Trump says he's 'surprised' Putin ordered Ukraine invasion

Former President Trump said he didn't think Russian President Vladimir Putin would go through with an invasion of Ukraine in an interview with the Washington Examiner published Tuesday.

“I’m surprised — I’m surprised. I thought he was negotiating when he sent his troops to the border. I thought he was negotiating,” Trump told the outlet in a phone interview. “I thought it was a tough way to negotiate but a smart way to negotiate.”

Putin sent more than 150,000 troops to the border of Ukraine before he began a war that has already cost thousands of lives in three weeks.

“I figured he was going to make a good deal like everybody else does with the United States and the other people they tend to deal with — you know, like every trade deal. We’ve never made a good trade deal until I came along,” Trump said. “And then he went in — and I think he’s changed. I think he’s changed. It’s a very sad thing for the world. He’s very much changed.”

Trump addressed critics who have gone after him for calling Putin smart in his tactics leading up to the war. 

“I’ve been very, very tough on Putin. I get a bad rap on that,” Trump told the outlet. “At the same time, I got along with him very well. But I got along with most [world leaders] very well.”

“I’ve been very critical of Putin from the standpoint of the pipeline, from the standpoint of raising billions and billions of dollars in NATO to protect, primarily, Europe against Russia," Trump added. "Nobody else did that.”

Since the war began, Russia has faced harsh repercussions, with the U.S. sanctioning dozens of Russians and banning Russian oil imports.

Trump said at a rally in South Carolina he believes if the invasion doesn’t end soon, it will lead to "World War III."

“This could lead, by the way, this could lead to World War III,” Trump said. “I see what’s happening. Because if you think Putin is going to stop, it’s going to get worse and worse. He’s not going to accept it, and we don’t have anybody to talk to him.”

Russia and Ukraine have entered talks to lead to a cease-fire agreement, but no major breakthroughs have been made.

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