Former President Donald Trump is weighing into the ongoing tensions along the Ukrainian-Russian border, and has warned Russian President Vladimir Putin not to take advantage of a perceived U.S. weakness during President Joe Biden’s time in office.
In a Friday interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) revealed a conversation he had with Trump. Acting as Trump’s intermediary, Graham delivered the warning to Putin not to invade Ukraine simply because he perceives U.S. weakness under Biden and sees an opportunity to attack.
“Putin realizes that under Biden, he can invade Ukraine and get away with it,” Graham said. “He realized that under Trump, he could not invade the Ukraine and get away with it.”
“But here’s what President Trump said to me today: Putin is realizing that Biden’s weak, but he doesn’t realize that Biden won’t be around in 2024,” Graham continued. “So President Trump said today if they invade the Ukraine, the Russians will make it impossible for any future president to have a normal relationship with Russia, which I thought was a pretty damn wise observation.”
Graham said he and Trump talked about the ongoing situation on the border with Ukraine, where around 100,000 Russian troops have gathered. He and Trump both agreed that Biden has mishandled the situation in Ukraine so far.
“The news conference was a disaster on multiple levels,” Graham said, referring to a news conference Biden held last week, where he spoke at length about the tensions between Russia and Ukraine.
During the press conference, Biden said “I think what you’re going to see is that Russia will be held accountable if it invades,” before adding, “It depends on what it does. It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and then we end up having a fight about what to do and not do.”
Asked later in the press conference if he was suggesting the U.S. might not respond to a “minor incursion,” Biden said “big nations can’t bluff” and he wants to avoid a situation where NATO would be divided over how to respond.
Moments later, Biden said, “It depends on what [Putin] does, as to the exact — to what extent we’re going to be able to get total unity on the NATO front.”
On Thursday, Trump told Hannity, “When he said ‘they may go in, they will go in,’ and he talks about a ‘minor incursion,’ I sort of said, ‘I don’t believe he said that,’ because that’s giving the green light.”
That comment from Biden prompted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, “We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations. Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones.”
The Biden administration has since tried to clarify Biden’s remarks. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden was saying the U.S. is preparing for a “range of scenarios” involving Russian actions against Ukraine.
“You know, I think he — we have a range of what he was — the point he was making is that we have a range of tools, right? I’m not going to outline for you here ‘what if this, what if that.’ I think what should be clear to everyone — and I think he was very clear on this this morning — is that if Russia, if President Putin decides to invade Ukraine, if they move military troops, military across the border, that’s an invasion. And there will be severe economic consequences,” Psaki said.
Trump’s warning that Russia should not invade Ukraine because he expects Biden won’t be in office after 2024, could also serve as a hint that Trump plans to run again for the presidency when Biden’s term is up. Trump has repeatedly hinted at a possible 2024 run in recent months.