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Former president Donald Trump speaks at his Mar-a-Lago estate on April 4 in Palm Beach, Fla.Evan Vucci/The Associated Press

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s whirlwind tour of European capitals this week began only a few days after Donald Trump’s sensational CNN Town Hall and the former Republican president’s refusal to take sides in Russia’s war on its neighbour.

It was hard not to see Mr. Zelensky’s surprise visits to Italy, Germany, France and Britain, during which he won pledges for more weapons from European leaders, as a response to Mr. Trump’s calls for U.S. allies to bear more of the cost for arming Ukraine.

“I want Europe to put up more money. Because they’re laughing at us,” Mr. Trump told his May 10 town hall. “We’re spending US$170-billion for a faraway land and they’re right next door to that land and they’re in for [US$20-billion]. I don’t think so.”

Though Mr. Trump’s figures were far off the mark – the total amount of U.S. military, financial and humanitarian aid committed to Ukraine stands at around US$75-billion – European countries (excluding Britain) have provided proportionally much less than that. Mr. Zelensky’s European tour did yield significantly bigger commitments for aid and weapons from German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron. Whether or not that had anything to do with Mr. Trump, their announcements will provide some cover for U.S. President Joe Biden as he seeks to retain support in Congress for the war effort amid growing GOP skepticism. Will it be enough?

Mr. Trump’s reappearance on the cable network he long disparaged as “fake news” made headlines mostly for his disgusting (but predictable) attack on a woman who successfully sued him for sexual abuse, his continued 2020 election denialism, and his twisted characterization of Jan. 6, 2021, when some of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building, as “a beautiful day.”

But Mr. Trump’s comments on Ukraine threaten to cause more grief for Mr. Biden, who announced his re-election bid last month, than anything else he said during the town hall. Mr. Trump’s claim that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “would never have happened” if he had remained president is impossible to refute. It is one of those Trumpisms that drives opponents to distraction because it can neither be proved or disproved. It also raises questions about Mr. Biden’s responsibility for failing to prevent the war and his inability, after more than a year of devastation, to end it.

Mr. Trump also boasted that if he becomes president again, “I will have that war settled in one day, 24 hours.” His supporters in the audience ate it up. How many Americans watching at home or catching the news did, too? Depending on the answer, it could be a disaster for Mr. Biden if the war is still going on when voters go to the polls.

Though he accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of making “a tremendous mistake” by starting the war, Mr. Trump refused to answer directly when asked whether he wanted Ukraine to win, saying: “I don’t think in terms of winning and losing. I think in terms of getting it settled so we stop killing all these people.”

Mr. Trump’s unwillingness to label Mr. Putin – who is the subject of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant – a war criminal was beyond the pale. But his reasoning may resonate with many Americans who are not invested in the arcane workings of the ICC, of which the United States is not a member. “[I]t’s going to be a lot tougher to make a deal to get this thing stopped, because if he’s going to be a war criminal, where people are going to go and grab him and execute him, he’s going to fight a lot harder than he’s fighting, you know, under the other circumstance,” Mr. Trump declared. As someone who faces multiple criminal investigations himself, his comments speak volumes about how his own mind works. But they also suggest he knows how Mr. Putin thinks, too.

Mr. Trump’s depiction of the war in Ukraine as a conflict in a “faraway land” that has little to do with U.S. national security interests was music to the ears of Republican isolationists, now the dominant foreign-policy faction within the GOP. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is expected to declare his candidacy for the GOP nomination within weeks, has referred to the war as “a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia.”

During a March visit to Poland, Mr. Biden cast the Ukraine war as the frontline in “a battle between democracy and autocracy, between liberty and repression, between a rules-based order and one governed by brute force.” He warned that “this battle will not be won in days or months” and of the need “to steel ourselves” for a long war.

Poles needed no persuading of that. But with Mr. Trump back on the campaign trail, it will become harder for Mr. Biden to keep Americans on board.