Top US general’s comments anger Ukraine – Politico
The US government is attempting to reassure Ukraine that it’s not forcing peace talks with Moscow after a top US general alluded to “a window” for a diplomatic solution to the conflict, Politico reported on Monday, citing sources. According to the outlet, his comments “angered” Ukrainian officials.
Washington is signaling to Kiev that any winter lull in fighting “doesn’t mean talks should happen imminently,” while vowing to continue supporting the country militarily, Ukrainian and US officials interviewed by Politico said.
Ukrainian concerns that the US could push Kiev into seeking a peace settlement with Moscow were fueled by recent comments by General Mark Milley, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said Ukraine could not achieve a military victory while noting that winter may present an opportunity for diplomatic engagement. “When there’s an opportunity to negotiate, when peace can be achieved, seize it. Seize the moment,” he stated.
Russia and the US held high-level talks in Ankara on Monday. The White House later insisted that any “settlement of the war in Ukraine” was not on the table, suggesting that negotiations revolved around nuclear weapons and US citizens in Russian custody, while Moscow has refused to disclose what the sides had talked about.
According to US officials, Washington's mixed messaging on a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine conflict is “straining… [the] relationship” between Washington and Kiev. This is further underscored by an emerging rift between US officials, with some reportedly arguing that it is too soon for peace talks while others believe winter presents a chance for diplomacy. Against this backdrop, Milley's comments are said to have “angered” Ukrainian officials.
The latter group has been pressing their counterparts in Washington to consider this opportunity “more seriously,” but they have so far failed to persuade US President Joe Biden and many members of his administration, the report says.
Moscow has repeatedly stated that it would not rule out talks with Kiev, accusing Ukraine of a lack of engagement. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has set out conditions for any negotiations with Russia, which include the “restoration of [Ukraine’s] territorial integrity,” “compensation for all war damage,” and “punishment of every war criminal.”
In October, he also signed a decree banning any negotiations with President Vladimir Putin.
In the early days of the conflict, Kiev had struck a different tone, sending a team of negotiators to Istanbul in March to discuss a settlement with Russia. Later, however, it abruptly withdrew from these talks, allegedly due to the efforts of former UK prime minister Boris Johnson. Last month, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov indicated that any future talks with Ukraine alone were unlikely to succeed, as any agreement between the two countries would be “instantly canceled upon orders” from the West.