Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged Donald Trump to publicly share his peace plans if the former US president has a way to end the war between Ukraine and Russia – but the Ukrainian president warned in an interview on Tuesday that any peace plan where Ukraine gives up territory would be unacceptable.
“He can now publicly share his idea, not waste time, not lose people, and say, ‘My formula is to stop the war and stop this whole tragedy and stop Russian aggression,'” Zelenskyy told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer after his speech. Tuesday at the United Nations General Assembly. “And he said how he sees it, how to push the Russians out of our country.” Otherwise, it does not present the global idea of peace.”
The Ukrainian president added: “So (if) the idea is to take part of our territory and give it to Putin, it’s not a peaceful formula.”
Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, has said he would be able to strike a deal with Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the war in Ukraine within 24 hours. Pressed on Sunday NBC’s “Meet the Press” on whether the deal would allow Putin to keep the land he took, Trump said: “No, no. I would make a fair deal for everyone. No, I would do it justice.”
Asked if that would be a win for Putin, Trump said: “You know, it’s something that could have been negotiated. Because there were certain parts, Crimea and other parts of the country that many people expected could happen. You could have agreed. To be honest, they could make a deal where there is less territory right now than Russia has already taken.”
Zelenskyi’s trip to the UN comes at a time when Ukraine is facing the strongest headwind yet from the US over its support for the war. The House caucus is openly hostile to providing any additional military aid to Ukraine, and it remains unclear whether House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will be willing to sign off on additional funding.
In the interview, Zelenskyy positively assessed Ukraine’s ongoing counter-offensive, which has raised concerns that it is failing to achieve the expected results. And he reiterated Ukraine’s desire to get long-range missiles from the U.S., something President Joe Biden is still considering, saying it would be a “loss” for Ukraine if it didn’t get them.
“We are at the finish line, I am sure of that,” Zelenskyy said.
Zelensky told Blitzer that he plans to meet with McCarthy when he travels to Washington later this week. Asked about those skeptical of offering more funding to Ukraine, Zelenskyy said it was difficult for those who had not seen the war up close to compare domestic issues such as civil rights or energy to the existential threat facing a country that is attacked.
“It’s so hard to understand when you’re at war and when you’re not at war,” Zelenskyy said. “Even if you come to war, to a country that is at war, when you come one day, you can understand more than living, hearing, thinking, reading. No, you cannot compare. It’s a different situation. That’s why I think 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 is bipartisan support for the funding package in the Senate, there is no sign yet that the Republican-led House is playing ball.
After his speech at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Zelenskiy will travel to Washington, DC, where he will hold talks with Biden at the White House and visit Capitol Hill. Zelenskyy made a surprise appearance at a joint session of Congress last December.
Zelensky’s trip to the Capitol this week gives him a chance to make a personal pitch to lawmakers skeptical of approving more war aid. The Ukrainian leader is scheduled to address a meeting of all senators, although a similar meeting in the House is not planned.
McCarthy, who is expected to meet with Zelensky along with other House leaders, declined to commit to more funding for Ukraine on Tuesday.
“Was Zelenskyj elected to Congress? Is he our president? I think not. I have questions, where is the responsibility for the money we have already spent? What is this plan to win?” the California Republican said.
Asked whether a major breakthrough in Ukraine’s military counter-offensive was possible this year, Zelenskyy replied: “I think nobody really knows.”
“But I think we will have more success,” he said, noting that Ukraine has achieved in the east.
Zelenskyy said he remained focused on acquiring additional long-range missiles from the US, arguing that Ukraine did not want them aimed at Russia, but to maintain the level of battlefield capabilities between the two sides.
Biden is expected to make a final decision soon on the deployment of the Army’s long-range tactical missile systems, also known as ATACMS, CNN reported earlier this month.
“It would be a loss for us” if the weapons were not provided, Zelenskyy said, adding that it would lead to “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 protect civilian areas.
Zelenskyy downplayed tensions between U.S. and Ukrainian officials over Ukraine’s military strategy in Russian-occupied Crimea when asked about Washington officials’ skepticism that Ukraine has stepped up missile attacks to try to disrupt Russian logistics and supply efforts.
“We think the same thing,” he said.
Nevertheless, Zelensky defended the strategy.
“Temporarily occupied Crimea – this is where they store weapons to kill our civilians,” he said. “They are shooting at our territory from Crimea.” And of course we have to see where their missiles are coming from and basically deal with that.”
This story has been updated with additional details.