Biden admin divided over path ahead for Ukraine as top US general Milley pushes for diplomacy


Washington
CNN:

Amid domestic chatter about the war in Ukraine, America’s top general, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, has pushed hard in recent weeks for a diplomatic solution as the fighting heads into a winter lull.

But Milley’s position is not widely supported by President Joe Biden’s national security team, including Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, neither of whom believe it is time to seriously push for talks on Ukraine, according to two administration officials familiar with the matter. with the discussion.

The result is a growing debate within the administration over whether Ukraine’s recent gains on the battlefield should prompt renewed efforts to reach an end to negotiations, according to officials.

Mili’s push for peace has gone public in recent days, just as Ukraine retook the city of Kherson. In remarks at the Economic Club of New York on Wednesday, Milli praised the Ukrainian military for breaking the stalemate against Russia, but said an outright military victory was out of reach.

Speaking at an event held at the Economic Club of New York, General Mark Milley, the chairman of the United States of America, called Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

“When there is an opportunity to negotiate, when peace can be achieved, use it. Seize the moment,” Milly said.

The comments did not surprise administration officials, given Milley’s advocacy for the position, but also raised concerns among some that the administration is divided in the eyes of the Kremlin.

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While some Biden officials are more open to exploring what diplomacy might look like, sources told CNN that many top diplomatic and national security officials are wary of giving Russian President Vladimir Putin any leverage at the negotiating table and believe that Ukrainians should decide when to negotiate, not the USA.

“It is the business of Ukrainians. “Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine,” Biden said at a press conference on Wednesday when asked about the possibility of talks.

In internal discussions, officials said, Milli tried to make it clear that he was not demanding a Ukrainian capitulation, but rather that he believed now was the best time to end the war before it dragged into the spring or beyond, leading to more a lot of death and destruction without changing the front line.

“He is in no rush to negotiate with Russia or put pressure on (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelensky,” said an official familiar with Milli’s thinking. “It is a discussion about the end of the struggle for a political final state.”

But that view is not widely shared in the administration. One official explained that the State Department is on the opposite side of the pole from Millie. That dynamic has led to a unique situation where the military pushes diplomacy more fervently than US diplomats.

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Milley’s stance comes as the US military has dug deep into US weapons stockpiles to support the Ukrainians and is currently scrambling around the world for supplies such as heaters and generators to support wintering Ukraine, raising fears of how long it could take. this war. has been preserved, officials said.

The United States plans to buy 100,000 rounds of artillery ammunition from South Korean arms companies to provide to Ukraine, a US official said, as part of a broader effort to find affordable weapons for the high-intensity fighting in Ukraine. As part of the deal, the US will buy 100,000 rounds of 155mm howitzer ammunition, which will then be shipped to Ukraine via the US.

State Department spokesman Ned Price did not say Thursday whether the State Department agreed with Milley’s position. Instead, Price veered toward a stance that U.S. officials have often taken in recent months: The US has sided with Zelensky, who has said a diplomatic solution is needed.

“Ukrainians have expressed a clear belief that this war will eventually end at the negotiating table. The Russians have sometimes voiced the same opinion,” Price said, before shifting the burden of proof to Putin.

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“Moscow is obliged not only by words, but also by deeds to show that it is ready to negotiate, that it is ready to face what the world has very clearly heard from our Ukrainian partners, and that they are ready and willing to sit at the negotiating table. and practice conscientiously.”

The internal spat comes as senior US officials, including Sullivan, have urged Ukraine in recent weeks to signal that it is still open to diplomatic talks with Russia, even after Zelenskyi in early October signed a decree excluding negotiations with Putin.

The US clearly understands why Zelensky refuses to negotiate with the country that attacks Ukraine daily, and Putin has shown little willingness to engage in serious discussions or make any concessions to Kiev. Instead, the U.S.’s immediate goal has been to change its messaging strategy to ensure that Ukraine can maintain the international support that has helped it succeed on the battlefield thus far.

“The United States will stand by Ukraine as long as it takes in this struggle,” Sullivan said during a recent visit to Ukraine. “There will be no wavering, no flagging, no bouncing in our support as we move forward.”

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