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Donald Trump Ukraine Russia war
Former President of the United States Donald Trump speaking with attendees at the 2023 Turning Point Action Conference at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida.. Photo: Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0

Trump’s “peace plan” is a blueprint for Russian victory over Ukraine and West

Security analysts warn that Trump’s proposed 24-hour negotiation strategy could lead to Ukraine ceding up to 22.5% of its territory, including crucial access to the Black Sea, while abandoning its NATO aspirations.
Trump’s “peace plan” is a blueprint for Russian victory over Ukraine and West

While Trump has yet not presented a comprehensive plan to end the war in Ukraine, Politico has attempted to piece together the outline of a plan based on his many statements, interviews with former national security officials and defense experts who might serve in a second Trump term, and an article published by the Trump-affiliated Center for Renewing America.

It paints an intriguing and disturbing picture.

According to the article, Trump is considering a deal with Russia under which NATO would not expand eastward, particularly into Ukraine and Georgia. Asked  if he was willing to take NATO expansion into Ukraine off the table, Trump in June replied that promising NATO membership to Ukraine had been a “mistake” and “really why this war started.”

Additionally, Trump is apparently in talks with Putin about “how much Ukrainian territory Moscow can keep.” Trump’s plans might involve pressing Ukraine to cede Crimea and Donbas to Russia.

He has vowed to negotiate a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine within 24 hours if elected, even before taking office. Asked in the debate with Biden on 27 June if Putin’s terms for negotiations from 14 June were acceptable, Trump said no. His answer, however, does not stand up to closer scrutiny.

Zelenskyy calls Trump’s alleged peace plan for Ukraine “very primitive”

Territorial concessions

Putin demands that Ukraine must cede Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson oblasts, and Crimea to Russia. This is 22.5% of Ukraine’s territory. Consequently, it would also lose most of its territorial waters and exclusive economic zones. It requires Ukraine to abandon millions of Ukrainian citizens presently exposed to Russian war crimes, filtration, and genocide.

Trump believes Ukraine, in contradiction to international law, must cede territory to Russia to achieve peace.

“How much Ukrainian territory Moscow can keep” is, however, not open for negotiations. Russian constitution explicitly prohibits the return of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson and Crimea to Ukraine. More importantly, Putin knows that Trump has no intentions of using military power to enforce his will on Russia. Nor does he have public or political support for a military intervention.

Withdrawal of forces

Putin demands that Ukrainian forces must withdraw from Ukrainian-controlled territory in Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhziia, and Kherson oblasts, of which Ukraine presently controls 1%, 40%, 25% and 25% respectively and consequently, give up the provincial capitals Zaporizhzhia City and Kherson City.

If Trump agrees to Russian territorial demands, he also indirectly agrees that Ukraine must withdraw.

Ukraine will, however, not cede territory or withdraw willingly (if at all). If it does, it will be because of the combined threats from Russia and the US. This will be seen as a US betrayal by both Ukraine and its international partners. It would reward an aggressor for its gross violation of international law.

NATO membership

According to Putin, Ukraine must abandon its goal to join NATO and, consequently, not host foreign military bases and conduct foreign military exercises on its territory, leaving it extremely vulnerable to future Russian attacks.

Trump agrees. By promising that NATO would not “expand eastward,” Trump will, however, be denying countries one of the core provisions of the Charter of Paris for a New Europe: “the freedom of States to choose their own security arrangements,” including the right to seek protection from Russia under a democratic, defensive military alliance.

Change of government

Putin demands that Ukraine must agree to “denazification.” Most experts see this as a demand for a change of Government in favor of pro-Russian proxies.

Trump has not expressed any support for this demand. However, by forcing Ukraine to cede territory and withdraw, denying it any hope of NATO membership and thereby leaving it vulnerable to future Russian attacks (that most of Europe knows is inevitable), and abandoning millions of Ukrainian citizens on occupied territories to filtration and genocide, he would inevitably trigger a change of Government.

Lacking Western security guarantees – acknowledging that there are no alternatives to NATO membership – the only solution that offers relative security for the Ukrainian population is either mass emigration to Europe and/or realignment with Russia (at the peril of Europe)

Military strength

Putin demands that Ukraine must agree to full demilitarization, in essence leaving its future security at the mercy of Russia.

Trump is not seeking demilitarization of Ukraine. His policy, however, is still likely to support the Russian demand. The US has long denied Ukraine the critical military capabilities needed to defeat Russia. Trump is unlikely to change this policy, given his criticism of the scale of US defence aid.

Given the slow and gradual US defense aid to Ukraine while fighting for its very existence, there is every reason to fear a further decline when peace has been (temporarily) restored.

The equipment lost on the battlefield is unlikely to be replaced, leaving Ukraine militarily inferior to Russia. The latter will, however, use the temporary truce to recover, rearm, and prepare for a new offensive.

Nuclear arms

Putin demands that Ukraine must remain nuclear-free and, therefore, at the mercy of Russia.

Trump’s position is unclear. However, the US, the UK, Russia, and Ukraine signed the Budapest Memorandum in 1994. Under the terms of the memorandum, Ukraine agreed to relinquish its nuclear arsenal for politically binding security assurances to respect its independence and sovereignty, which guaranteed its existing borders. The US is not likely to return a military capability it helped abolish 30 years ago.

International borders

Putin demands that the international community recognize Crimea and the 4 illegally annexed and occupied oblasts as part of Russia, which will permanently undermine the principle of state sovereignty and the inviolability of international borders.

While the US is unlikely to recognize the new international borders de jure, Trump’s acceptance of what Putin calls the “new territorial realities” implies a de facto recognition.

Sanctions

Putin demands the removal of all Western sanctions against Russia.

Trump does not regard support for Ukraine to be in the US security interest and desires a swift end to the conflict through a negotiated settlement.

According to Trump, one of the great sins of the Ukrainian war and the resulting policy on Russia is that the policy has pushed Russia toward China and made it more dependent on China.

Seeing Communist China as the greatest threat to US interests, turning Russia away from China would most likely involve sanctions relief.

Resolving or fuelling the war?

President Putin claims he is not suggesting a temporary truce or ceasefire but seeking a resolution to the war. Putin is asking to be trusted after having started a full-scale war despite more than 200 talks and negotiations, 20 ceasefires, and a decade of deceit and manipulation.

This is one of the few times he can be trusted to deliver on his pledge. If he is offered “peace” on his terms, Russia will indeed be one step closer to defeating Ukraine and ending the war.

The conditions are not a call for peace but a demand for Ukraine’s capitulation. Equally importantly, it would allow him to escalate the ongoing confrontation with the West further.

While Western politicians have consistently portrayed the war as a “Russia-Ukraine war,” it was always a confrontation between Russia and NATO. The West was always Russia’s enemy. It is reflected in its strategic documents, its stated aim and objectives, its threat perception, its public statements and rhetoric, and its ultimatums and nuclear threats.

It is not least reflected in its aggression across the US and the EU, including but not limited to:

Russia has been waging a hybrid war to destabilize NATO for the past decade.

As stressed in the report “Why the West cannot let Russia win,” a Ukrainian defeat would again allow Russia to become a great power.

Already the world’s largest nuclear power, it would gain the economy, additional energy and commodities, technology, and human resources needed to achieve strategic parity with the US and China. This would allow Russia to escalate its ongoing confrontation with the US and Europe.

The consequences would be devastating for European security and stability.

Trump has failed to understand the true nature of the war. He cannot ask for peace only if he wants to resolve the war. He must force Russia to abandon its Great Power ambitions and its efforts to ensure strategic parity with the US and China. Its subjugation of Ukraine is essential for its ability to achieve this ambition. Russia will not stop before its ambitions become unachievable.

Trump’s “peace plan” – as pieced together by his statements and interviews of his close associates – will inadvertently support Putin’s efforts to defeat both Ukraine and the West.

The US will have delivered what Putin demands, setting the conditions for Western disengagement as it uses the truce to recover, rearm, and prepare for the decisive attack on Ukraine and, ultimately, the escalation of the ongoing confrontation with the US and Europe.

Lacking a clearly articulated plan to end the war, the “plan” pieced together by various statements and interviews is incompatible with NATO’s vital security interests.

The fact that President Putin supports former President Trump’s desire to quickly end the war while reiterating his “commitment to pursuing a “final” end to the war that would achieve his goal of destroying Ukrainian statehood” should sound alarm bells.

Hans Petter Midttun is educated at the Royal Norwegian Naval Academy, the Norwegian National Defence Command and Staff College and the Norwegian Defense College, as well as education from the Federal Defence Forces of Germany. He has broad international experience from both operations and postings abroad (NATO, Germany, Spain, Belgium, and Ukraine). The service includes seven years in command of frigates and six NATO deployments. Midttun put into operation, tested and verified the operational capabilities of one of the newest frigates in the Norwegian Navy. He served at the Norwegian Joint Headquarters and Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) before being posted to Ukraine as the Norwegian Defence Attache (2014-2018). Based on previous experiences, Midttun is presently publishing…

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