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Sunday July 14, 2024

Trump handed plan to halt US military aid to Kyiv unless it talks peace with Moscow

By Reuters
June 26, 2024
Former President Donald Trump returns from a lunch break at Manhattan criminal court as jury selection continues in New York, NY on Thursday, April 18, 2024. — Reuters
Former President Donald Trump returns from a lunch break at Manhattan criminal court as jury selection continues in New York, NY on Thursday, April 18, 2024. — Reuters

WASHINGTON: Two key advisers to Donald Trump have presented him with a plan to end Russia’s war in Ukraine - if he wins the Nov. 5 presidential election - that involves telling Ukraine it will only get more U.S. weapons if it enters peace talks.

The United States would at the same time warn Moscow that any refusal to negotiate would result in increased U.S. support for Ukraine, retired Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg, one of Trump’s national security advisers, said in an interview.

Under the plan drawn up by Kellogg and Fred Fleitz, who both served as chiefs of staff in Trump’s National Security Council during his 2017-2021 presidency, there would be a ceasefire based on prevailing battle lines during peace talks, Fleitz said.

They have presented their strategy to Trump, and the Republican presidential candidate responded favorably, Fleitz added. “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.

Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung said only statements made by Trump or authorized members of his campaign should be deemed official.

The strategy outlined by Kellogg and Fleitz is the most detailed plan yet by associates of Trump, who has said he could quickly settle the war in Ukraine if he beats President Joe Biden in the Nov. 5 election, though he has not said how he would do that.

The proposal would mark a big shift in the U.S. position on the war and would face opposition from European allies and within Trump’s own Republican Party.

The White House National Security Council said the Biden administration would not force Ukraine into negotiations with Russia.

“President Biden believes that any decisions about negotiations are up to Ukraine,” said NSC spokesperson Adrienne Watson.

The core elements of the plan were outlined in a publicly available research paper published by the “America First Policy Institute,” a Trump-friendly think tank where Kellogg and Fleitz hold leadership positions.

Kellogg said it would be crucial to get Russia and Ukraine to the negotiating table quickly 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.’”

According to their research paper, Moscow would also be coaxed to the table with the promise of NATO membership for Ukraine being put off for an extended period.

Fleitz said Ukraine need not formally cede territory to Russia under their plan. Still, he said, Ukraine was unlikely to regain effective control of all its territory in the near term.

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

A lasting peace in Ukraine would require additional security guarantees for Ukraine, Kellogg and Fleitz said. Fleitz added that “arming Ukraine to the teeth” was likely to be a key element of that.

“President Trump has repeatedly stated that a top priority in his second term will be to quickly negotiate an end to the Russia-Ukraine war,” Trump spokesperson Cheung said.

Biden campaign spokesperson James Singer said Trump is not interested in standing up to Putin or defending democracy.

Some Republicans will be reticent to pay for more resources to Ukraine under the plan. The U.S. has spent more than $70 billion on military aid for Ukraine since Moscow’s invasion.

“What (Trump’s supporters) want to do is reduce aid, if not turn off the spigot,” said Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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.

During a podcast interview last week, Trump ruled out committing U.S. troops to Ukraine and appeared skeptical of making Ukraine a NATO member. He has indicated he would quickly move to cut aid to Kyiv if elected.

Biden has consistently pushed for more Ukraine aid, and his administration supports its eventual ascension to NATO. Earlier this month, Biden and Zelenskiy signed a 10-year bilateral security agreement.