Former Donald Trump officials outline strategy to end Ukraine war

Two of Donald Trump's top advisers have presented him with a plan to end Russia's war in Ukraine

by Faruk Imamovic
Former Donald Trump officials outline strategy to end Ukraine war
© Getty Images/Drew Angerer

Two of Donald Trump's top advisers have presented him with a plan to end Russia's war in Ukraine - should he win the presidential election - which includes telling Ukraine that it will only receive additional US weapons if it enters into peace talks with Russia, reports REUTERS.

The United States would simultaneously warn Moscow that any refusal to negotiate would result in increased American support for Ukraine, retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, one of Trump's national security advisers, said in an interview.

The plan, drawn up by Kellogg and Fred Fleitz, who both served as chiefs of staff on Trump's National Security Council during his 2017-2021 presidency, would establish a ceasefire based on prevailing battle lines during peace talks.

They presented their strategy to Trump, and the former president responded positively to it, Fleitz said. "I'm not claiming he agreed with it or agreed with every word of it, but we were pleased to get the feedback we did," he said.

However, Trump spokesman Steven Cheung said only statements by Trump or authorized members of his campaign should be considered official.

The strategy laid out by Kellogg and Fleitz is the most detailed yet from Trump associates, and Trump himself has said he could quickly resolve the war in Ukraine if he wins the Nov. 5 election against President Joe Biden, though he did not discuss specifics.

The proposal would mark a major shift in US stance on the war and would face opposition from European allies and within Trump's own Republican Party.

The Kremlin said any peace plan proposed by a possible future Trump administration would have to reflect the reality on the ground, but that Russian President Vladimir Putin was open to talks.

"The value of any plan lies in the nuances and in taking into account the real state of affairs on the ground," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters.

"President Putin has repeatedly said that Russia has been and remains open to negotiations, taking into account the real state of affairs on the ground," he said. "We remain open to negotiations."

Inside the plan

The basic elements of the plan are outlined in a publicly available research paper released by the America First Policy Institute, a Trump-friendly think tank in which Kellogg and Fleitz hold leadership positions.

Kellogg said it would be critical to quickly bring Russia and Ukraine to the negotiating table if Trump wins the election.

"We tell the Ukrainians, 'You've got to come to the table, and if you don't come to the table, support from the United States will dry up,'" he said. "And you tell Putin, 'He's got to come to the table and if you don't come to the table, then we'll give Ukrainians everything they need to kill you in the field.'"

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky© Getty Images/Alexey Furman

According to their research paper, Moscow would also be persuaded to come to the negotiating table by promising to delay Ukraine's NATO membership for a long period.

Fleitz said Ukraine does not have to formally cede territory to Russia under their plan. However, he said, it is unlikely that Ukraine will regain effective control over all of its territory shortly.

"Our concern is that this has become a war of attrition that's going to kill a whole generation of young men," he said.

Lasting peace in Ukraine would require additional security guarantees for Ukraine, Kellogg and Fleitz said. Fleitz added that "arming Ukraine to the teeth" is likely to be a key element of that.

Several analysts also expressed concern that the plan by Kellogg and Fleitz could give Moscow the upper hand in talks. "What Kellogg is describing is a process slanted toward Ukraine giving up all of the territory that Russia now occupies," said Daniel Fried, a former assistant secretary of state who worked on Russia policy.

Previous Donald Trump's statements

Trump recently threatened to cut US aid to Ukraine quickly if reelected. Trump criticized Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, calling him “the greatest salesman of all time” for Kyiv’s push to secure U.S. support in its effort to defend Ukraine against Russian aggression more than three years after Moscow's all-out invasion.

“He just left four days ago with $60 billion, and he gets home, and he announces that he needs another $60 billion. It never ends,” Trump said.

“I will have that settled prior to taking the White House as president-elect,” said Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee in the U.S. election.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy has reacted to the statements saying that Donald Trump risks being a “loser president” if he wins November’s election and imposes a bad peace deal on Ukraine.

“Ukraine, barehanded, without weapons, will not be able to fight a multimillion [Russian] army,” Zelenskiy told the Guardian.

“Does he [Donald Trump] want to become a loser president? Do you understand what can happen?” Zelenskiy said.

He predicted that Vladimir Putin would violate any Trump-brokered deal. “A ceasefire is a trap,” he said. After a pause Putin would “go further”, humiliating Trump and making him look “very weak” in the eyes of the world, he said.

Zelenskiy continued: “This is not about him [Trump], as a person but about the institutions of the United States. They will become very weak. The US will not be the leader of the world any more. Yes, it will be powerful, first of all, in the domestic economy because it has a powerful economy without a doubt. But in terms of international influence it will be equal to zero.”

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