‘Really?’: Donald Trump claims he threatened Vladimir Putin over Ukraine

‘Really?’: Donald Trump claims he threatened Vladimir Putin over Ukraine

London: Former US president Donald Trump says he personally warned both Russian president Vladimir Putin and Chinese ruler Xi Jinping against invading their neighbours, claiming that neither nation would have even considered the option if he was still in the White House.

Trump said the “stupid war” in Ukraine was proof also he was vindicated in his fierce criticism of former German chancellor Angela Merkel while the pair were in office. He revealed he had presented her with a “white flag of surrender” in the form of a “very luxurious napkin” during a heated meeting over her country’s heavy dependence on Russian oil and gas.

Former President Donald Trump smiles as he pauses while speaking to supporters in Phoenix in 2021. Credit:AP

In a lengthy interview with British broadcaster Pier Morgan to mark the launch of Rupert Murdoch’s new British channel talk TV, the 75-year-old gave a cryptic response to whether he would contest the next US presidential election open, saying “people are going to be very happy” but added “others would be unhappy”.

Leaving few world leaders unscathed, he said he liked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson but was worried he’d become “a little bit liberal” and “a little bit green”. He said America was now run by “stupid people” and feared the world was “going to be blown to pieces”.

Trump claimed Putin had only invaded Ukraine because Joe Biden was now in power, and claimed America’s bumbling withdrawal from Afghanistan had given Moscow the confidence that it could get away with such actions.

“I threatened him like he’s never been threatened before,” Trump said of his past conversations with Putin about Ukraine.

President Donald Trump, right, shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan in 2019.Credit:AP

“I told him (Putin) what our response would be and he said: Really? And I said: Really.“

He refused to detail the exact threat he issued to the Kremlin but said even if the Russian leader believed him “only 5 per cent” Putin would have said to himself: “I’ll never do it”.

In public at least, Trump as president cultivated a warm relationship with the Russian leader, as he did other strongmen political leaders at the time.

“What I did say is that we are going to be very strongly responding if you do that. I also said to President Xi don’t go into Taiwan and there’s going to be a very strong response.”

“They both had the same response, ‘Really? Really?’ I said: ‘Really’.”

Trump was the first US president in history to be impeached twice by the House of Representatives but was not convicted by the Senate in either case.

The first arose from Trump’s threats to hold back aid to Ukraine while pressuring then newly elected president Volodymyr Zelensky to announce investigations into Biden and his son Hunter, who had served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company. The aid was only released once the threat had become public. The second impeachment was over his role in inciting an insurrection, following his loss to Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

In the Morgan interview, Trump said he believed the reason China has not launched an invasion of Taiwan already was because of Russia’s missteps in Ukraine, where he has lost an estimated 15,000 troops in the face of local resistance.

The interview, which took place at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, will be screened on Sky News Australia on Tuesday evening.

He said he believed the Biden administration’s fumbled withdrawal from Afghanistan had led to the Ukraine invasion.

“When they saw the way we acted in Afghanistan, they way we ran, surrendered…” Trump says. “He [Putin] said, ‘Hey, this is no longer Trump’.”

While it was Trump who set the timeline to retreat after nearly two decades in the Middle East he said the current government mishandled the situation by removing its military assets in the wrong order.

Donald Trump says he also warned China’s leader Xi Jinping over Taiwan.Credit:AP

Trump said he believed Putin had used nuclear threats during the war in Ukraine to frighten other nations and that the weak response had made the Russian leader think “no one will attack him”.

“He uses the ‘N word’, the nuclear word all the time. That’s a no-no, you’re not supposed to do that,” he said. “He uses it on a daily basis. And everybody’s so afraid, so afraid, so afraid.

”I would say, we have far more than you do. [We are] far, far more powerful than you,” Trump said.

He also lashed out at his former vice president Mike Pence, calling him “foolish” and “weak” for refusing to back allegations that his election loss to Joe Biden was “rigged”.

“I have proof, and we have massive proof,” Trump said, calling Morgan a “fool” for believing it was a free and fair election.

Trump said he “had it out” with Merkel in a number of meetings the pair held over the years, saying he once presented her with a ’a very luxurious napkin” as a white flag to wave.

“I had it out with her,” Trump said of Germany’s energy dependence on Russia. “I sent her the white flag of surrender,” he said.

“She asked, what do you mean? I said: Do me a favour, lift this flag of surrender. You know what it was? It was a very luxurious napkin.”

Trump’s time in office has been followed by a trail of legal issues.

On Monday, a New York judge held Trump in contempt of court for not producing documents subpoenaed in the state attorney general’s civil probe of his business practices, and ordered the former president to be fined $US10,000 per day until he complies.

Attorney General Letitia James is investigating whether the Trump Organisation, the former president’s New York City-based family company, misstated the values of its real estate properties to obtain favourable loans and tax deductions.

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