'That won’t fly': Former Defense secretary warns Vladimir Putin is hoping Donald Trump wins reelection

Former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Sunday hit out at former President Donald Trump and other Republicans in Washington, calling for greater support for Ukraine during its ongoing war with Russia.

Asked by CBS’ Margaret Brennan what he thinks Americans should expect if the former president wins a second term in office, Esper, who served in Trump’s first administration, said “I suspect that he will do what he says.

“He will somehow attempt to negotiate a deal between Russia and Ukraine, and that won’t fly. There’s only one person that can end this conflict in Ukraine, and that’s Vladimir Putin, and he's not about to do that anytime soon," Esper said.

"So I suspect Trump will quickly move to end funding for Ukraine, and then at some point he’s also going to move to withdraw funding for NATO, and maybe even pull out of NATO, which would be disastrous for United States national security," he added.

Trump, the current 2024 Republican frontrunner, has frequently suggested that the U.S. might be providing Ukraine with too much support. He has also claimed he would end the war in 24 hours if reelected president.

The former president has also often dismissed NATO, or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a military alliance between dozens of countries in Europe and North America.

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Esper on Sunday warned that Putin could be looking to “wait out the clock and maybe hope Donald Trump returns to the presidency.”

But Trump wasn’t the only leader Esper targeted on Sunday. Asked about the hold on hundreds of military nominees Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., has fueled for months, the former Defense secretary said "it’s unfair to hold military nominees – over 300 now – hostage, if you will, over a policy issue for which that’s not their responsibility.”

The Alabama lawmaker has blocked promotions for more than 300 senior Pentagon officers that require Senate confirmation as a protest against a Department of Defense policy. The provision includes some paid leave and other expenses for service members traveling to have an abortion. He has claimed the policy is a violation of federal law.

But Esper on Sunday warned that the move, and other gridlock in Washington, could send a chaotic message around the world.

“Look, the Chinese government doesn’t shut down. The Chinese government doesn’t do continuing resolutions. And they certainly don’t hold up their admirals and generals when they need them as they prepare for potential conflict with the United States,” Esper said. “We just look really dysfunctional, and we’re harming our own readiness in the process when we look across the international environment.”

Contributing: Miles J. Herszenhorn, USA TODAY; Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Vladimir Putin hopes Donald Trump wins reelection, Mark Esper warns