Urgent: Biden and Zelenskyy Should Immediately Challenge Putin to Separate Live 2-Hour “Zoom” Debates with No Moderator, Just a Chess Stop-Clock.

With Ukraine invaded and mercilessly bombarded by Russia and Putin threatening to use nuclear weapons, Biden and Zelenskyy should immediately challenge Putin to separate live broadcast/streamed 2-hour remote “Zoom” debates with no moderator, with just a chess stop-clock for a total speaking time of one hour each, with a three minute maximum per alternating segment. Biden and Zelenskyy would schedule their Zoom debates one week from their public challenge, since there is no time to waste. Ukrainian civilians and infrastructure are being bombed by Russia every day. Already, millions of Ukrainian civilians have been displaced, with thousands maimed and killed since Russia’s unprovoked invasion in February. If Putin refuses to debate Zelenskyy and Biden, he will lose face worldwide, not just among Russians.

The televised/streamed debates are essential to get through to the Russian people, who are brainwashed and misinformed by their state controlled media. Having them exposed to the truth, and having them realize that Putin has lied to them continuously, is essential to turn Russian public opinion against the invasion of Ukraine. Most Russians believe Putin’s propaganda that Ukraine and NATO were planning to attack Russia before the invasion, and that they constitute a major threat to Russia’s security, which explains their backing Putin.

Such debates are also essential to maintain popular support for NATO’s efforts to defend Ukraine, given the difficulties of greatly increased oil and gas prices sustained as a consequence of the war. There are increasing popular and even political calls in the NATO countries for a peace agreement which would benefit Russia. Biden and Zelenskyy must absolutely equate such calls as the equivalent of appeasement of Hitler, and make clear that appeasement of Putin would be a disaster not just for Ukraine, but for democracy and human rights. Such appeasement would reward Putin’s scandalous violation of international law and morality. It would completely undermine the United Nations’ legitimacy if one of its own members violated its Charter and its Universal Declaration of Human Rights and got away with it. What’s worse in Russia’s case is that Russia is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, whose task is to enforce the Charter and the Universal Declaration.

The citizens of Russia, Ukraine, and the United States (and of the rest of the world) deserve to hear first hand what’s on the mind of Putin, Zelenskyy, and Biden. A simultaneous written transcription and translation at the bottom of the television/computer screen would be required, instead of simultaneous translator voiceovers, so that there would be little room for mischaracterizations of what was said.

In the Zoom debate, Biden, Zelenskyy and Putin would ask each other whatever questions they wished on the Ukraine invasion, on personal, historical, and policy matters, no holds barred. They would agree that no question is off the table, taboo, or too sensitive.

Biden should ask Putin why he liked the Soviet communist dictatorship and served in the KGB to defend it. Why Putin despised capitalism and wanted to eliminate it. What made him change his mind on communism. Whether he is grateful to the USA and the West for having staunchly opposed communism, which led to Russia finally discarding the failed communist system. If he regrets communism having ruled the USSR for seven decades, impoverishing its citizens. What he thinks of the Berlin Wall. Why he stated that the collapse of the Soviet Union was an enormous tragedy. When did he become a Christian, and why?

Biden should ask Putin why he allowed Russia’s large state owned companies (including oil, gas, mineral, steel, and aluminum companies) to be owned by oligarchs, instead of privatizing them and distributing their shares equally to Russia’s citizens who would greatly benefit from dividends and capital gains. Biden should point out that just from oil, dividends would be over $2,000 per person annually, which means over $8,000 per family of four.

Biden should also ask Putin what he thinks of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights which all members of the United Nations have undersigned. He should ask Putin whether he thinks the USSR and Russia have been faithful to all the obligations listed by the Universal Declaration, and then point out where they have not. Whether Putin thinks it was correct for the USSR to imprison the writer Solzhenitsyn and the physicist Orlov, to send into exile the physicist Andrei Sakharov. Whether Putin thinks the USSR, as a member of the United Nations, followed the principles of the UN’s Charter, and then point out where it did not. What Putin thinks of the USSR sending tanks into Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 to remove their liberalizing governments. Biden should ask why Putin violated Ukraine’s sovereignty by invading Crimea and other parts of southeastern Ukraine, in violation of the UN Charter, instead of going to the United Nations and ask for his concerns to be addressed peacefully. Also, why Putin thinks the U.S. sanctions following Russia’s illegal invasion of Crimea and the rest of Ukraine are unfair and unjustified.

Biden and Zelenskyy should ask Putin where are the welcoming Ukrainians he expected to see, applauding Russia’s invasion of their country. How Putin can say that Ukraine does not exist as a nation, when it has been a sovereign member of the United Nations for 30 years, and when Russia signed the Budapest Memorandum with Ukraine in 1994, whereby in exchange for Ukraine’s nuclear missiles Russia guaranteed Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty. How Putin can say Ukrainians are just Russians with a southern dialect, and then bomb them! How can Putin say that, when the Ukrainians are putting up an incredibly brave resistance against Russian invaders, against a Russia with a much bigger population and military. How Putin can expect to bomb Ukraine, not just its military installations but its civilian infrastructure, causing the displacement of millions of Ukrainians along with thousands killed and maimed, and for Ukraine not to be allowed to counterattack and bomb Russia? How can Putin justify calling Zelenskyy a fascist and Nazi? How does Putin define fascism?

Zelenskyy and Biden should tell Putin that he is behaving like Napoleon and Hitler by invading Ukraine, that he must be stopped there otherwise he will invade other nations. Biden should make clear that NATO won’t be intimidated by Putin’s outrageous nuclear threats/blackmail; that should Russia make use of just one nuclear or chemical weapon, NATO will assume he will use many more, so appeasement will be out of the question, forceful retaliation on Russian soil will follow. Biden should assert that NATO and Ukraine will make sure Russia is chased out of all of Ukraine, including Crimea, and made to pay reparations to Ukraine and NATO. Biden and Zelenskyy should show photos of Russia’s outrageous destruction of Mariupol, asking Putin why he doesn’t admit Russia is committing war crimes. One concession to Putin would be Russia’s continued control over its Sebastopol military base.

If Putin declines to participate in the Zoom conversation within a week, Biden and Zelenskyy should show up anyway at the scheduled time for the 2-hour live streamed Zoom debate, with a cardboard cutout of Putin placed on a nearby chair, and proceed with their prepared statements for one hour, including the questions they would have asked Putin, to be followed by answering questions from the global press during the second hour.

© Edward Sonnino 2022

October 22, 2022


Born and raised in New York City. Best course in college: history of art. Profession: economic forecaster and portfolio manager. Fluent in French and Italian.

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Edward Sonnino

Born and raised in New York City. Best course in college: history of art. Profession: economic forecaster and portfolio manager. Fluent in French and Italian.