Trump’s ex-ambassador to Ukraine told Insider Putin didn’t need to invade Ukraine with Trump in office.
He was already getting everything he wanted from the Trump administration, Marie Yovanovitch said.
With Trump, Putin “could just sit back and let the good times roll,” she added.
Marie Yovanovitch told Insider in an interview that Russian President Vladimir Putin didn’t need to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine when Donald Trump was president because Trump was giving Putin everything he wanted.
With Trump, Yovanovitch said, Putin “could just sit back and let the good times roll.”
Yovanovitch, Trump’s former ambassador to Ukraine, said the former president showed “strong, clear admiration” for Putin and other strongmen, disparaged US allies, and had longstanding “negative” views on NATO and other global alliances.
All these things “emboldened Putin — there’s no question about it,” said Yovanovitch, a fluent Russian speaker and three-time ambassador during her over three decades in the Foreign Service.
Trump was repeatedly accused throughout his presidency of kowtowing to Putin, and he made statements and policy decisions that were viewed as benefiting Russian interests, such as pushing for Russia to be readmitted to the G7 group — which had booted Russia for its aggression toward Ukraine.
In July 2018, Trump and Putin held a widely panned press conference following a bilateral summit in Helsinki.
Trump’s presser with Putin shocked US allies and provoked severe backlash from national security and foreign policy experts, and even some of Trump’s supporters. Among other things, he said he didn’t “see any reason” Russia would have meddled in the 2016 election.
When asked whether he believed the US intelligence community or Putin, Trump said Putin was “extremely strong and powerful in his denial.” Trump also recycled nonsense conspiracy theories about the FBI and the Democratic National Committee, while refusing to say he supported the findings of US officials over the Russian leader’s claims.
In her memoir, “Lessons From the Edge,” Yovanovitch describes the meeting and the press conference as “disastrous” and calls the remarks a “spectacle that left observers pondering the depths to which Trump had sunk in his pandering to Putin.”
And those statements were “what was said publicly,” Yovanovitch writes in her memoir.
“God only knows what Trump said in the two-hour one-on-one meeting with Putin, a meeting unusual not only for its length but because Trump did not brief US officials on the discussion later,” she adds. “That raised all sorts of questions.”
Yovanovitch was one of more than a dozen witnesses who testified in Trump’s first impeachment inquiry about his efforts to strong-arm the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, into announcing political investigations targeting the Bidens ahead of the 2020 US election. While Trump carried out his pressure campaign, he also withheld nearly $400 million in vital military aid to Ukraine — including Javelin anti-tank missiles — and dangled a White House meeting that Zelenskyy desperately wanted.
Yovanovitch pointed to the infamous July 2019 phone call between Trump and Zelenskyy that was the linchpin of his impeachment.
It was “very clear that the president of the United States was trading his office for a personal or political favor, rather than working in our national security interest to help strengthen a partner country,” Yovanovitch told Insider.
It was “absolutely appalling,” she said, adding that Trump’s actions sent a signal to Putin and other strongmen around the world that they could “probably cut deals with this guy” and “manipulate this president.”