Former US President Donald Trump said that he was surprised by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine since he believed Putin sent troops to the country’s border in an attempt to negotiate, the Washinton Examiner reported. 

The Republican commented that Putin changed since the two had worked together. In an interview with the Washington Examiner, Trump said “I’m surprised – I’m surprised. I thought he was negotiating when he sent his troops to the border. I thought he was negotiating”, and added, “I thought it was a tough way to negotiate but a smart way to negotiate”. 

Trump also stated that he thought Putin was looking to make a good deal. 

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He said, “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”, adding, “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”. 

Since the start of the Ukraine war, Trump has not condemned Russia and has instead praised Putin as ‘savvy’ and ‘genius’. The White House has slammed Trump for his comments, but the former president has maintained that Putin would not have attacked America if Trump were president. 

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Current US leader Joe Biden has severely criticized Russia for its actions and imposed a slew of sanctions, which the Kremlin has admitted has hurt the Russian economy. However, polls still show that Americans believe Biden could be tougher with Russia

Trump’s confidence at being able to handle the Ukraine crisis has been echoed by his son Eric, who said that Putin’s KGB training allowed him to read his father and realize that Trump was a ‘strong person’.