“I thought he was negotiating when he sent his troops to the border,” Trump told the Washington Examiner. “I thought he was negotiating.”
“I thought it was a tough way to negotiate but a smart way to negotiate,” Trump told the conservative outlet.
Trump said he believed Putin’s tactics were aimed at striking some sort of deal with the United States. The U.S., he claimed, never made a good trade with the Russians “until I came along.”
“And then he went in — and I think he’s changed,” Trump said. “I think he’s changed. It’s a very sad thing for the world. He’s very much changed.”
Trump’s admiration for the Russian dictator has been an issue, even for some supporters.
In a recent interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity as Russia’s attack on Ukraine intensified, Trump refused to call Putin evil, despite the Trump-supporting host’s prompts. And he stumbled to walk back his gushing over Putin’s strategy, dwelling on semantics instead.
In his interview with the Examiner, Trump retreated to his hollow claim that he’d been “very, very tough on Putin.”
“I get a bad rap on that,” Trump insisted. “At the same time, I got along with him very well. But I got along with most [world leaders] very well.”