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Trump comments on his relations with Putin

The ex-US president claims he was “tough” with his Russian counterpart, but that the two still had “very good” ties

Republican presidential candidate, former US President gives remarks to the press on June 13, 2024 in Washington, DC. ©  Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images/AFP

Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has said he had an excellent relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin while in office, adding that the conflict would have never started on his watch.

In an interview with the Impaulsive podcast, released on Thursday, Trump recalled that full-scale hostilities in Ukraine did not start while he was president between 2017 and 2021, claiming that the escalation would not have happened had he been reelected in 2020.

When asked to comment on his relationship with Putin, Trump described it as “very good,” adding that he also got along with Ukraine’s Vladimir Zelensky. “But I was tough with him [Putin]. You know, I ended… the Nord Stream 2,” he noted, referring to the pipeline which was designed to transport natural gas between and Germany via the Baltic Sea, but was never commissioned.

The former US president said he had voiced discontent with the EU over the project, asking why Europe was paying Russia “billions” a month for gas supplies, while America was providing the bloc with protection from Moscow.

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According to the ex-US president, Putin acknowledged his role in killing Nord Stream 2. “Putin said to me: ‘It’s the biggest thing… you ended the pipeline… You and I are friendly but I’d hate to see you as enemy.’”

Still, Trump insisted that he managed to forge good relations not only with the Russian president but also with Chinese President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. “The funny thing [is] I got along with the tough ones much better with the weak ones.”

The Trump administration was a long-time critic of Nord Stream 2, and on numerous occasions pressured Germany to drop the project. The process of commissioning of the already-completed pipeline was finally halted in February 2022, when tensions between the West and Russia flared up before the start of the Ukraine conflict.

In the fall of 2022, several lines of Nord Stream 1 and 2 were sabotaged, with Russia demanding an international investigation and suggesting that US intelligence services must have orchestrated the explosions. Washington has denied responsibility, although US President Joe Biden had previously threatened to “bring an end” to the pipeline if Russian troops were to enter Ukraine.

Trump has repeatedly promised to resolve the Ukraine conflict within 24 hours if reelected by sitting down with both Zelensky and Putin. The Kremlin said last month that the Russian president was not in contact with Trump, while Zelensky expressed doubts about the ex-US president’s ability to stop the hostilities.

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