(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump said that war started by Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine must end and reiterated his disapproval of sending more aid overseas as the Senate attempts to move forward with a package to provide emergency funding for Ukraine and Israel.
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“We’ve got to get that war settled and I’ll get it settled,” Trump, the Republican front-runner for the 2024 presidential nomination, said at a campaign rally Saturday in Conway, South Carolina.
He called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy “the greatest salesman in history” and sought to suggest that the US could be “out hundreds of billions of dollars” if Ukraine made a deal with Russia — which invaded the country two years ago — and “all of a sudden they don’t want to deal with us anymore.”
Trump’s possible return to the White House is increasingly a factor in Ukraine’s efforts to reclaim Russian-occupied territory. Kyiv’s 2023 counteroffensive in the nation’s southeast largely faltered, Zelenskiy fell out with his top military commander, and additional US military aid has been bogged down in Congress. Zelenskiy said this month “I want to believe and hope” that political changes in the US wouldn’t mean an end to aid for Ukraine.
White House spokesman Andrew Bates pushed back at Trump’s claim during the speech that he told NATO members while president that he’d encourage Russia to invade members of the alliance that didn’t pay their dues.
Read more: US Says Trump’s Russia Threat Remarks to NATO Allies ‘Appalling’
“Encouraging invasions of our closest allies by murderous regimes is appalling and unhinged – and it endangers American national security, global stability, and our economy at home,” Bates said in a statement.
Trump raised Ukraine only briefly as he pursued his campaign to deliver a knockout blow to Nikki Haley, his last major Republican challenger, on her home turf in the Republican primary in South Carolina on Feb. 24. It was his first visit to the state since his victory in New Hampshire’s primary in January.
Polls show Trump in a commanding position in South Carolina, leading Haley by 31 percentage points in the RealClearPolitics average of state GOP polls.
Trump is also leading incumbent Joe Biden in a new Financial Times survey on who would be a better steward of the US economy.
Trump in recent weeks has consolidated his hold on the GOP, successfully pressuring lawmakers to abandon a bipartisan border deal, pushing out the head of the Republican National Committee in favor of a hand-picked successor and warning donors to unite behind him.
As he closes in on the nomination following wins in Iowa, New Hampshire and this week in the Nevada caucus, Trump and his allies have pressured Haley to exit the race. Haley’s aides have said she intends to stay in the contest through South Carolina and Super Tuesday next month, when more than a dozen states vote.
Haley is staking her campaign on a strong showing in the state where she was born and served two terms as governor. The former US ambassador to the United Nations has the support of prominent Wall Street executives but has been unable to translate that into a win in the GOP contest. She’s spent recent weeks on a fundraising blitz that has taken her to California, Florida and New York — seeking to court wealthy donors for the funding necessary to stay in the GOP race.
Haley and Trump have stepped up attacks on each other, with the former president questioning why his onetime ambassador is still running. Trump on Thursday told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida that Haley’s decision to stay in the race “hurts the party and, in a way, hurts the country.”
Trump mocked Haley’s marriage on Saturday by questioning where her husband was. Haley responded in a post on X that her husband, Michael Haley, is deployed and serving in the military.
“Someone who continually disrespects the sacrifices of military families has no business being commander in chief,” Haley said on X.
The former president faced a barrage of criticism in 2020 after a report from The Atlantic magazine alleged he disparaged dead US military service members, including late Senator John McCain.
Haley has also questioned Trump’s mental competency following recent gaffes, including comments where he confused her with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and highlighted his myriad legal challenges as a mounting distraction.
(Updates with new poll in ninth paragraph.)
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