Only hours before the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, former President Donald J. Trump again praised the cunning of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia while lashing out at the intellect of President Biden.
“I mean he’s taking over a country for $2 worth of sanctions,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Putin to donors and Republican lawmakers at Mar-a-Lago, his private club, on Wednesday. “I’d say that’s pretty smart.”
The kind words a former president gave a foreign adversary locked in a geopolitical showdown with the United States — and committing the most egregious act of aggression in Europe since World War II — would be virtually unprecedented, except that Mr. Trump himself had praised Mr. Putin only a day earlier, saying his aggression was “genius” and “very savvy.”
The scale and perils of Russia’s attack became increasingly apparent on Thursday after Russia assaulted Ukraine by land, sea and air, and Ukraine’s interior ministry announced that Russian troops had pushed into the highly radioactive Chernobyl exclusion zone.
Other Republican leaders have condemned Mr. Putin’s actions.
“Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is reckless and evil,” Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House Republican leader, said in a statement on Thursday, adding: “This act of war is intended to rewrite history and more concerning, upend the balance of power in Europe. Putin must be held accountable.”
Mr. Trump has long expressed admiration for foreign strongmen, and for Mr. Putin in particular, notably during his 2016 presidential campaign. [Continue reading…]