Donald Trump lives through a looking glass bordered by a gold-plated frame. It is only in this alternate reality that he can blame his successor’s weakness for inviting Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
To be sure, decades of failures by western leaders, including by American presidents of both parties, helped give Putin the yellow if not the green light to do his worst. But nothing compares to the consistent coddling delivered by Trump as a candidate and in his four years in power.
During the presidential transition period, Trump spoke openly about easing off sanctions that had been imposed on Russia for its election meddling. Weeks into his term, after he said he respected Putin and was challenged that the Russian president was “a killer,” Trump pushed back with this apologia: “What, do you think our country’s so innocent?”
In mid-July 2017, Trump tried to weaken new congressionally imposed sanctions against Russia — before they passed by veto-proof majorities and he begrudgingly signed them into law, calling them “seriously flawed.”
On that ignominious day in July 2018, standing alongside Putin, Trump was asked whether he sided with U.S. intelligence agencies’ universal assessment that Russia had interfered in the 2016 elections. His reply: “President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be.” Deference has rarely been so devious.
As former national security adviser John Bolton documents, in 2019, Trump tried to block sanctions against Russia for the poisoning in England of former Russian military officer Sergei Skirpal and his daughter. He told his secretary of state to call his Russian counterpart and blame “some bureaucrat” for them.
The coup de grace: In 2019, rather than deliver congressionally authorized military aid to Ukraine, Trump tried to make it contingent on Volodymyr Zelensky announcing an investigation into Joe Biden’s son Hunter.
The former U.S. president who today can’t stop admiring Putin’s supposed strength and cunning is the same sad man who, looking forward to the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, mused about Putin becoming “my new best friend.” Best friend of Ukraine’s worst enemy.