Trump reviews plan to halt US military aid to Ukraine unless it negotiates peace with Moscow

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.
Last Updated : 25 June 2024, 06:01 IST

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Washington: Two key advisers to Donald Trump have presented him with a plan to end Russia's war in Ukraine -- if he wins the presidential election -- that involves telling Ukraine it will only get more US weapons if it enters into peace talks.

The United States would at the same time warn Moscow that any refusal to negotiate would result in increased US 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.

They have presented their strategy to Trump, and the former president responded favorably, Fleitz said. "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.

However, 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 discussed specifics.

The proposal would mark a dramatic shift in the US position on the war and would face opposition from European allies and within Trump's own Republican Party.

The Kremlin and Ukraine's foreign ministry did not respond to requests for comment on the plan.

NATO membership on hold

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 (Russian President Vladimir) 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.

Russia invaded neighboring Ukraine in February 2022. Until some gains by Russia in recent months, the frontlines barely moved since the end of that year, despite tens of thousands of dead on both sides in relentless trench warfare, the bloodiest fighting in Europe since World War Two.

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" would likely 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," said Trump spokesperson Cheung. "The war between Russia and Ukraine never would have happened if Donald J. Trump were president. So sad."

The Biden campaign said Trump is not interested in standing up to Putin.

"Donald Trump heaps praise on Vladimir Putin every chance he gets, and he's made clear he won't stand against Putin or stand up for democracy," said campaign spokesperson James Singer.

Upper hand

Some Republicans will be reticent to pay for more resources to Ukraine under the plan. The US 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 of Foreign Relations.

Putin said this month that the war could end if Ukraine agreed to drop its ambitions to join NATO and hand over four eastern and southern provinces claimed by Russia.

During a meeting of the United Nations Security Council last week, French and British ambassadors reiterated their view that peace can only be sought when Russia withdraws from Ukrainian territory, a position Kyiv shares.

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 US troops to Ukraine and appeared skeptical of making Ukraine a NATO member. He has indicated he would quickly move to cut aid to the eastern European country if elected.

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

Published 25 June 2024, 06:01 IST

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