Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky invited Donald Trump to visit Ukraine, after the former US president claimed he could end Russia’s war against Ukraine war within 24 hours if he wins reelection next year.
Zelensky questioned Trump’s claim in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” that aired Sunday, and invited him to visit Ukraine to see the scale of Russia’s invasion himself.
“If he can come here, I will need 24 minutes – yes, 24 minutes… to explain (to) President Trump that he can’t manage this war. He can’t bring peace because of Putin,” Zelensky said.
Zelensky also praised President Joe Biden for visiting Ukraine earlier this year, saying “I think he understood some details which you can understand only being here. So I invite President Trump.”
Trump claimed to CNN in May that the war would not have happened if he’d been president when Russia’s full-scale invasion began, and that he could settle the conflict in a day if he was reelected.
“If I’m president, I will have that war settled in one day, 24 hours,” Trump told CNN. “I’ll meet with Putin. I’ll meet with Zelensky. They both have weaknesses and they both have strengths. And within 24 hours that war will be settled.”
Zelensky’s comments came after Ukraine’s top commander last week warned the war had entered a “stalemate,” and as he is fighting to maintain his hard-won support in a world distracted by conflict in the Middle East, and with US lawmakers divided over whether to continue funding Ukraine’s war effort.
Ukraine’s military chief, Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, wrote in a long essay for The Economist that “just like in the First World War we have reached the level of technology that put us into a stalemate.”
While Ukraine has resisted Russia’s full-scale invasion for more than 20 months, Zaluzhny wrote that without a massive technological leap to break the deadlock, “there will most likely be no deep and beautiful breakthrough.”
Since launching its counteroffensive in early summer, Ukraine has managed to retake just a sliver of land, rebuffed by nearly 1,000 kilometers of heavily fortified Russian defenses. Russia still occupies nearly one-fifth of Ukraine, and in recent weeks has launched fresh offensives in the east, around Avdviika and Vuhledar in Donetsk and near Kupyansk in Kharkiv.
Zaluzhny said that the conflict had entered “what we in the military call ‘positional’ warfare of static and attritional fighting… in contrast to the ‘manoeuvre’ warfare of movement and speed.” He warned this will benefit Russia, giving it time to rebuild its military power for renewed assaults on Ukraine.
Asked by NBC if he accepted his top general’s characterization, Zelensky said “the situation is difficult,” but did not think the war had reached a “stalemate.”
“We hold the initiative in our hands. You can imagine what a full-scale war or what two years of a full-scale war is like. Everybody gets tired. Even the iron gets tired. But, nevertheless, I am proud of our warriors and of our people, that they are strong… Our people have a strong desire to win,” he said.
Zelensky also pointed to Ukraine’s successes in the Black Sea and in Crimea, the annexed peninsula that is a vital artery for resupplying Russian troops in mainland Ukraine. “The Russian fleet is being destroyed by our ammunition,” Zelensky told NBC, after a number of successful Ukrainian strikes on Russian warships and Crimean ports over the summer.
‘We can’t trust terrorists’
But convincing his allies of the possibility of victory is becoming increasingly difficult for Zelensky, as the world’s attention pivots to war in the Middle East, and amid warnings from Congress that US funding for Ukraine may soon run dry.
The White House has made clear that the amount of money the US has available for Ukraine military aid is quickly running out, as new House Speaker Mike Johnson and the Senate remain at odds over the Biden administration’s request to pass more than $100 billion in national security funding. President Biden urged Congress to pass the supplemental bill, which includes $61.4 billion for Ukraine and $14.3 billion for Israel, as a “comprehensive, bipartisan agreement.”
Zelensky argues that Ukraine’s fight against Russia is in the US’ national security interests. He told NBC that American soldiers could eventually be dragged into a broader European conflict with Russia if Washington’s support faltered.
“If Russia will kill all of us, they will attack NATO countries, and you will send your sons and daughters. And it will be – I’m sorry, but the price will be higher,” Zelensky said.
“You have to understand, just come to Ukraine and see. We are the same people. We have the same values,” he said when asked why US lawmakers should approve further military aid to Ukraine.
Congress’s reluctance to approve additional spending for Ukraine comes as a number of Republican presidential candidates – and other western officials – have argued that Ukraine should enter peace negotiations with Russia to bring the war to an end.
Zelensky, who has long opposed the idea of peace talks, told NBC: “I am not ready to speak with the terrorists because their word is nothing. Nothing. We can’t trust terrorists because terrorists always come back, always come back.”