Zelenskiy Challenges Trump to Reveal Plans for Ending War

(Bloomberg) -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Donald Trump should come forward with his plan to quickly end the war with Russia, warning that any proposal must avoid violating the nation’s sovereignty.

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“If Trump knows how to finish this war, he should tell us today,” Zelenskiy said in a Bloomberg Television interview in Kyiv on Wednesday. “If there are risks to Ukrainian independence, if we lose statehood – we want to be ready for this, we want to know.”

The former US president, who leads in polls over President Joe Biden ahead of the November election, has boasted that he’ll end the war by the time he’s inaugurated in January. In the televised debate last week, Trump decried the billions of dollars spent on Ukraine’s defense, saying that Kyiv is “not winning the war.”

In a nearly hour-long interview, the Ukrainian leader lamented the delays in weapons deliveries from Western allies and said he was “potentially ready” to meet with Trump to hear his team’s proposals.

Our Life

“They can’t plan my life and life of our people and our children,” he said. “We want to understand whether in November we will have the powerful support of the US, or will be all alone.”

The Ukrainian leader has had a fraught relationship with Trump, who during his presidency consistently accused Zelenskiy of corruption and soon after the former comedian’s 2019 election leaned on him to investigate allegations against Biden — a move that triggered his first impeachment.

Responding to questions from Bloomberg on Wednesday, Steven Cheung, the Trump campaign’s communications director, said the prospective Republican presidential candidate “will do what is necessary to restore peace and rebuild American strength and deterrence on the world stage.”

Zelenskiy also challenged the notion that Kyiv is losing, refuting the term “deadlock” to describe the conflict. He said Kyiv’s forces are better positioned in terms of manpower than they were months ago and a new counteroffensive is a matter of arming its brigades.

“It’s not a deadlock, it’s a problematic situation,” he said. “A deadlock means there’s no way out. But a problem can be solved if one has the will and has the tools. We do have the will, and the tools – they haven’t arrived yet.”

As the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion goes well into its third year, dwindling stockpiles of weapons and ammunition among Ukrainian forces have been exploited by Russia’s military, which has made incremental gains since the beginning of the year.

While Zelenskiy lauded the $61 billion assistance package approved by the US Congress this year — after a six-month long delay — he said the equipment was taking too long to make its way to the front.

“This is the biggest tragedy of this war, that between the decision and real fact, we have a real long, long, long wait,” Zelenskiy said.

NATO allies agreed Wednesday they should aim to provide at least €40 billion ($43 billion) in military aid for Ukraine per year, but refrained from explicit pledges for the years ahead, according to alliance diplomats.

NATO Welcome

Zelenskiy will lobby for more Patriot air defense systems at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in Washington next week, and will seek more security deals, like those Ukraine has already clinched with 20 partners, including the EU, the UK, Germany and the US. Ukraine also wants an invitation to join the defense alliance, but “we know we won’t get it,” Zelenskiy said.

If not that, “we would like to see something similar to an invitation,” Zelenskiy said. That would serve as “a sign that nobody is afraid of Putin and that everyone is sure in the US leadership,” he said.

The Ukrainian leader also said China could play a “tremendous role” in resolving the conflict, since Moscow is so dependent on its market for exports. He suggested that the US and China, should they put aside differences, could act together to end the war.

But a day after Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban — on his first trip to Kyiv during the war — urged Zelenskiy to consider a cease-fire, the Ukrainian leader rejected the notion. He said that those pitching for such a scenario have failed to articulate how a cease-fire would work.

“Nobody has an answer,” Zelenskiy said. “I’m not accusing, I’m just explaining.”

Zelenskiy declined to weigh in on Biden’s disastrous performance in last week’s debate, which he said he watched. Instead of domestic politics, he gauged each candidate’s position on Ukraine.

Still, he said that as a former television personality, the medium can influence how the public perceives a leader. Beyond optics, the US leader will convince if he shows “strong, decisive steps,” Zelenskiy said.

--With assistance from Volodymyr Verbianyi, Olesia Safronova, Greg Sullivan, Stephanie Lai and Oliver Crook.

(Updates with comments about NATO summit in 14-15th paragraphs.)

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