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Did a Real Estate Project Influence Trump’s View of Russia Sanctions?

Category: Diplomatic Relations,Politics

Mr. Trump began with his now-familiar complaints about NATO, and his contention — which echoed arguments made by Mr. Obama before him — that the United States pays too much of the defense burden compared with its European partners.

But Mr. Trump quickly veered into the effort to protect Ukraine, which is not a NATO member. “Now I’m all for Ukraine, I have friends that live in Ukraine,” he began, as he built his case that the United States was more concerned about Mr. Putin’s effort to dismember the country than the Europeans were.

“And I said to myself, isn’t that interesting? We’re fighting for the Ukraine, but nobody else is fighting for the Ukraine other than the Ukraine itself, of course.” Mr. Trump said that “it doesn’t seem fair and it doesn’t seem logical.”

At that point, Mr. Trump appeared on his way to securing the nomination, but he had not yet secured it. And, as became clear months later, hackers associated with Russia’s military intelligence arm, formerly known as the G.R.U., were becoming much more aggressive.

Just days before Mr. Trump’s comments to The Times, the intelligence unit had downloaded the emails of John D. Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, and they were burrowing into the computer systems of the Democratic National Committee, whose emails they later made public. There is no evidence that Mr. Trump was aware of any of that activity at the time.

As the campaign went on, his pro-Russia line continued. A proposal to support lethal aid to Ukraine in the Republican platform — something that would ordinarily be uncontroversial — was stripped out of the document before the Republican convention. In the end, all talk of supplying weapons was removed and replaced with a call to provide “appropriate assistance.”

Mr. Trump later said he had nothing to do with the watering down of the language. “I wasn’t involved in that,” he said.

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