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27 Nov, 2023 17:05

US denies pushing Ukraine into peace talks

Kiev will decide when to re-start negotiations, a State Department official said
US denies pushing Ukraine into peace talks

A US State Department official has denied reports that the US and Germany are withholding arms shipments to Ukraine in order to force Kiev to negotiate a peace deal with Moscow. The alleged plan was reported by German tabloid Bild last week.

Speaking to the press on Monday, Assistant US Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs James O'Brien said that Washington has no policy of pushing Ukraine to the negotiating table.

“We’ve always said that this is a matter for Ukraine to decide,” O’Brien said, according to Reuters.

Citing anonymous sources, Bild claimed on Friday that the US and Germany are rationing weapons deliveries to Ukraine in a bid to convince Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky that he cannot recapture lost territory. By providing Kiev with precisely enough weapons to hold the current front line, but not to make any considerable breakthrough, Washington and Berlin aim to nudge Zelensky into talks without explicitly asking him, Bild reported.

Regardless of whether the report is true or not, the US has been providing Ukraine with progressively smaller arms packages in recent months. While in Kiev last week, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced a new tranche of arms and ammunition worth $100 million, a reduction from the $125-million tranche announced at the beginning of the month, and dramatically smaller than the $400-million and $500-million deliveries that took place earlier this year.

Amid this declining military support, US President Joe Biden is currently pressing Congress to approve more than $60 billion in additional funding for Kiev. The Republican Party controls the House of Representatives, however, and Republican lawmakers are split between hardline conservatives who outright refuse to back further spending on Ukraine, and a mainstream that wants any aid package tied to increased funding for US border security.

Some 45% of Americans believe their country is sending too much money to Ukraine, according to an AP-NORC poll published last week.

While American officials have consistently maintained that Ukraine alone will decide when to seek peace, Ukraine’s government and civil society are “utterly dependent” on US aid to function, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told CNBC earlier this month. As such, Ukrainians need to “grow up and decide how to develop our country,” Aleksey Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, warned on Friday.

Despite Ukraine’s summer counteroffensive failing to recapture lost ground and resulting in the loss of more than 103,000 men, per Russian figures, Zelensky told Reuters last week that his country would continue fighting until it recaptured all territories within its 1991 borders, even though large swaths of this land are now part of Russia.