President Trump again blamed former president Barack Obama for the Russian annexation of Crimea, saying Obama allowed it to happen when he “gave away” respect for the United States.
“President Obama lost Crimea because President Putin didn't respect President Obama, didn't respect our country and didn't respect Ukraine,” Trump said.
Obama “gave away” U.S. credibility when he did not follow through with threatened airstrikes against Syria, Trump said, adding the he had not made the same error.
Trump said he may meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the summer. The U.S. ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman, is attempting to set up such a meeting, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month. The two leaders have not spoken recently, Trump said last week.
The Kremlin said Friday that a summit is possible in the summer.
The Associated Press quoted Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, as saying “we don’t exclude” the possibility of a meeting between the two leaders but that no specifics have been discussed.
Trump had first blamed Obama for Crimea during last weekend's Group of Seven meeting in Canada. Russia was expelled from what was formerly known as the Group of Eight over its annexation of the Ukrainian territory, an act that the United States and most other countries consider illegitimate.
Trump repeated Friday that he would prefer to have Russia back in the grouping of industrial economies.
“I think it's better to have Russia in than to have Russia out. Because just like North Korea, just like somebody else, it's much better if we get along with them,” Trump said.
He did not directly answer whether he considers Crimea to be a part of Russia. Trump was reported to have told other leaders during the G-7 that the area is Russian because its residents speak Russian. Many residents of Crimea speak Russian, as do residents of other areas of Eastern Ukraine. Ukraine was a part of the Soviet Union.