US and European officials have initiated behind-the-scenes discussions with the Ukrainian government concerning the potential for peace negotiations with Russia to end the ongoing conflict.
These conversations, according to senior US officials and former US officials familiar with the matter, have explored the broad outlines of what Ukraine might be willing to concede to reach a peaceful resolution.
The backdrop for these discreet discussions is a recognition of both the military and political dynamics in the region.
The conflict in Ukraine has reached a perceived stalemate, with neither side making significant advances on the battlefield.
Some US officials have privately referred to the situation as a “war of inches,” emphasizing the need for a long-term commitment to maintain a military force.
Adding to these concerns, the Ukrainian government faces challenges regarding workforce and public support.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s open-ended conscription requirements have triggered public protests, and there are worries that Ukraine’s forces are running thin. In contrast, Russia has an almost unlimited supply of troops.
Additionally, US and European officials have noted a shift in global attention, with the conflict in Ukraine receiving less public awareness since the Israel-Hamas war began. This shift raises concerns about the ability to secure additional aid for Ukraine.
US and European Officials Quietly Discuss Peace Negotiations
As a result of these factors, there is a growing consensus among officials that Ukraine may have until the end of the year or shortly after, before more urgent discussions about peace negotiations should commence.
US officials have reportedly shared their views on this timeline with their European allies.
President Joe Biden has been closely monitoring Ukraine’s military capabilities, recognizing the importance of having competent forces to use the provided weaponry effectively.
The administration has sought additional funding for Ukraine, but it has faced challenges in Congress due to differing views on aid packages and their link to Israel.
Before the Israel-Hamas war, the White House expressed confidence in passing Ukraine-related funding, but the shift in focus to the Middle East has altered priorities.
While discussions are underway, the Biden administration has not received any indication that Russian President Vladimir Putin is ready for negotiations.
Western officials suggest that Putin may be attempting to “wait out the West” while maintaining military operations in Ukraine, with the hope of exhausting the US and its allies’ support.
Both Ukraine and Russia are grappling with the availability of military supplies. Russia has increased its production of artillery rounds but still relies on other countries due to the scale of conflict in Ukraine.
The Biden administration has allocated substantial financial support to Ukraine, but there is a concern about the remaining funds. A recent accounting error raised questions about available funds, and there are approximately $5 billion left to send to Ukraine before the money runs out.
Public sentiment in the US regarding aid to Ukraine has shifted, with a Gallup poll revealing decreasing support for additional assistance. In Europe, attitudes are also starting to soften regarding aiding Ukraine.