Former President Trump said Thursday the U.S. should mediate peace between Russia and Ukraine now that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been “somewhat weakened” by the Wagner Group’s defiance.

Trump spoke to Reuters in an interview Thursday that covered the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, as well as his thoughts on China’s new spy base in Cuba. The former president — who is the current front-runner for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination — was adamant that the U.S. must actively confront Russia and China. 

“I want people to stop dying over this ridiculous war,” Trump said of the conflict in Ukraine. 

Peace has been elusive as Ukraine has launched a counteroffensive to recapture territories Russia seized in the opening stages of its invasion 16 months ago. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has demanded that Russia cease hostilities, withdraw its forces and restore Ukraine’s complete territorial integrity in a 10-point peace plan proposed last year — which Russia flatly rejected. 

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Then-President Trump, left, shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a news conference in Helsinki Monday, July 16, 2018. Trump is now calling for the U.S. to mediate peace between Russia and Ukraine as he runs for president in the 2024 election. (Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Trump suggested that Kyiv might ultimately have to concede some territory to Russia to end the war. He said everything would be “subject to negotiation”, if he were president, but that Ukrainians who have waged a vigorous fight to defend their land have “earned a lot of credit.”

“I think they would be entitled to keep much of what they’ve earned, and I think that Russia likewise would agree to that. You need the right mediator, or negotiator, and we don’t have that right now,” he told Reuters.

President Biden and NATO allies have firmly sided with Ukraine and called on Russia to relinquish territories it seized in the eastern part of the country. Biden has called Putin a “pariah” for invading Ukraine and said the Russian leader is “losing the war at home,” as evidenced by mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin’s short-lived rebellion on Saturday.

Trump agreed with Biden that Putin looks weaker in the aftermath of the mutiny. 

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A split image shows Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, Vladimir Putin, and a tank in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don

Wagner Group mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin declared a “march for justice” on Saturday to oust senior Russian military commanders. He called off the rebellion in fewer than 24 hours after Putin vowed to crush the rebels.  (Prigozhin Press Service via AP, STRINGER/AFP, GAVRIIL GRIGOROV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)

“You could say that he’s (Putin) still there, he’s still strong, but he certainly has been I would say somewhat weakened at least in the minds of a lot of people,” he said.

However, while some analysts hailed Prigozhin’s rebellion as the end of Putin’s reign, Trump cautioned against regime change in Russia, arguing, “you don’t know what the alternative is. It could be better, but it could be far worse.” 

The role for the president, Trump said, is to play peacemaker. 

“I think the biggest thing that the U.S. should be doing right now is making peace — getting Russia and Ukraine together and making peace. You can do it,” Trump said. “This is the time to do it, to get the two parties together to force peace.”

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Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin

Then-President Trump, left, delivers remarks at a Keep America Great rally in Phoenix on Feb. 19, 2020. Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a ceremony in Jerusalem on Jan. 23, 2020 commemorating the people of Leningrad during the Second World War Nazi siege on the city. (JIM WATSON,EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)

Turning to another major U.S. adversary, Trump took a hardline stance on China’s new spy base in Cuba, which is to be installed just 90 miles of the U.S. coast. He said a Trump administration would give Beijing 48 hours to shut the plans down or face new tariffs on Chinese goods.

As president, Trump adopted a tougher stance on China while claiming a good relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping that soured over the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’d give them 48 hours to get out. And if they didn’t get out, I’d charge them a 100% tariff on everything they sell to the United States, and they’d be gone within two days. They’d be gone within one hour,” Trump told Reuters.

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However, the former president would not say whether the United States would lend military support to Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion. 

“I don’t talk about that. And the reason I don’t is because it would hurt my negotiating position,” he said. “All I can tell you is for four years, there was no threat. And it wouldn’t happen if I were president.”

Reuters contributed to this report. 

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