Nikki Haley Says Ukraine Invasion 'Never Would Have Happened' Under Trump

Nikki Haley criticized the Biden administration's handling of the Ukraine conflict Sunday, saying Russia's invasion of the country "never would have happened" under former President Donald Trump.

Some Republicans have been critical of President Joe Biden, accusing him of not doing enough to prevent the invasion of Ukraine. Haley, who previously served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Trump, joined in on the criticism while appearing on NBC's Meet the Press.

Haley said the United States was "late to the game" in taking action against Russia but that there are still ways she believes the U.S. can mitigate the situation. She urged the Biden administration to sanction all Russian energy companies, remove the country from the international banking system and secure fighter planes for Ukraine.

"It's not too late now, but we've got to get on the ball," she said.

Host Chuck Todd also pressed Haley on some Republicans' praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin—including Trump, who called Putin moving military forces to Ukraine "genius" and "very savvy."

"As much as everybody wants to talk about what he says, what I look at is what he did. He sanctioned Russia. He expelled diplomats. He shut off Nord Stream 2. He built up our military, and he made us energy independent," she said. "All of those things countered Putin and countered Russia. This [invasion] never would have happened under Trump."

Her remarks sparked pushback from Todd, who pointed out several Trump-era actions that some perceive as favorable to Russia, including several attempts to roll back sanctions on Russia and companies owned by oligarchs in 2017 and 2018, as well as Trump pausing Ukraine's military aid.

"You don't think any of those things sent a message to Vladimir Putin that America is divided. The west is divided. And he can get away with whatever he wants?" he said.

She explained that one lesson U.S. leaders could learn from the situation is that "when tyrants speak, we should listen."

"He said he was going to take Ukraine; he is. China said they were going to take Hong Kong; they did," she said. "He said that he wants to take Poland and the Baltics. We should believe him."

Her remarks in defense of Trump drew criticism on social media. Representative Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois, wrote: "Watching @NikkiHaley makes me shake my head. She used to be straight shooting, now doing the bidding for Trump still."

Other former Trump officials have disagreed the invasion would not have happened if he were president. John Bolton, who served as his national security office, said in an interview with Vice that he's "not sure he would have done much of anything" if Russia invaded Ukraine while he was president.

"But you never know with Trump. It depends on what time of day it is. It depends on what he thought his political benefit would be at any given moment. I don't think ultimately he would have stood in Putin's way," Bolton said.

Since the invasion, the Biden administration has taken actions including ramping up economic sanctions and sending military aid in an effort to pressure Putin to end the invasion.

Invasion wouldn't happen under Trump: Nikki Haley
Nikki Haley, above in Washington D.C. in August 2020, criticized the Biden administration’s handling of the Russia-Ukraine situation, saying it never would have happened” under Trump. OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images