Washington hopes to use the winter lull to persuade kyiv and Moscow to seek peace
As fighting in Ukraine slows due to winter cold, the United States believes there may be room for a diplomatic solution to the conflict, NBC reported Wednesday citing multiple officials. “know the subject” none of them spoke in the record. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan was reportedly “testing the waters” for this during last week’s visit to Kyiv.
Sullivan raised the idea of negotiating an end to the conflict, NBC reported citing two people familiar with his meetings in Kyiv and a Ukrainian official, all unnamed. Officially, the White House said his visit was to “underscore the unwavering support of the United States for Ukraine and its people.”
According to the newspaper’s sources, the United States increasingly believes that neither Moscow nor Kyiv can achieve all of their goals and that the winter could be the time for talks, possibly mediated by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“The potential for talks, we would like that to happen,” said an unnamed Western official, described as having direct knowledge of the military operations. “In winter, everything slows down.”
According to the Ukrainian official, Sullivan told President Vladimir Zelensky that Ukraine would have more leverage, not less, if it declared itself ready to negotiate. Without pressuring Ukraine for anything, Sullivan said it would be easier to maintain Western support if it was “perceived as consenting” to do diplomacy, he added.
On Tuesday, Zelensky announced a list of Ukraine’s conditions for ending the conflict, which include pursuing the Russians “war criminals” and Moscow paying reparations, in addition to “to restore the territorial integrity of Ukraine”, presumably referring to its pre-2014 borders. On Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reminded reporters that Zelensky signed a law in October banning any negotiations with Russia while Vladimir Putin is president.
“We are always open to negotiations, we have never refused them, we are ready to conduct them – taking into account, of course, the realities that are being established at the moment”, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at a press briefing in Moscow on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Russian troops have begun to withdraw from parts of Kherson, which US and Western officials say could encourage Ukraine – but discourage Russia – from coming to the negotiating table.