American and allied support has not decreased, but at the same time, Kyiv’s success in countering the Russian invasion puts it in a better position to start negotiations, said General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.
A week earlier, Milley compared the current situation to the First World War, when the opposing sides reached a stalemate in months, yet continued to fight for three years, at the cost of millions of casualties.
The Russians are now consolidating their power over about 20 percent of the territory of Ukraine. The front lines from Kharkiv to Kherson are stabilizing, the American chief of staff stated.
“The probability of a Ukrainian victory in the near future, which is determined by the expulsion of the Russians from all of Ukraine, including Crimea, is not high from a military point of view” – quoted the AFP.
“Of course there can be a political solution,” Milley added, provided the Russians withdraw.
You have to negotiate from a position of strength. Russia is now on the ground
argued the four-star general.
Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine
The United States is not trying to force Kiev to negotiate or hand over territory – this is what the White House national security spokesman said.
Only Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy “can decide whether he is ready for negotiations, and if so, when, and how those negotiations should take place,” John Kirby said.
No one from the United States is forcing, prodding, or pushing him to the negotiating table.
Earlier this month, Zelensky dropped the precondition that Russian President Vladimir Putin would have to step down before agreeing to the talks, the Kyiv Post reported, under pressure from the White House.
William Burns, director of the CIA, held talks in Ankara with Sergei Naryskin, head of the Russian intelligence service, SZVR. It was the highest-level face-to-face meeting between US and Russian officials since the war began in February.
The details were kept secret, but Burns immediately flew to Kiev, where he met with Zelensky.
Burns “doesn’t do any kind of negotiation. We firmly adhere to our basic principle: nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine,” the White House said after the visit.
An example of the First World War
The United States continues to strongly support Ukraine. The White House has asked Congress for an additional $38 billion to help Kyiv.
Meanwhile, he did not deny Milley’s opinion either. Last week, he said, Ukraine had recorded almost 100,000 dead and wounded on the battlefield – almost as many as estimated Russian losses – plus another 40,000 civilian casualties.
The number could multiply if Kyiv insists on trying to fight until the pre-2014 borders are restored, the general suggested.
In the first months of the First World War, between August and December 1914, one million people lost their lives, and then the front lines were cemented.
Neither side wanted to negotiate, so the number of victims swelled to twenty million by 1918.
When there is an opportunity to negotiate and peace is within reach, let’s seize the opportunity, Milley said.
The diplomatic option
Milley’s comments fueled fears that the United States would stymie Kyiv’s bid to recapture all Russian-held territory, including the Donbass and Crimea, which it has not controlled since 2014.
No idea of concessions to our country or sovereignty can be called peace. Unethical compromises can result in new bloodshed
Zelensky said at an international security forum.
Rather, the Biden administration is just trying to keep the door open for negotiations. Milley is simply “a little more forward thinking,” says the Georgetown University professor.
“I don’t think it’s rushed. I think he’s careful. Both the Russians and the Ukrainians need to see that there is a diplomatic way,” said Charles Kupchan.
It is also a signal to Zelenskyi, whose rigidity sometimes tests the patience of some allies.
“Zelensky, understandably, gets a little heated and says things that allies may not like,” Kupchan said.
Milley’s opinion does not reflect the position of all of Washington – this is what the American Enterprise Institute’s defense strategy expert claims.
Frederick Kagan says Washington should increase arms shipments to help Ukraine defeat Russian forces instead of applying pressure.
“I’m not convinced that the Ukrainians can’t take back all or most of their territory,” Kagan said.
(Cover photo: Ukrainian soldier Aknakerső in one of the villages near Kherson in southern Ukraine, which returned to Ukrainian control, on November 16, 2022. Photo: MTI/AP/Bernat Armangue)