Trump says Putin's Ukraine invasion threat was 'a smart way to negotiate' -- but is 'surprised' he really did it
President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet in Helsinki (Screen cap).

Former President Donald Trump told the Washington Examiner's David Drucker this week that he is "surprised" Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine because he believed Putin's threats were just a negotiating tactic.

In a wide-ranging interview with Drucker, Trump said that he didn't really believe Putin would go through with trying to overthrow the Ukrainian government, despite the fact that American intelligence agencies repeatedly outlined his plans for doing so.

"“I’m surprised — I’m surprised. I thought he was negotiating when he sent his troops to the border. I thought he was negotiating,” Trump said. “I thought it was a tough way to negotiate but a smart way to negotiate.”

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Trump elaborated and said he believed Putin thought he could bluff an invasion in order to get President Joe Biden to hand over lots of concessions.

“I figured he was going to make a good deal like everybody else does with the United States and the other people they tend to deal with — you know, like every trade deal. We’ve never made a good trade deal until I came along,” Trump added. “And then he went in — and I think he’s changed. I think he’s changed. It’s a very sad thing for the world. He’s very much changed.”

Earlier this year, Trump praised Putin's decision to annex major portions of eastern Ukraine as "genius" and "savvy," although he's taken some criticism from members of his own party for these statements.