The United States rejects Putin’s latest call for negotiations on Ukraine

The Biden administration on Friday rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s call for negotiations to end the war in Ukraine, showing no sign that weak political support for US military aid to Kiev has made President Biden more inclined to make concessions to Moscow.

During that Two-hour interview In the Kremlin with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who now broadcasts independently online, Putin offered lengthy defenses of his February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, but said he was ready to settle the conflict diplomatically.

“We are ready to negotiate,” Putin told Mr. Carlson in the interview released on Thursday. He added: “You must ask the current Ukrainian leadership to stop and sit at the negotiating table,” referring to the US government.

The Russian leader spoke at an apparent moment of leverage, in the wake of the failure of a much-vaunted Ukrainian summer counteroffensive to yield significant gains, and as the Biden administration struggles to get Congressional approval for much-needed additional military aid to Kiev.

This is not the first time Putin has expressed a willingness to negotiate Ukraine’s fate, and Western officials have long been skeptical of his intentions. But since this was his first interview with an American journalist since the invasion, his call for talks had extra resonance, analysts say.

American and Ukrainian officials say the best the Ukrainian military can hope for in the coming year, especially without more American aid, is to defend its current positions. However, Biden officials say they are not considering the idea of ​​pressuring the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to negotiate with Mr. Putin.

“We and President Zelensky have said numerous times that we believe this war will end through negotiations,” a National Security Council spokesperson said in a statement. “Despite Mr. Putin’s words, we have not seen any actions indicating that he is interested in ending this war. If he were, he would have withdrawn his forces and halted his continuing attacks on Ukraine.”

US officials had previously assessed that Putin had no intention of negotiating seriously until after the US presidential election in November. They say Putin wants to wait and see if former President Donald J. Trump might return to the White House and offer him better terms.

In an interview last spring, Trump said the “horrible” conflict in Ukraine must end immediately, and that if re-elected, he would broker a deal to “end that war in one day.”

The Biden administration has supported Ukraine’s stated desire to regain territory occupied by Russia since its invasion. Russia now occupies about 18% of Ukrainian territory.

US officials have also long insisted that despite more than $75 billion in US aid to Ukraine, Washington has no right to dictate whether and on what terms Kiev participates in peace talks. “Ultimately, it is up to Ukraine to decide its way in the negotiations,” the National Security Council statement said.

Many analysts also questioned Mr. Putin’s intentions. Sergei Radchenko, a historian of Russia at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, said Mr. Putin should not be trusted.

Radchenko said Putin may be engaging in what was known during Soviet times as a “peace offensive” — an insincere tactical ploy whose goal, he said, “is to present a plausible face to the outside world: Oh yeah, ‘of course we want peace — only the other side is’.” Who doesn’t want to talk.”

Some Western officials believe Putin may have his domestic audience in mind when he talks about a negotiated end to the war. Opinion polls in Russia showed that Russian citizens would welcome reaching a settlement to end the conflict that shook their economy and led to its emergence. Tens of thousands of victims.

Talk of peace could also win Putin’s support among countries of the so-called Global South — countries in South America, Asia and Africa, including India and South Africa, that have not sided in the conflict in Ukraine. Most of these countries suffered from high energy and food prices due to the war.

Putin appears to be exploiting Republican opposition to Biden’s funding request for Ukraine, echoing criticism leveled in recent weeks by some conservative members of Congress. “You have issues at the border, issues with immigration, issues with the national debt — over $33 trillion. You have nothing better to do, so you must fight in Ukraine? Mr. Putin asked.

Instead, Mr. Radchenko said, Mr. Putin might be willing to make some unexpected concessions for the sake of a peace deal that would leave Russia a foothold in eastern Ukraine, “and then use that as a basis either for further aggression against Ukraine, or as leverage.” “To force a favored government on Ukraine.”

Samuel Sharab, a Russia analyst at the RAND Corporation, said it was possible that Putin was bluffing all along about the talks. But he said it was worth engaging the Kremlin privately to determine Putin’s actual demands.

“No one knows for sure — and no one can know for sure unless they try,” Mr. Sharab said. He added that it was noteworthy that Mr. Putin did not tell Mr. Carlson that he had preconditions for the talks, such as the dismissal of Mr. Zelensky’s government.

Mr. Sharap also noted that Russia and Ukraine are already negotiating a number of matters, including the exchange of prisoners of war and Ukrainian exports from its Black Sea ports.

Regardless of Putin’s intentions, Western analysts and officials say the main obstacle to potential talks is the Ukrainian people’s unwillingness to reach a settlement with the invader who committed atrocities in their country.

“Zelensky is concerned about the domestic political consequences of a different tactic,” Mr. Sharab said.

“Barring a signal of Ukrainian demand” for peace talks, he said, “it is unlikely that there will be a push from Washington.”

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