NEW YORK • United States Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump offered a muddled explanation of his views about the 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia and its continued efforts to undermine Ukraine's control of other parts of the country, amplifying his earlier suggestion that, if elected president, he might recognise Russia's claim and end sanctions against it.
In an interview with journalist George Stephanopoulos on ABC News programme This Week, Mr Trump said that if he were president, President Vladimir Putin of Russia would not send his forces into Ukraine.
He then back-pedalled when Mr Stephanopoulos pointed out that Russian troops had been there for nearly two years.
The statements were significant because Mr Trump has seemingly embraced Mr Putin, repeatedly called for better ties with Russia and shown an unwillingness to condemn Mr Putin for his aggressive actions against Russia's neighbours and his crackdowns on freedoms at home.
Questions have also been raised about the watering down of a section of the Republican platform dealing with Ukraine amid evidence that wording to support sending lethal weapons to the Ukrainian government was removed from the text.
Mr Trump acknowledged in the ABC interview that the language had been watered down, but he said he had nothing to do with it. However, he acknowledged that his supporters were involved.
Mr Trump went on to argue that Mr Putin might have been welcome in Crimea, sidestepping the issue of whether the Russian leader had violated the sovereignty of another state to take the territory.
He went on to say, "Ukraine is a mess," but he put the blame for that on President Barack Obama, not on Mr Putin.
Mr Jake Sullivan, the chief policy adviser to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, said the assessment reinforced Mr Trump's lack of temperamental fitness for the presidency. "Today he gamely repeated Putin's argument that Russia was justified in seizing the sovereign territory of another country by force," he said. "This is scary stuff. But it shouldn't surprise us."
NEW YORK TIMES