Senior US officials in recent weeks have urged Ukraine to show it is still open to diplomatic talks with Russia, amid concerns that public support for the country’s war effort could wane without an apparent end to the conflict and neither side willing to start peace. negotiations, sources familiar with the negotiations told CNN.
The talks are not aimed at encouraging the Ukrainians to negotiate now – rather, the US wants Kyiv to clearly show that it wants to find a solution to the conflict and that Ukraine has high morale, the sources said.
Officials including National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan began urgently pressuring Ukrainians to change their rhetoric after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree in early October barring any negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The order came because of Russia’s annexation of eastern Ukraine after a referendum.
“We are ready for dialogue with Russia, but with another Russian president,” Zelensky said last month.
Sullivan discussed the issue directly with Zelensky during a trip to Kyiv last week, the sources said. He expressed the view of the US that directly condemning any talks with Putin is playing on the Russian leader by influencing the Kremlin’s statement that the Ukrainian people refuse to talk.
On Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was “open” to negotiations with Ukraine but “at the moment we do not see such an opportunity, because Kyiv has turned into law.” [their decision] not to continue any negotiations.”
The Washington Post first reported that the US is urging Ukraine to appear open to negotiations.
The advice to Ukrainians also comes ahead of a harsh winter in Europe, which is already experiencing rising energy costs tied to the Russian invasion and has warned of possible blackouts and gas cuts from electricity.
“I don’t think they are unaware that now is the time for negotiations. Just more rhetoric,” a Western official told CNN, referring to the White House. “They understand that there is no clarity from the Russian people that they are open to serious discussions.”
“You can get everyone to agree on this principle, but the devil is in the details,” the official added.
Back in the US, Republicans have begun to signal that they may be less willing to support Ukraine financially and militarily if the GOP takes back control of the House of Representatives.
“I think there needs to be accountability going forward,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told CNN. “You always want, not a blank check, but make sure the resources are going where they’re needed. And make sure Congress, and the Senate, have the power to debate it openly. ”
Sullivan has spoken with Russian officials, including his Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev and Putin’s foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov, about reducing the Kremlin’s rhetoric about war, the sources said, and the consequences should Russia walk away from using a nuclear weapon.
Zelensky said repeatedly in the last eight months of the war that Ukraine is willing to engage in political dialogue with the Russians, and the US understands why it does not want to sit down with a man who blows up his country every day. US officials have therefore not tried to push Ukraine to the negotiating table, the sources said, especially since it is clear that Russia has not shown any temptation to negotiate.
Rather, the immediate goal of the US has been to try to get the Ukrainians to change their messaging strategy, the sources added, so that the country can maintain international financial and military support as long as necessary.
“The United States will be with Ukraine for as long as it takes in this fight,” Sullivan said in Kyiv last week. “There will be no faltering, no faltering, no wavering in our support as we move forward.”
After Sullivan left Kyiv, Zelensky said in his nightly speech “we are ready for peace, a fair and just peace, a formula we have said many times. The world knows our place. This is respect for the Charter of the United Nations, respect for the dignity of our land, respect for our people and proper responsibility for terrorism – this is the punishment to all those who are guilty and full compensation by Russia for the damage done to us.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said any diplomatic solution must be worked out by Ukraine and Russia and declined to assess what negotiations might look like. But when asked if there could be a diplomatic solution without regime change in Russia, Xabiso said regime change is not the goal of the US, or of Ukraine.
The talks come as some US officials question the ability of Ukraine’s armed forces to completely remove Russia from all areas it occupies in Ukraine – a concern the US has held secret for months.
Zelensky has said that Kyiv’s goal is to liberate all of Ukraine, including Crimea, and that the Ukrainian military has repeatedly exceeded Western expectations. But Russia has been preparing defense lines designed to slow down Ukraine’s advance, and Ukraine’s offensive in the east and south is still small compared to the size of the areas taken, although they have returned thousands of kilometers.
The rush of progress has shifted to a slower, more brutal battle on the front lines that change less and less weekly. And with winter fast approaching, a defense official says the battlefield is likely to become stagnant and less powerful. That could create a window for diplomacy, as a direct military victory would be unpopular with Russia or Ukraine.
The outcome of the fighting around Kherson in southern Ukraine could be clear in the next two to three weeks, the official added.
It’s not the first time that the US and Ukraine have disagreed on messages about the war. US officials have urged Ukrainian officials, including Zelensky, to appear more appreciative of the help they have received from the West.
In a phone call with US President Joe Biden in June to discuss another 1 billion US dollars to Ukraine, Zelensky listed additional weapons and equipment that were still needed in Ukraine – in response, Biden was “direct” with Zelensky about his belief that the US he is already doing everything he can to help the country, a source familiar with the conversation said.
As CNN previously reported, in addition, the disagreement between Zelensky and Biden administration officials has risen in the weeks before Russia attacked Ukraine, amid disagreements about how to interpret and communicate publicly about US intelligence tests that said Russia could be preparing a major attack. Ukraine.