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U.S. Officials: Ukraine’s Military Operation May Pave the Way for Diplomatic Engagement with Russia

Talk of a possible negotiated conclusion in the conflict has been overshadowed by Ukraine’s planned counteroffensive against Russia, but some U.S. and European officials think the next phase of the battle might build impetus for talks.

It is not known how long the counteroffensive will run or how the result will alter the authorities’ strategy. After more than a year of conflict, military strategists are split on whether or not Ukraine will be able to retake lost territory.

Russian President Vladimir V. Putin has showed little inclination to compromise or have serious talks at this time.

Officials in the United States continue to be sceptical of any demands for a rapid ceasefire or peace negotiations, particularly those that originate in China. Despite Beijing’s evident geopolitical affiliation with Russia, the city-state keeps attempting to play mediator. This week, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang has been touring Europe to promote the idea that China can guide discussions.

Scepticism has been voiced by certain European officials who have met with Mr. Qin. To emphasise the importance of victories on the battlefield, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met with his British and Spanish colleagues this week in Washington to strengthen promises to military assistance to Ukraine.

U.S. officials said that if serious peace discussions were to begin, President Biden’s advisers would explore alternative endgames in an effort to find a solution that would be acceptable to both Kyiv and Moscow.

Mr. Biden’s staff and European officials have expressed optimism that Ukraine would achieve significant advances during the counteroffensive, giving it additional bargaining power in future discussions.

Despite the optimism of their leaders, American diplomats indicate that the majority of Ukrainians do not want to negotiate with their Russian occupiers.

U.S. officials are concerned that Mr. Putin would continue to think he can win a battle of attrition even if the Russian military suffers more defeats this summer.

No matter how much progress Ukraine makes, the Russian commander can always just order a larger mass mobilisation to regain some of his military might, according to another senior U.S. official.

With former President Donald J. Trump seen as the early Republican frontrunner for the 2024 U.S. presidential election, Mr. Putin may also gain. Mr. Trump and other Republican legislators have criticised the United States‘ aid to Ukraine as inefficient and risky.

Since unveiling a nebulous peace plan in February, China has pressed for a mediation role. Mr. Blinken and other senior European officials have said they are open to the idea of China playing a constructive role in the future, but they have criticised Beijing for not formally labelling Russia as the aggressor in the conflict. They argue that a government that is reluctant to do so cannot be a neutral mediator.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has called for peace negotiations, but the United States and European Union are wary since he hasn’t demanded that the Russian troops withdraw from Ukrainian land first. China has not taken an official stance on the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and U.S. officials are concerned that China and Russia may utilise the pretence of negotiations to freeze the front lines and Russian advances.

Ms. Haines said to Congress that Putin may exploit a ceasefire to attempt to rebuild power while “buying time for what he hopes will be an erosion of Western support for Ukraine.”

General Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has been the most vocal U.S. official in calling for discussions between Ukraine and Russia, citing the increased likelihood of deaths should the conflict go on. Mr. Blinken now thinks otherwise.

Mr. Blinken may or may not be making a deliberate difference between those areas. The authorities of Ukraine maintain that they want to recapture all of their territory that has been occupied since 2014. However, many American officials and experts think Mr. Putin would resort to even more extreme tactics to keep the peninsula under his control.

At the very least, some U.S. officials have said, Russia may be forced to demilitarise Crimea to prevent it from serving as a launchpad for future operations against Ukraine. However, Mr. Putin may find it just as difficult to accept that conclusion. Sevastopol in the Crimea is home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

Chris Matthews
Chris Matthews
I am a Political News Journalist of The National Era
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