Volodymyr Zelensky threw down part challenge, part invitation on Sunday during an interview with Meet the Press on NBC.
“Former President Trump said that [in] about 24 hours, that he can manage it and finish the war,” Mr Zelesnky told NBC’s Kristin Welker, noting that President Joe Biden, his likely 2024 opponent, had already visited. “So he’s very welcome as well... I invite President Trump.”
The Ukrainian leader’s words hold a double-edged meaning. The invitation primarily serves as a response to Mr Trump’s ongoing comments about the Ukraine-Russia war, which he has laid at the feet of the Biden administration to play into the narrative of a “world falling apart” under the Democratic president’s leadership. Mr Zelensky has enjoyed a strong alliance with Mr Biden, and less so with his Republican counterpart whose party has emerged as increasingly sceptical of aid packages to the US’s European ally.
Secondly, the mention of Mr Biden serves to present another challenge to the former president: A play at his desire to look presidential, and as a credible alternative to the man in the White House. By reminding Mr Trump of the incumbent president’s clandestine visit to Ukraine earlier this year, the Ukrainian leader inherently suggests that Mr Trump lacks the courage to visit the war-torn country.
The Independent has reached out to Mr Trump’s spokesman for a response to the Ukrainian president’s invitation.
Mr Trump’s party continues to wrestle openly with the issue of whether to support Ukraine or Russia in the bloody war that has engulfed eastern Europe.
In the Senate and House alike, right-wingers continue to criticise the government of Ukraine as hopelessly corrupt and baulk at the idea of sending further military aid; House lawmakers such as Marjorie Taylor Greene, in particular, have vowed that all aid to the country will end should Mr Trump be elected president once again in 2024.
Mr Trump has taken a much more vague approach to commenting on the conflict. Apart from blaming Joe Biden and claiming that Vladimir Putin would not have invaded were he still in the White House, the former president has largely declined to take a stand on whether aid to Ukraine would still flow at the same rate or at all under a second Trump administration.
Earlier this year, the ex-president did seek to use the issue as a cudgel against the Biden administration in another way — by urging lawmakers to halt aid to Ukraine unless federal agencies publicise every “scrap of evidence” that had been gathered thus far in the various investigations into Hunter Biden.
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