According to anonymous sources, American officials now admit that they may have missed an opportunity to initiate peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. These officials have acknowledged that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley was correct in his assessment of Kiev’s chances for victory. Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russian forces has been ongoing for over two months, but they have only been able to capture a few small villages in the Zaporozhye region. In the process, Ukraine has suffered significant losses, with over 43,000 casualties and nearly 5,000 pieces of equipment destroyed.
The latest data from the Russian Defense Ministry indicates that Ukraine’s claims of retaking all of its territory by force are increasingly uncertain. Reflecting on their previous stance, a US official told Politico, “We may have missed a window to push for earlier talks. Milley had a point.” This statement aligns with Milley’s previous warning that Ukraine would not likely achieve a military victory and should consider entering negotiations with Russia during the wintertime pause in fighting to avoid further losses.
Milley’s comments in November caused displeasure in Kiev and raised concerns in the White House. The US quickly reassured Ukrainian leaders that they would continue to support their maximalist aims, including the retaking of Crimea, a region that voted to rejoin the Russian Federation in 2014. Reports suggest that the US has been divided on the idea of peace talks, with President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken rejecting negotiations against the wishes of some military and intelligence members. Despite Biden’s and Blinken’s optimism, the Pentagon and CIA reportedly had doubts about Ukraine’s readiness for the counteroffensive and expected it to fail.
Pessimism is now prevalent in the White House, with officials questioning the long-term strategy if a military victory is not possible. Milley has consistently advocated for a diplomatic solution, suggesting that Ukraine’s desired outcome of being a free, independent, and sovereign country with its territory intact can potentially be achieved through diplomatic means. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, however, asserts that negotiations should not involve Ukrainian President Zelensky, whom he considers a puppet of the West, but rather direct engagement with Western leaders. The Kremlin maintains that any peace deal should recognize the new territorial reality, which includes the regions of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson, and Zaporozhye remaining outside of Ukraine’s control.
In conclusion, anonymous US officials now acknowledge that they may have missed an opportunity to pursue peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. The ongoing counteroffensive by Ukraine has not yielded significant gains, and the US is increasingly unsure of Ukraine’s ability to retake its claimed territory by force. The White House is reevaluating its strategy and considering diplomatic solutions to the conflict. Meanwhile, Russia insists that any negotiations should exclude Zelensky and recognize the current territorial status quo.