Posted 25 days ago
WASHINGTON — U. S. and European officials have begun quietly talking to the Ukrainian government about what possible peace negotiations with Russia might entail to end the war, according to one current senior U.S. official and one former senior U.S. official familiar with the discussions.
The conversations have included very broad outlines of what Ukraine might need to give up to reach a deal, the officials said. Some of the talks, which officials described as delicate, took place last month during a meeting of representatives from more than 50 nations supporting Ukraine, including NATO members, known as the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, the officials said.
The discussions are an acknowledgment of the dynamics militarily on the ground in Ukraine and politically in the U. S. and Europe, officials said.
They began amid concerns among U. S. and European officials that the war has reached a stalemate and about the ability to continue providing aid to Ukraine, officials said. Biden administration officials also are worried that Ukraine is running out of forces, while Russia has a seemingly endless supply, officials said. Ukraine is also struggling with recruiting and has recently seen public protests about some of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s open-ended conscription requirements.
And there is unease in the U. S. government with how much less public attention the war in Ukraine has garnered since the Israel-Hamas war began nearly a month ago, the officials said. Officials fear that shift could make securing additional aid for Kyiv more difficult.
Some U. S. military officials have privately begun using the term “stalemate” to describe the current battle in Ukraine, with some saying it may come down to which side can maintain a military force the longest. Neither side is making large strides on the battlefield, which some U.S. officials now describe as a war of inches. Officials also have privately said Ukraine likely only has until the end of the year or shortly thereafter before more urgent discussions about peace negotiations should begin. U.S. officials have shared their views on such a timeline with European allies, officials said.
“Any decisions about negotiations are up to Ukraine,” Adrienne Watson, spokesperson for the National Security Council, said in a statement. “We are focused on continuing to stand strongly in support of Ukraine as they defend their freedom and independence against Russian aggression.”
An administration official also noted that the U. S. has participated with Ukraine in discussions of its peace summit framework but said the White House “is not aware of any other conversations with Ukraine about negotiations at the moment.”
President Joe Biden has been intensely focused on Ukraine’s depleting military forces, according to two people familiar with the matter.
"Manpower is at the top of the administration’s concerns right now,” one said. The U. S. and its allies can provide Ukraine with weaponry, this person said, “but if they don’t have competent forces to use them it doesn’t do a lot of good”
Biden has requested that Congress authorize additional funding for Ukraine, but, so far, the effort has failed to progress because of resistance from some congressional Republicans. The White House has linked aid for Ukraine and Israel in its most recent request. That has support among some congressional Republicans, but other GOP lawmakers have said they’ll only vote for an Israel-only aid package.
Before the Israel-Hamas war began, White House officials publicly expressed confidence that additional Ukraine funding would pass Congress before the end of this year, while privately conceding concerns about how difficult that might be.
Biden had been reassuring U. S. allies that Congress will approve more aid for Ukraine and planned a major speech on the issue. Once Hamas terrorists attacked Israel on Oct. 7, the president’s focus shifted to the Middle East, and his Ukraine speech morphed into an Oval Office address about why the U.S. should financially support Ukraine and Israel.... (Read more)