Top U.S. general urges Ukraine-Russia talks, Biden advisers resist

11 November, 12:42 PM
Mark Milley (Photo:REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen)

Mark Milley (Photo:REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen)

A disagreement has emerged at the highest levels of the U.S. government over whether to press Ukraine to seek a diplomatic end to the full-scale Russian invasion, with America’s top general urging negotiations while other advisers to U.S. President Joe Biden argue that it is too soon, U.S. newspaper The NewYork Times reported on Nov. 10.

Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made the case in internal meetings that the Ukrainians have achieved about as much as they could reasonably expect on the battlefield before winter sets in, and so they should try to cement their gains at the bargaining table, the NYT writes.

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But other senior officials have resisted the idea, maintaining that neither side is ready to negotiate and that any pause in the fighting would only give Russian dictator Vladimir Putin a chance to regroup.

The NYT noted that the general has argued that fighting may ease during the cold months with less chance of further fundamental change on the ground, offering a window of opportunity for talks. In White House discussions, he cites World War I, when the two sides engaged in years of trench warfare with little change in territory but millions of pointless casualties, an example he aired in his speech at the Economic Club of New York this week as well.

General Milley’s judgment is not shared by Biden or Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser, U.S. officials said.

If the United States pushed for talks at this point, then Sullivan believes that that would send a message to Putin that all he had to do would be to drag out the war a little longer and eventually the Americans would do his work for him.

While Biden’s advisers believe the war will likely be settled through negotiations eventually, they have concluded that the moment is not ripe and the United States should not be seen as pressuring the Ukrainians to hold back while they have momentum.

“The United States is not pressuring Ukraine,” Sullivan told reporters on Nov. 10.

“We’re not insisting on things with Ukraine. What we are doing is consulting as partners and showing our support not just through public statements or moral support but through the tangible, physical support of the kind of military assistance I mentioned before.”

The Washington Post reported on Nov. 5 that the Biden administration is privately asking the Ukrainian government to signal an openness to negotiations with Russia.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Oct. 4 enacted a decision taken by the National Security and Defense Council to outlaw any negotiations with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

The President’s Office said that Kyiv would be ready for negotiations when the Russian leader changes.

On Nov. 7, Zelenskyy named five conditions that can make negotiation possible:

  • regaining territorial integrity;
  • compliance with the United Nations norms and rules;
  • reparation for the damage caused by the war;
  • punishment of every war criminal;
  • peace guarantees.

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