Trump blames Obama, not Putin, for Russia seizing Crimea

President Trump blamed the last U.S. president for Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, praising President Vladimir Putin for outsmarting President Obama and saying he thought Russia should be welcomed back into the annual meeting of the leaders of the world’s largest economic powers.

Speaking in France at the G-7 conference, Trump repeatedly expressed his disagreement with the decision to suspend Russia’s membership in what was then called the G-8 over its seizure of the crucial peninsula of Crimea from the Ukraine. He claimed that Obama was “embarrassed” and “outsmarted by Putin.”

“Would I invite [Putin]? I would certainly invite him,” Trump said, in answer to a question about next year’s meeting, which will be hosted by the U.S. But he expressed concern that the Russian president’s feelings were hurt by the earlier expulsion. “Whether or not he could come psychologically, I think that’s a tough thing for him to do.”

The Guardian reported Sunday that Trump’s suggestion that Russia be readmitted to the G-7 was not supported by the other world leaders in attendance.

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SIMFEROPOL, UKRAINE - MARCH 17: Couples dance in Lenin Square on March 17, 2014 in Simferopol, Ukraine. Voters on the autonomous Ukrainian peninsular of Crimea voted overwhelmingly yesterday to secede from their country and join Russia. Crimea will seek to adopt the Russian Ruble as its official currency. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
People hold their Ukrainian national flags and a poster featuring Russian President Vladimir Putin and reading 'Stop Putin' as they demonstrate in front of the Russian Ambassy in Berlin on March 17, 2014. Crimea declared independence on March 17 and applied to join Russia while the Kremlin braced for sanctions after the flashpoint peninsula voted to leave Ukraine in a ballot that will likely fan the worst East-West tensions since the Cold War. AFP PHOTO / DPA / KAY NIETFELD +++ GERMANY OUT (Photo credit should read KAY NIETFELD/AFP/Getty Images)
SIMFEROPOL, UKRAINE - MARCH 17: In this photo illustration, Ukrainian historical figures are viewed on Ukrainian bank notes on March 17, 2014 in Simferopol, Ukraine. Voters on the autonomous Ukrainian peninsular of Crimea voted overwhelmingly yesterday to secede from their country and join Russia. Crimea will seek to adopt the Russian Ruble as its official currency. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
SIMFEROPOL, UKRAINE - MARCH 17: Couples dance in Lenin Square on March 17, 2014 in Simferopol, Ukraine. Voters on the autonomous Ukrainian peninsular of Crimea voted overwhelmingly yesterday to secede from their country and join Russia. Crimea will seek to adopt the Russian Ruble as its official currency. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
SIMFEROPOL, UKRAINE - MARCH 17: A woman walks by grafitti on a wall on March 17, 2014 in Simferopol, Ukraine. Voters on the autonomous Ukrainian peninsular of Crimea voted overwhelmingly yesterday to secede from their country and join Russia. Crimea will seek to adopt the Russian Ruble as its official currency. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Armed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, patrol outside an Ukrainian military base in Perevalnoye on March 17, 2014. The United States and Europe aimed sanctions directly at Vladmir Putin's inner circle Monday to punish Russia's move to annex Crimea, deepening the worst East-West rift since the Cold War. The move came hours after the Ukrainian regime voted to join Russia in a referendum the West deems illegitimate and as Crimea embarked on the next political steps to embrace Kremlin rule. AFP PHOTO/ VASILY MAXIMOV (Photo credit should read VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Armed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, patrol outside an Ukrainian military base in Perevalnoye on March 17, 2014. The United States and Europe aimed sanctions directly at Vladmir Putin's inner circle Monday to punish Russia's move to annex Crimea, deepening the worst East-West rift since the Cold War. The move came hours after the Ukrainian regime voted to join Russia in a referendum the West deems illegitimate and as Crimea embarked on the next political steps to embrace Kremlin rule. AFP PHOTO/ VASILY MAXIMOV (Photo credit should read VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Cossacks, pro-Russian activists, march to take part in a rally outside the regional state administration building in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, on March 17, 2014. The United States on March 17 imposed financial sanctions on seven top Russian government officials and lawmakers to punish Russia's incursion into Crimea. The list of officials who will see any property, assets and interests blocked in the United States includes Dmitry Rogozin, deputy prime minister, and several senior members of the Duma and advisors to President Vladimir Putin. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KHUDOTEPLY (Photo credit should read Alexander KHUDOTEPLY/AFP/Getty Images)
A pro-Russian activist holds a flag during a rally as police forces stand guard in front of the regional state administration building in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, on March 17, 2014. The United States on March 17 imposed financial sanctions on seven top Russian government officials and lawmakers to punish Russia's incursion into Crimea. The list of officials who will see any property, assets and interests blocked in the United States includes Dmitry Rogozin, deputy prime minister, and several senior members of the Duma and advisors to President Vladimir Putin. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KHUDOTEPLY (Photo credit should read Alexander KHUDOTEPLY/AFP/Getty Images)
PEREVEVALNE, UKRAINE - MARCH 17: Armed soldiers without identifying insignia keep guard outside of a Ukrainian military base in the town of Perevevalne near the Crimean city of Simferopol on March 17, 2014 in Perevevalne, Ukraine. Voters on the autonomous Ukrainian peninsular of Crimea voted overwhelmingly yesterday to secede from their country and join Russia. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Pro-Russian activists stage a rally as police forces stand guard in front of the regional state administration building in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, on March 17, 2014. The United States on March 17 imposed financial sanctions on seven top Russian government officials and lawmakers to punish Russia's incursion into Crimea. The list of officials who will see any property, assets and interests blocked in the United States includes Dmitry Rogozin, deputy prime minister, and several senior members of the Duma and advisors to President Vladimir Putin. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KHUDOTEPLY (Photo credit should read Alexander KHUDOTEPLY/AFP/Getty Images)
Pro-Russian activists stage a rally as police forces stand guard in front of the regional state administration building in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, on March 17, 2014. The United States on March 17 imposed financial sanctions on seven top Russian government officials and lawmakers to punish Russia's incursion into Crimea. The list of officials who will see any property, assets and interests blocked in the United States includes Dmitry Rogozin, deputy prime minister, and several senior members of the Duma and advisors to President Vladimir Putin. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KHUDOTEPLY (Photo credit should read Alexander KHUDOTEPLY/AFP/Getty Images)
Pro-Russian activists stage a rally as police forces stand guard in front of the regional state administration building in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, on March 17, 2014. The United States on March 17 imposed financial sanctions on seven top Russian government officials and lawmakers to punish Russia's incursion into Crimea. The list of officials who will see any property, assets and interests blocked in the United States includes Dmitry Rogozin, deputy prime minister, and several senior members of the Duma and advisors to President Vladimir Putin. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KHUDOTEPLY (Photo credit should read Alexander KHUDOTEPLY/AFP/Getty Images)
PEREVEVALNE, UKRAINE - MARCH 17: A man fixes the Crimean flag near groups of armed soldiers without identifying insignia who are keep guard outside of a Ukrainian military base in the town of Perevevalne near the Crimean city of Simferopol on March 17, 2014 in Perevevalne, Ukraine. Voters on the autonomous Ukrainian peninsular of Crimea voted overwhelmingly yesterday to secede from their country and join Russia. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
PEREVEVALNE, UKRAINE - MARCH 17: Armed soldiers without identifying insignia keep guard outside of a Ukrainian military base in the town of Perevevalne near the Crimean city of Simferopol on March 17, 2014 in Perevevalne, Ukraine. Voters on the autonomous Ukrainian peninsular of Crimea voted overwhelmingly yesterday to secede from their country and join Russia. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
PEREVEVALNE, UKRAINE - MARCH 17: Armed soldiers without identifying insignia keep guard outside of a Ukrainian military base in the town of Perevevalne near the Crimean city of Simferopol on March 17, 2014 in Perevevalne, Ukraine. Voters on the autonomous Ukrainian peninsular of Crimea voted overwhelmingly yesterday to secede from their country and join Russia. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
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“It was sort of taken away from President Obama, not taken away from President Trump,” the president explained. “President Obama was not happy that this happened and it was embarrassing to him, right? It was very embarrassing to him, and he wanted Russia to be out of what was called the G-8. That was his determination. He was outsmarted by Putin. President Putin outsmarted President Obama. I can understand how President Obama would feel, he wasn’t happy.”

Trump had previously sided with Putin against U.S. intelligence agencies at a 2018 meeting in Helsinki. He didn’t answer a question Monday about possible Russian meddling in the next presidential election.

U.S President Donald Trump speaks during the final press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron during the G7 summit Monday, Aug. 26, 2019 in Biarritz, southwestern France. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

A reporter pressed Trump on his assertion that Obama was behind Russia’s departure from the G-8. Its annexation of Crimea in violation of international law resulted in sanctions by both the United States and the European Union, and a condemnation from NATO, which said in a statement, “We strongly condemn this act, which we do not and will not recognize.” On the fifth anniversary of Russia’s takeover in March, EU foreign policy head Federica Mogherini said, “We stand in full solidarity with Ukraine, supporting its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“It was annexed during President Obama’s term. If it was annexed during my term, I would say, ‘Sorry, folks, I made a mistake’ or ‘Sorry, folks,’” said Trump, adding, “President Obama was pure and simply outsmarted. They took Crimea during his term. That was not a good thing. It could have been stopped. It could have been stopped with the right… whatever. It could have been stopped, but President Obama was unable to stop it and it’s too bad.”

Trump did not complete his thought about how Russia could have been stopped from the land grab.

Crimea is a roughly 10,000-square-mile peninsula across the Black Sea from Russia that was transferred to the Ukraine in 1954. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the land was part of an independent Ukraine. Russian troops entered the area in February 2014, and the other G-8 members agreed a month later to suspend Russia’s membership while canceling a planned summit in Sochi, Russia.

As a candidate in 2016, Trump said he was open to recognizing Russia’s claims to Crimea. “I’m going to take a look at it,” Trump said. “But you know, the people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were. And you have to look at that also.”

The president said he didn’t care if inviting Russia to an international summit on U.S. soil would hurt him politically.

“I ran one election and I won, happened to be for president,” said Trump. “I don’t care politically. I’m going to run another election, I think I’m winning based on polls that we see. Whether I win or not, I have to do the right thing. I don’t do things for political reasons. Is it good? Probably not. Maybe it is, a lot of people are smart.”

Trump also criticized Obama for not striking Syria when the country crossed his established “red line” and used chemical weapons.

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