Operation Warp Speed in the Rose Garden at the White House on November 13, 2020, in Washington, D.C. Tasos Katopodis/Getty

The U.S. State Department has advised U.S. citizens in Ukraine to "strongly consider leaving." U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman has also met with European counterparts this week to discuss ongoing developments.

On January 24, NATO announced it was moving warships and some fighter jets to Eastern Europe. Denmark, Spain, France, the Netherlands and the U.S. have all pledged military support to Ukraine.

In response, the Pentagon has put 8,500 military members on high alert for possible redeployment to the area. The U.S. has also started shipping weapons and ammunition to Ukraine as part of a $200 million security assistance agreement.

"I welcome Allies contributing additional forces," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement. "We will always respond to any deterioration of our security environment, including through strengthening our collective defense."

Putin said he'll continue to "study" the U.S. response to his security demands. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also said that Russia doesn't want a war, but it will not let its interests be "rudely trampled on and ignored."

Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has worried his country's forces are inadequate and said that Putin wants to conquer Ukraine in a larger aim to "re-create the Soviet Union 'second edition.'"

Meanwhile, former Russian President Dmitry Medvede said that Putin is acting like "an emperor and a god," waging a war that no Russian citizens actually want. However, Medvede also criticized the U.S. for not doing more to stop Ukraine from joining NATO.