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Trump implies Biden's alleged support for Ukraine's NATO accession led to full-scale invasion

by Nate Ostiller June 21, 2024 2:55 PM 3 min read
Former President Donald Trump acknowledges supporters at the end of a campaign rally at the Grappone Convention Center in Concord, U.S., on Jan. 19, 2024. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Former U.S. President Donald Trump claimed on June 20 that the possibility of Ukraine's entry into NATO  was "really why this (full-scale) war started" and blamed President Joe Biden's alleged support for Ukraine's accession as a trigger to the invasion.

Speaking on a podcast hosted by David Sacks, an entrepreneur and regular critic of U.S. policy toward Ukraine, Trump said, "For 20 years, I heard that if Ukraine goes into NATO, it's a real problem for Russia."

"And I think that's really why this war started."

Trump added that Biden was "saying all of the wrong things (about Ukraine)," namely that "Ukraine will go into NATO."

Biden's record on Ukraine's NATO accession prior to the full-scale war was mixed, and he did not directly declare his support for its joining the alliance in the near term.

Speaking in June 2021, Biden said, "School's out on that question (of Ukraine joining NATO). It remains to be seen."

In December of that year, as tensions increased and Russian troops massed on the border, Biden reportedly said that the "decision on Ukraine's accession to NATO is the decision of the Ukrainian people only, this is a sovereign and independent Ukrainian state," according to Presidential Office head Andriy Yermak.

In the podcast, Sacks also claimed, without citing evidence, that "the month before the Russians invaded, (Secretary of State Antony) Blinken told (Russian Foreign Minister Sergey) Lavrov that the (Biden) administration was not only going to bring Ukraine into NATO, but that they thought it was okay for the U.S. to put nuclear weapons in Ukraine."

Michael McFaul, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, wrote on X that it was "the first time I have ever heard someone claim that Blinken told Lavrov that the U.S. planned to put nuclear weapons in Ukraine."

"Is there evidence supporting that claim?  I've never seen any."

Sacks, who has no specific previous expertise on either Russia or Ukraine and is primarily known in the U.S. as an investor in technology companies, has previously made misleading or unsubstantiated claims about Ukraine.

In December 2023, Sacks wrote on X, "Has a U.S. Army general taken de facto control of the Ukrainian Army?" Sacks cited an article by the New York Times (NYT) that the Pentagon had sent U.S. Lieutenant General Antonio Aguto Jr. to "spend lengthy periods of time in Kyiv" and "work more directly with the country’s military leadership."

Both Sacks and Trump made several other misleading comments about Ukraine in the podcast.

Without citing evidence, Trump claimed that Ukraine "wants to use children (and) old people" to fight in the army.

As with many armies around the world, the minimum age to join Ukraine's army is 18. President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a controversial measure into law in April that lowered the minimum age for conscription into the army from 27 to 25. The government has so far resisted calls to further lower the minimum draft age.

Trump also said that Russia "doesn't want to have (NATO) soldiers right on their border," declining to mention that Russia already bordered four NATO countries prior to the full-scale invasion—Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.  Russia's border with NATO significantly expanded after Finland joined the alliance in April 2023, which it had resisted before 2022.

Trump criticizes Ukraine for requesting aid, promises to ‘settle’ it
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