Volodymyr Zelensky urged Donald Trump to share his peace plans publicly if the former US president has a way to end the war between Ukraine and Russia – but the Ukrainian president cautioned in an interview Tuesday that any peace plan where Ukraine gives up territory would be unacceptable.
“He can publicly share his idea now, not waste time, not to lose people, and say, ‘My formula is to stop the war and stop all this tragedy and stop Russian aggression,’” Zelensky told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, following his speech Tuesday at the United Nations General Assembly. “And he said, how he sees it, how to push Russian from our land. Otherwise, he’s not presenting the global idea of peace.”
The Ukrainian president added: “So (if) the idea is how to take the part of our territory and to give Putin, that is not the peace formula.”
Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has claimed that he would be able to cut a deal with Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the war in Ukraine within 24 hours. Pressed Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” about whether the deal would let Putin keep the land he’s taken, Trump said, “No, no. I’d make a fair deal for everybody. Nope, I’d make it fair.”
Trump, asked at the time whether it would be a win for Putin, said, “You know, that’s something that could have been negotiated. Because there were certain parts, Crimea and other parts of the country, that a lot of people expected could happen. You could have made a deal. So they could have made a deal where there’s lesser territory right now than Russia’s already taken, to be honest.”
Zelensky’s trip to the United Nations comes as Ukraine is facing its stiffest headwinds in the US to date over support for the war. A faction of the House GOP conference is openly hostile to providing Ukraine with any additional military aid, and it remains unclear whether House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will be willing to sign off on more funding.
In the interview, Zelensky gave a positive assessment of Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive, which has sparked concerns that it’s failing to achieve expected results. And he reiterated Ukraine’s desire to obtain long-range missiles from the US, which President Joe Biden is still considering, saying it would be “a loss” for Ukraine if they do not receive them.
“We are on the finishing line, I’m sure of that,” Zelensky said.
Zelensky told Blitzer that he’s planning to meet with McCarthy when he travels to Washington later this week. Asked about those skeptical of offering more funding to Ukraine, Zelensky said that it was difficult for those who have not seen war up close to compare domestic problems like civil rights or energy to the existential threat facing a country under attack.
“It’s so difficult to understand when you are in war, and when you are not in war,” Zelensky said. “Even when you come to the war, to the country which is in war, when you come to one day, you can understand more than you live, you hear, you think, you read. No, you can’t compare. It’s different situation. That’s why I’m thinking we can’t compare these challenges.”
Biden last month asked Congress to approve an additional $24 billion in emergency spending for Ukraine and other international needs. While there’s bipartisan support for the funding package in the Senate, there’s no sign yet that the Republican-led House will play ball.
Following his speech Tuesday at the UN General Assembly, Zelensky is traveling to Washington, DC, where he will hold talks with Biden at the White House, along with a visit to Capitol Hill. Zelensky addressed a joint meeting of Congress in a surprise appearance last December.
Zelensky’s trip to the Capitol this week gives him the chance to make a personal pitch to skeptical lawmakers to approve more aid for the war. The Ukrainian leader is slated to speak at an all-senators meeting, though a similar meeting is not planned for the House.
McCarthy, who is expected to meet with Zelensky along with other House leaders, declined Tuesday to commit to more funding for Ukraine.
“Was Zelensky elected to Congress? Is he our president? I don’t think so. I have questions for where’s the accountability on the money we’ve already spent? What is this the plan for victory?” the California Republican said.
Asked whether a major breakthrough was possible this year in Ukraine’s military counteroffensive, Zelensky said, “I think nobody knows, really.”
“But I think that we will have more success,” he said, noting gains Ukraine has made in the east.
Zelensky said he remained focus on obtaining more long-range missiles from the US, arguing that Ukraine did not want them to target Russia but to keep the battlefield capabilities level between the two sides.
Biden is expected to make a final decision soon on sending the long-range Army Tactical Missile Systems, also known as ATACMS, CNN reported earlier this month.
“It would be a loss for us” if the weapons are not provided, Zelensky said, adding it would result in “more casualties on the battlefield and elsewhere.”
He also reiterated the need for more air defense systems, particularly the US-made Patriot air defense system, saying they were needed to help protect civilian areas.
Zelensky downplayed tensions between the US and Ukrainian officials over Ukraine’s military strategy in Russian-occupied Crimea, when asked about skepticism from officials in Washington over Ukraine ramping up missile strikes to try to disrupt Russian logistics and resupply efforts.
“We think the same way,” he said.
Still, Zelensky defended the strategy.
“Temporary-occupied Crimea – it’s a place they store weapons to kill our civilians,” he said. “They’re shooting from Crimea into our territory. And of course, we have to see where their rockets are coming from, and we have to basically deal with it.”
This story has been updated with additional details.