Russian President Vladimir Putin escalated tensions between Russia and Ukraine after recognizing two pro-Russia separatist regions of Ukraine—Luhansk and Donetsk—as independent nations, before proceeding to send Russian troops there.
The development led President Joe Biden to announce the first wave of consequential sanctions in retaliation, including sanctions against Russia's sovereign debt, which Biden claimed effectively cut off Russian access to western financing. Additionally, the development of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany came to a halt.
Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump issued a statement claiming Russia never would've invaded Ukraine on his watch. He then went on far-right radio host Buck Sexton's show, where he proceeded to praise Putin.
"I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, 'This is genius.' Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine—of Ukraine, Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that's wonderful. So Putin is now saying, 'It's independent,' a large section of Ukraine. I said, 'How smart is that?' and You know he's gonna go in and be a peacekeeper. We could use that on our southern border. That's the strongest peacekeeping force I've ever seen. There were more army tanks than I've ever seen. They're gonna keep peace all right."
The statement was criticized as unhinged for a number of reasons: Trump apparently suggesting the U.S. should attempt to annex parts of Mexico, calling army tanks a peacekeeping force, and especially praising the authoritarian leader who worked to undermine multiple U.S. elections.
Conservative Fox News contributor Pete Hegseth attempted to justify Trump's comments.
Hegseth told host Jesse Watters:
"Vladimir Putin lives rent-free in the minds of our media, of the American media. No organism, no entity, has done more to spread Russian propaganda and to prop up the straw man that is Vladimir Putin than our very own media. And Donald Trump was happy to troll them on it, as he continues to do to this moment, because they can't resist it and they'll obsess over it."
In reality, Trump and his supporters in media have repeatedly amplified actual Russian propaganda. Trump, in a 2018 joint press conference with Putin in Helsinki, said he believed Putin's lie that Russia didn't seek to interfere in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump's candidacy. This was despite the findings of multiple intelligence officials and entities.
As recently as last night, far-right Fox News host Tucker Carlson defended Putin to millions of viewers of his broadcast yet again. During Trump's first impeachment, Carlson bragged that he was rooting for Russia against the fledgling Democratic nation of Ukraine.
People weren't buying Hegseth's bizarre explanation.
Others were livid, claiming Fox was promoting disinformation that its viewers would ultimately believe.
Apparently "owning the libs" is an honorable effort from a former President during a diplomatic crisis.