The Republican frontrunner claimed that Kiev could have lost less territory if it had compromised with Russia before fighting began
Ukraine could have avoided hundreds of thousands of deaths and lost less land if it had reached a peace deal with Russia before the conflict began last February, former US President Donald Trump told NBC News in an interview aired on Sunday.
The loss of Ukrainian territory to Russia is "something that could have been negotiated," Trump told NBC host Kristen Welker, adding that "a lot of people expected" Kiev to abandon its claims to "Crimea and other parts of the country" in exchange for peace.
"So they could have made a deal where there's less territory [lost] than Russia has already taken," Trump continued. "They could have made a deal where nobody was killed...they would have had a Ukrainian country. Now nobody even knows if Ukraine is going to be totally taken over."
By "other parts of the country," Trump was likely referring to the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics, whose sovereignty Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized three days before Russia's military operation in Ukraine began. Following referendums last September, both regions have now joined the Russian Federation, along with the formerly Ukrainian territories of Kherson and Zaporozhye. Crimea voted to rejoin Russia in 2014.
Trump then repeated his claim that if elected next year, he would have a peace deal worked out within 24 hours.
"I'd get [Russian President Vladimir Putin] into a room, I'd get [Ukrainian President Vladimir] Zelensky into a room, then I'd bring them together and I'd have a deal worked out," he told Welker.
"It would have been easier if the war didn't start, and you'd have hundreds of thousands of people living, most importantly," he noted. "But I can get it done and I can get it done quickly."
Trump then claimed that he kept Ukraine and Russia "from doing anything" during his presidency, arguing that the low oil prices that characterized his term in the White House would have made it too costly for Russia, a leading oil exporter, to finance a military operation.
Trump's position on Ukraine is diametrically opposed to that of President Joe Biden, who has vowed to bankroll Kiev's military "for as long as it takes" to defeat Russia on the battlefield. With the exception of businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, all of Trump's opponents in the Republican primary field support some sort of continued military aid to Ukraine.
Among them is Trump's former vice president, Mike Pence. Speaking to CNN on Sunday, Pence accused Trump of "embracing the politics of appeasement," and "letting Vladimir Putin have what he wants."