Brian Bonner: What Trump can do to bring peace to Ukraine

Brian Bonner

The Sept. 7 prisoner swap between Ukraine and Russia was such big news that even U.S. President Donald J. Trump tweeted about it: “Russia and Ukraine just swapped large numbers of prisoners. Very good news, perhaps a first giant step to peace. Congratulations to both countries!”

Yes, it was very good news, especially for the families of the 70 people who regained their freedom, but Trump shouldn’t get his hopes up for peace. He’s one of the reasons that Russia is getting away with its six-year war against Ukraine — at a cost of 13,000 Ukrainian lives and 7 percent of its territory — and the even larger-scale killing that the Kremlin is leading in Syria, where 500,000 have been killed and a nation is in ruins.

Still, the prisoner swap engineered by President Volodymyr Zelensky, I believe, was favored by most Ukrainians, although many in the nation and abroad have correctly noted the many imbalances in the trade and what they show. For one, Ukraine sent back criminals to Russia, while Russia sent back innocent hostages, kidnapped on orders of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

As self-exiled Russian dissident Garry Kasparov noted in a series of tweets: “Putin is continuing his war on Ukraine, with fatalities nearly every day. New talk of a “peace process” is a joke when Putin could end the conflict instantly, just as he began it. “Use force, then negotiate” works well for him. Among the 35 hostages were the 24 Ukrainian sailors Putin kidnapped, their release demanded by a UN tribunal in May. (A 19-1 vote, the 1 was Russia.) Of course we are all happy they and the others are free. But this is not justice. Putin takes innocent hostages to use as bargaining chips. He is rewarded and praised for exchanging them for Russian spies & criminals, encouraging further terrorist acts.”

Then Kasparov went on to note the many crimes that Putin is responsible for abroad, including the 2006 fatal polonium poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, the 2018 poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal and the Russian military’s shootdown in 2014 of the Malaysian MH17 commercial flight, killing all 298 people aboard. Unfortunately, he — like most — left out Syria, where most of the Kremlin killing is happening today. But we got the point.

“As with Litvinenko, Skripal, and Putin’s many other murders abroad, MH17 proof is awkward for European leaders because they are cowards. They are complicit with Putin in covering them up,” Kasparov tweeted.

Yet another imbalance, or contrast, was the reception that the freed prisoners got. Putin didn’t show up on the tarmac to greet the returnees. Zelensky did. The Russian prisoners’ return to freedom in Moscow looked somber and lonely, according to the footage I saw, in stark contrast to the jubilation at Kyiv Boryspil International Airport. “And it’s likely that some of the Russian returnees would rather have stayed and won’t long survive the warm embrace of Mother Russia,” he also tweeted.

Which brings us back to how Trump can lead the West to pressure Russia to end its war:

  • Immediately retract all unconditional olive branches of letting Russia back into the G-7 or receiving sanctions relief until Ukraine has been given back full control of its territory, including Crimea and the eastern Donbas;
  • To the contrary, ratchet up the sanctions against Russia, its financial institutions, its trade ties and its projects, such as Nord Stream 2. Tiny Denmark showed courage is blocking the gas pipeline through its territory. Massive economic superpowers, such as the United States and the European Union, can wreak vast economic damage on Russia. But to do that, Trump has to stop acting like he’s working for Putin.
  • Related to point 2, forget about the compromising materials that Putin has in his possession. Trump’s actions would have caused anyone great embarrassment and his corruption would have landed many in prison (or him impeached). But he has proven he is shameless and that his base will stick by him no matter what.
  • Now is the time to pour on the aid to Ukraine, with conditions. Think of it as an anti-Barack Obama gesture, which Trump is always engaging in. His predecessor missed golden opportunities to come to Ukraine right after the EuroMaidan Revolution sent Viktor Yanukovych packing to his Kremlin masters. Such a presidential visit, combined with sustained tough love, might have set President Petro Poroshenko on the right course. Instead, Poroshenko squandered his mandate on his obstruction of reforms, toleration of corruption and alienation of the public. A presidential visit now, combined with a multibillion-dollar aid package, worked in coordination with the EU, could do wonders now.
  • At a minimum, stop sending attack dog Rudolph Giuliani to press Zelensky for bogus investigations into whether ex-U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden instructed ex-Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin to scuttle the investigation of Burisma energy firm on which son Hunter Biden was a board member. (Shokin actually obstructed the investigation, not Biden). The other Giuliani red herring is asking for an investigation into Ukraine’s interference in the 2016 presidential election because of release of ledgers showing ex-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort got paid millions of dollars in undeclared and untaxed money working for Yanukovych. (This was a good anti-corruption step, which helped put U.S. prosecutors on the trail that led to Manafort’s justified convictions and prison term. It should be praised, not criticized.)
  • Invite Zelenky and the freed prisoners to the Oval Office straight away.

Many others are of the school that the farther that Trump stays away from Ukraine, the better. The problem with this theory is that presidential leadership is needed in getting the democratic family of nations moving in the same direction on policy. 

And in this, Trump has two failings: no leadership and no respect for democracy.

So, until he takes up the mantle of leader of the free world, if he ever does, the West’s Ukraine policy will never reach its potential, or stop Russia’s war, although Congress and able members of the administration and U.S. State Department are doing a good job so far of preventing Trump’s complete abandonment of democratic Ukraine in favor of autocratic Russia.

(c) KyivPost

8 comments

    • Agreed.
      “As with Litvinenko, Skripal, and Putin’s many other murders abroad, MH17 proof is awkward for European leaders because they are cowards. They are complicit with Putin in covering them up,” Kasparov tweeted.”
      The answer to a Ukraine’s problems, Russia’s problems and many of the problems of the world is staring us in the face: Gary Kasparov. A great man and a close friend of the late Boris Nemtsov, he is the right one (possibly the only one) who could lead RuSSia into civilization. Sadly it seems that this can only happen in a more benign parallel universe where America is not led by an unprincipled putler stooge.

  1. A puppet can never be a leader… A good read though, except for ‘tiny Denmark’… we haven’t sold Greenland as far as i know… 😀

      • Greenland is danish since 1814 (2 centuries), until the 1970’s under full danish rule, since then not more autonomous than Northern Ireland within the UK. Anyway, yes the EU is Caesar’s, Napoleon’s and Hitler’s Empire in one, with strong Ottoman blend…

        • As I understand it, it was only formalised in law in 1933? Like a lot of valuable real estate, there has been a lot of disputes over the years and centuries!
          Re your ‘Ottoman’ reference, I recently spoke to a French acquaintance who lives in Normandy, where I used to have some business interests. He said this traditionally peaceful and rather beautiful area has been transformed by arrivals in such formerly pleasant towns as Le Havre, of hordes of degenerates from savage countries like Syria. The effect on young girls has been dramatic. They just aren’t safe any more. Nor are young boys. Unfortunately the frogs do everything they can to help these invaders get to their desired destination: benefits land : aka Britain, land of mug taxpayers and bottomless socialist welfare handouts.

  2. Part of the issue with the degenerate hordes heading to the UK to partake of the bottomless social welfare system is their perception everything is free. They also hold a perception they are superior.
    Part of the solution is to tighten qualification for social benefits by requiring to work and contribute for a year before becoming eligible to collect.
    Another part of the solution is to require citizenship applicants to swear allegence to the new country and to abide by existing and established laws. Any talk of sharia shiit gets a return trip to source with a no return policy!
    And ban full face coverings. If they don’t like that, no matter the arguement, they go back. On arguements and court cases. They agree or good ridance!

    • Better solution, not just for the Anglian Land… :

      1) One is only allowed to collect for the same period of time equal to the period on the job

      2) Naturalized citizens who commit crimes with prison sentences will have their new citizenship revoked and will be deported.

      3) Refugees have no right to stay for longer than 3 years

      4) Islamists and terrorists will have their citizenship revoked, will be deported and denied re-entry

What is your opinion?