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The problem with Trump’s imagined ‘peace deal’ in Ukraine

Donald Trump thinks it would be "easy" for him to end the war in Ukraine in one day. Just don't ask him how he'd pull this off.


Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban argued a few months ago that he had an underappreciated plan to end Russia’s war in Ukraine. “Hope for peace goes by the name of Donald Trump,” the authoritarian leader declared.

As Orban argued, the conflict could be resolved through a diplomatic agreement reached by the United States and Russia, but in order to ensure success, the former American president would have to lead the U.S. delegation.

In other words, a leader who’s a little too cozy with Putin believes a different leader, who’s also a little too cozy with Putin, can resolve the crisis by engaging in negotiations with Putin. What could possibly go wrong? (Trump used his social media platform to endorse Orban’s recommendation.)

As is too often the case, some Republicans apparently saw merit in the Hungarian leader’s vision. Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas, for example, appeared on Fox News last week and urged the Biden White House to call Trump, who in turn would call the Russian leader “and end this war.” Nehls did not appear to be kidding.

The former president appears to be thinking along the same lines. At a campaign event in South Carolina over the weekend, Trump told attendees:

“I will say this: Even now, despite tremendous loss of lives and destruction of much of that country, I would have a peace deal negotiated within 24 hours. You could make a peace deal, you could make a deal for both, right now, 24 hours.”

“That country,” of course, was a reference to Ukraine.

The Republican pushed the same line in New Hampshire, insisting he could “solve” the crisis “in 24 hours.”

By way of his social media platform, Trump has repeated the same boast, adding that it would be “easy“ to end the war.

Those waiting for details as to how the former president would easily end the war within one day will have to keep waiting: Trump keeps saying he could resolve the crisis, but he hasn’t said how. We’re apparently supposed to take his word for it.

That is, however, a tough sell, in part because the Republican went to almost comical lengths to make Putin happy, and in part because Trump also launched an illegal extortion scheme that targeted Ukraine, leaving the country weakened ahead of the Russian invasion.

But let’s also not forget how the former president responded to the crisis at the outset. In case anyone needs a refresher, Trump described Putin’s attack on Ukraine as “genius” and “very savvy.” Soon after, he kept going, issuing a written statement touting Putin and admonishing his own country’s president. At a Mar-a-Lago event a few days after the start of the war, Trump again told an assembled audience how “smart” Putin was for launching this offensive.

In the days that followed, Trump used a lot of passive-voice descriptions of the Russian invasion, characterizing the war as if it were a natural disaster, for which no one is to blame, instead of a deliberate and unprovoked attack.

At one point, the former president said there were “things” President Joe Biden could do to end the crisis “pretty quickly,” but when Trump got around to sharing specific ideas, they included a suggestion that the United States could put Chinese flags on our F-22 fighter jets. This was not smart.

The idea of a new “peace deal” certainly sounds great, but those inclined to believe the former president’s rhetoric, or see him as a diplomat who could negotiate an agreement, aren’t paying close enough attention.