Trump Calls Putin Moving Troops Into Ukraine for Peacekeeping 'Genius'

Former President Donald Trump put the blame for the Russian-Ukrainian conflict on President Joe Biden, but he also credited Russian President Vladimir Putin for being "pretty savvy" in how he framed his military strategy.

Putin recognized two rebel regions—Luhansk People's Republic and the Donetsk People's Republic—as independent on Monday and announced the mobilization of military forces to the area for a "peacekeeping" mission. Western leaders lambasted the move as an attack on Ukraine's sovereignty and slapped sanctions on Russia, a punishment many believe won't be enough of a deterrent for the Russian leader.

Trump told Clay Travis and Buck Sexton on Tuesday that this "never would have happened" if he was president, but said when he was watching the news unfold, he thought "this is genius."

"Here's a guy that says, you know, 'I'm gonna declare a big portion of Ukraine independent.' He used the word 'independent,' 'and we're gonna go out and we're gonna go in and we're gonna help keep peace.' You gotta say that's pretty savvy," Trump said.

At an emergency meeting on Monday night, United Nations Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield cautioned that Russia's military escalating further violence would create a "devastating loss of life" and create a refugee crisis in Europe as people flee the area. She added that Putin's ambitions go far beyond Ukraine and that his speech on Monday indicated he wants to "travel back in time" to an era when "empires ruled the world."

Conflicts between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian military have been going on since 2014, but violence started escalating in the spring. Officials have long warned that Putin is planning to invade Ukraine as he built up military forces along the border and on Monday, he asserted that Ukraine is historically Russian.

Trump told Travis and Sexton that Putin "loves his country" and that he believes the Russian leader "sees this opportunity" with Ukraine. The former president added that he knew Putin "always wanted Ukraine" because the two used to talk about it.

"I said, 'You can't do it. You're not gonna do it,'" Trump said. "But I could see that he wanted it."

While the White House avoided the use of the word "invasion" on Monday, Biden described the situation in Ukraine as the "beginning of a Russian invasion" on Tuesday. He announced a "first tranche" of sanctions against two financial institutions and the mobilization of American troops and equipment to Europe to "strengthen" America's allies.

The United States is still pursuing a diplomatic resolution to the conflict, but Biden rejected Putin's call for redrawing borders to match a previous era.

"Who in the Lord's name does Putin think gives him the right to declare new so-called countries on territory that belonged to his neighbors? This is a flagrant violation of international law and demands a firm response from the international community," Biden said on Tuesday.

Trump criticized the limited number of troops that were being sent to the area, telling Travis and Sexton that it's a "joke" compared to what "the other side does."

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Former President Donald Trump called Russian President Vladimir Putin's strategy for Ukraine "genius." This combination of pictures created on February 21, 2020, shows Trump as he delivers remarks at a Keep America Great rally in Phoenix, Arizona, on February 19, 2020. Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a ceremony in Jerusalem on January 23, 2020, commemorating the people of Leningrad during the Second World War Nazi siege on the city. JIM WATSON,EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images