Former President Donald Trump said there was “a lot of love” behind Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to enlarge “his country” on Sunday as Russian troops continued to invade Ukraine.
Trump discussed the conflict during a Sunday appearance on Fox News host Jeanine Pirro’s radio show. He said he believed Putin’s ultimate goal was to eventually rebuild the Soviet Union, and he went on to explain what he believed to be Putin’s mindset.
“You say, what’s the point of this? They had a country. You could see it was a country where there was a lot of love and we do it because, you know, somebody wants to expand their country or he wants to put it back the way it was when in reality it wasn’t working out very well,” Trump said.
Some critics, however, took issue with Trump’s use of “lots of love,” pointing to the widespread destruction and thousands of casualties the invasion has caused in Ukraine.
“Does his love extend to the maternity wards and cancer hospitals he bombs?” wrote Twitter user @dkxkee.
According to the United Nations, hundreds of Ukrainian civilians were killed during the invasion in addition to thousands of soldiers on both sides of the conflict.
Russia has also faced allegations of human rights abuses and war crimes over alleged targeted attacks on civilians, including on kindergartens and hospitals. The military came under fire on Sunday after US filmmaker and journalist Brent Renaud was shot dead by Russian troops.
Trump has already faced backlash for some comments made about Putin, including calling his decision to move troops to two regions of Ukraine for “peacekeeping” purposes “brilliant”.
On Sunday, however, Trump also had harsher words for the Russian president.
He called the Ukrainian invasion a failure, noting that he believed Putin expected the invasion to be complete within days. He said Putin had a “big ego”, while warning that he would continue to be “more and more ruthless” but would ultimately struggle to permanently occupy Ukraine.
Others have also expressed similar concerns that Putin’s efforts may not stop at Ukraine. The invasion follows years of tensions between Ukraine and Russia over strengthening Ukraine’s ties with Western Europe and NATO, while distancing itself from Russia.
Former NATO commander James Stavridis also said he feared Putin was aiming beyond Ukraine and could work to take over former Soviet states, including Belarus, Georgia or Russia. Moldova.
Newsweek contacted former President Donald Trump’s office for comment on Sunday afternoon. This story will be updated with any response.