Sylvie Claire / November 20, 2022
The United States is increasingly calling on Ukraine to be open to peace negotiations with Russia, with a senior Pentagon official saying it will be difficult for Kiev forces to reclaim territory won by Moscow during the war.
U.S. Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley stressed Wednesday that U.S. support has not wavered, but said Kiev is in a good position to start talks as its soldiers are managing to hold out against Russia.
He said the Russians are now strengthening their grip on 20 percent of Ukrainian territory and that the front lines from the city of Kharviv to Kherson are stabilizing.
“The probability of a Ukrainian military victory, consisting of driving the Russians out of all of Ukraine, including … Crimea, the probability of this happening soon is not high, militarily speaking,” he said.
“There can be a political solution where, politically, the Russians withdraw, that’s possible,” Mark Milley added.
The White House reiterated Friday that only Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was in a position to approve the opening of negotiations between Ukraine and Russia, rejecting any notion of American pressure on Kiev.
We also said it was up to President Zelensky to say if and when he would be ready for negotiations and what form those negotiations would take,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
“No one in the United States is encouraging him, pushing him or pushing him to the negotiating table,” he said.
But earlier this month, Volodymyr Zelensky signaled that he no longer required Vladimir Putin’s departure to begin negotiations, a change of course that came after pressure from the White House.
American support for Ukraine remains strong. This week the White House asked Congress to provide an additional $38 billion in support to Kiev.
But at the same time the executive branch did not contradict the view of General Mark Milley, who said last week in New York that Ukraine had suffered 100,000 battlefield deaths and injuries – a figure close to that estimated for the Russian army – and 40,000 civilian casualties.
These numbers could rise further if Ukraine persists in fighting to try to regain its pre-2014 borders, Mark Milley further suggested.
In particular, he compared the situation to World War I, when both sides were mired in a conflict that killed a million people between August and December 1914, with a stabilized front line and an unwillingness to hold peace talks. Four years later, at the end of 1918, 20 million people had died.
“So when there is an opportunity to negotiate, when peace can be achieved, seize it,” he said.
Mark Milley’s comments have raised concerns that the U.S. wants to revisit Kiev’s goal of reclaiming all Russian-occupied land, including Crimea and Donbass, which Ukraine lost control of in 2014.
Charles Kupchan, a professor at Georgetown University, believes that the Biden administration is probably trying to ensure that the door remains open to negotiations, and that Mark Milley is simply already “looking a little more ahead. »
I don’t think it’s premature. I think it’s prudent. The Russians and Ukrainians should keep the possibility that there is a diplomatic way,” he said.
And it is also a signal to Volodymyr Zelensky, whose statements are testing the patience of some allies.
“Zelensky, understandably, is getting a little hot under the collar and saying things that allies may not like,” Kupchan said.
He adds that the White House is trying to get ahead of any pressure from European allies to end the war before Kiev is ready.
“The Biden administration wants to move slowly, to make sure the transatlantic consensus remains strong. »