For the first time, Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky has expressed publicly unequivocal concern over Donald Trump’s suggestion he could end the Russia-Ukraine war within a day if he returns to the White House.
Speaking to Britain’s Channel Four News in an interview that aired Friday, the Ukrainian president described the Republican frontrunner’s boast as “very dangerous” – on the grounds that Trump has not said what his post-war scenario would look like.
Zelensky conceded it was possible Trump’s claim was just electioneering, or what he called a “political message.”
But he said the idea that Trump as president might unilaterally make decisions that do not work for Ukraine or its people, and seek to drive them through regardless, “makes me really quite stressed.”
Asked how, Trump said he would meet both Zelensky and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, telling Collins, “They both have weaknesses and they both have strengths and within 24 hours that war will be settled, that war will be over.”
Zelensky has generally stayed away from criticizing Trump, preferring not to lean-in too heavily to the split between Democrats and Trump-supporting Republicans, who have effectively put a block on further US funding for Kyiv.
At Davos earlier this week, responding to a similar question from a journalist, the Ukrainian leader answered rhetorically, wondering how Trump would respond if Putin rolled through Ukraine – in a scenario where Trump removed all US support – and began threatening NATO members with invasion.
It is widely believed that a Trump victory in November is something Putin would welcome, giving him the opportunity, at a minimum, to hold onto his territorial gains in Ukraine and declare a victory.
By contrast, Zelensky continues to insist there can be no peace deal that does not see the removal of all Russian forces from lands they have captured from Ukraine since 2014, including Crimea.
Ukraine’s ability to negotiate toward that result has been significantly weakened, at least in the short term, by the failure of the summer counteroffensive.
Even so, the Biden administration, and the NATO alliance, have repeatedly stressed Ukraine will not be coerced into any agreement with Russia, summed up in the phrase: “Nothing about Ukraine, without Ukraine.”
Offered the chance in the Channel Four News interview to invite Trump to Ukraine, Zelensky did not hesitate.
Turning to address the camera, he said, “Please, Donald Trump, I invite you to Ukraine, to Kyiv. If you can stop the war during 24 hours, I think it will be [reason] enough to come.”
“Maybe Donald Trump really has some idea, a real idea, and he can share it with me,” Zelensky added, returning to face the interviewer.