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Trump thought Ukraine ‘must be part of Russia’ – former adviser

Fiona Hill has claimed that the ex-president did not understand the concept of an independent Ukraine

Former US President Donald Trump could not understand “the idea that Ukraine was an independent state” and assumed that it “must be part of Russia,” his former adviser, Fiona Hill, has claimed.

“Trump made it very clear that he thought, you know, that Ukraine, and certainly Crimea, must be part of Russia,” Hill told New York Times writer David Sanger in an upcoming book previewed by The Guardian on Friday. “He really could not get his head around the idea that Ukraine was an independent state.”

Crimea voted overwhelmingly to join the Russian Federation in 2014, six decades after the historically Russian peninsula was transferred to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in an administrative decision by Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschev. In September 2022, four former Ukrainian regions – the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, Kherson, and Zaporozhye – were also admitted to the Russian Federation after similar referendums. 

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It is unclear from the excerpt printed by The Guardian whether Trump was referring to Russia’s centuries of sovereignty over Crimea and interests in Ukraine, or whether he simply assumed that post-Soviet Ukraine was a part of Russia. Trump has never publicly suggested that Ukraine is not an independent state.

Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee to challenge President Joe Biden in this November’s election. If elected, he has promised to end the conflict in Ukraine “within 24 hours.”

“I would get [Russian President Vladimir Putin] into a room. I’d get [Ukrainian President Vladimir] Zelensky into a room. Then I’d bring them together. And I’d have a deal worked out,” he told NBC News in September. Trump did not elaborate on how he would achieve this, explaining that “if I tell you exactly, I lose all my bargaining chips.”

Despite accusing Biden of dragging the US toward “World War III” with his policy of open-ended military aid to Ukraine, Trump has said that he could keep money flowing to Kiev under some circumstances, albeit as a loan rather than a gift.

An intelligence analyst and specialist on Russian and Eurasian affairs, Hill served on Trump’s National Security Council between 2017 and 2019. She emerged as a key witness during the 2019 impeachment inquiry against her former boss, during which she accused Trump of using American aid to pressure Zelensky into investigating the Biden family’s business dealings in Ukraine.

 

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