Obama and George W. Bush slam Russia's invasion of Ukraine in stark contrast to Trump's response

Obama and George W. Bush slam Russia's invasion of Ukraine in stark contrast to Trump's response
Former US President Barack ObamaSaul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
  • All living former US presidents have spoken about Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
  • But former President Donald Trump's comments stood out from the rest of the group's statements.

Former President Barack Obama and his fellow former US commanders in chief on Thursday slammed Russia's invasion of Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin's role in sparking what could be the worst conflict in Europe since World War II. Their individual statements differ from former President Donald Trump's repeated praise of the Russian strongman.

"Last night, Russia launched a brazen attack on the people of Ukraine, in violation of international law and basic principles of human decency," Obama said in a statement.

It is rare for all living former US presidents to comment on anything beyond large natural disasters. President George W. Bush, in particular, has repeatedly tried to avoid reentering the political fray. Their separate but rhetorically united condemnations underline the seriousness of what President Joe Biden called "a dangerous moment for all of Europe and for freedom around the world."

"Putin has committed an assault on the very principles that uphold the global peace," Biden said in a statement from the East Room at the White House.

Bush, who infamously once said he'd gotten a sense of Putin's soul, said the Western world could not "tolerate the authoritarian bullying and danger that Putin poses."


"Russia's attack on Ukraine constitutes the gravest security crisis on the European continent since World War II," he said in a statement. "I join the international community in condemning Vladimir Putin's unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine."

Trump, the only other living former Republican president, has repeatedly praised Putin both in the past and this week. He called the Russian leader's justification for invasion "savvy" and "genius." Trump, like many Republican lawmakers, has also blamed Biden for the invasion, a political calculation that underlines speculation that the 45th president wants his old job back.

"I mean, he's taking over a country for $2 worth of sanctions," Trump told donors and Republican lawmakers on Wednesday, The New York Times reported. "I'd say that's pretty smart."

Obama was the only one in the group not to name Putin directly in his statement.

Jimmy Carter, the oldest living former president, called the conflict an "unprovoked attack" that "violates international law and the fundamental rights of the Ukrainian people."


"Putin's war of choice has unraveled 30 years of diplomacy and put millions of innocent lives in grave danger, with the potential of mass civilian casualties in and huge displacements both within Ukraine's borders and beyond," former President Bill Clinton said in a statement.

Obama, like his former vice president, Biden, stressed that the people should steel themselves for the fallout from the West's sanctions of Russia.

"That's a price we should be willing to pay to take a stand on the side of freedom," Obama said. "For over the long term, we all face a choice, between a world in which might makes right and autocrats are free to impose their will through force, or a world in which free people everywhere have the power to determine their own future."