Milley cited the catastrophic results of World War I to illustrate his point about peace. Because the great powers neglected to negotiate earlier, millions of lives were lost, and conditions in several nations, including the Russian Empire, deteriorated.
The US defense chief’s statements offer a fresh perspective on US policy toward Ukraine, raising questions about whether Moscow and Kyiv will soon engage in peace talks. Furthermore, US and Russian officials have once again begun to communicate about Ukraine at a high level of security in the weeks prior to Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson.
To a complete withdrawal of Russian troops from its territory, Ukraine demands reparations and punishment for war criminals. Because Zelensky himself signed a decree prohibiting him from talking to Putin, Kyiv’s position is essentially a demand for regime change in Russia as a prerequisite for negotiations.
Moscow has long given up on its earlier objective of overthrowing the Ukrainian government and is now officially committed to engaging in dialogue without preconditions.
From the Ukrainian perspective, negotiations are a way for Russia to buy time when the Ukrainian army has seized the initiative on the frontline and liberated Ukrainian territory.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin Prepared to negotiate?
Would establishing a dialogue have an effect on their administrations?
According to reports, Washington is pressuring Zelensky’s administration to adopt a more conciliatory position. In an interview with Christiane Amanpour of CNN, the Ukrainian president alluded to these signals by saying that he is willing to talk to Russia—but with a new Russia that is genuinely committed to peace.
Mikhaylo Podolyak, Zelensky’s security adviser, has maintained that withdrawing all Russian troops from Ukrainian territory is unattainable as long as Putin remains in power. However, in a recent tweet, he described the Russian Federation’s current form must be utterly changed.
“No need to be afraid of the truth. Russia cannot continue existence in its current form and ruling elites. Russia must lose, be punished for neglecting international law, and undergo political transformation. The sooner everyone understands this, the fewer victims there will be,” he wrote.
It is difficult to determine whether Kyiv’s “all or nothing” rhetoric arises from a firm conviction that they will prevail or if it is simply posturing to mobilize people against aggression and avoid signaling weakness to the enemy.
The country is expected to lose 35 percent of its GDP by the end of the year, while Russia will see its economy shrink by 4.5 percent, according to the World Bank. In addition, Zelensky recently confessed that Russia’s missile and drone attacks have destroyed up to 40 percent of the country’s energy infrastructure this fall.
Vitaly Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv, has warned that if the air strikes continue, many Soviet-era apartment blocks, where most Ukrainians live, will become unlivable because they rely on central heating supplied by thermal plants. This would create a wave of refugees that the European Union would not be able to accommodate, leading to the evacuation of 3 million people from Kyiv alone.
The moment when Ukraine appears to have the upper hand in peace talks is also when it can make the most gains. If Russia seizes the initiative on the front line again, its appetite for territorial and political prizes will skyrocket.
The vague outlines of a future settlement may be inferred from Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson and Washington’s subsequent softening of tone on the question of talks.
Moscow has abandoned the idea of seizing Odesa and turning Ukraine into a landlocked country for now by withdrawing from the right bank of the Dnipro River.
Russia’s seizure of Odesa is much more significant than its territorial claims in Donetsk and Luhansk. After a fake referendum in September, Russia officially annexed the Zaporizhia and Kherson regions but did not define their borders. Moscow still controls much of the Kherson region after withdrawing from Kherson city.
All Putin needs to declare victory is to hold onto the territory Russia is currently occupying. Then, even if he loses some more, it would be sufficient. The conformist majority of Russians has never expressed any serious interest in territorial expansion or determining which regions of Ukraine their country would control once peace was established.
The Kremlin’s military intervention in Ukraine is more of a vengeance mission than an imperialist land grab. As long as Moscow tries to force Kyiv to accept the Minsk agreements, which would result in a more humiliating outcome for Ukraine than the full-scale invasion in February, Vladimir Putin will feel validated. An autonomous Donbas region in eastern Ukraine would have been established, effectively under Russian control, and Ukraine would not have been allowed into NATO.
Kremlin frames the conflict in Ukraine as a battle between East and West to maintain his government’s legitimacy. Therefore, losing some of the occupied territories will not necessarily undermine it. Instead, the opposite is true; it would likely galvanize public support for the leader in the face of what many Russians consider an existential threat.
Western nations seem both incapable and uninterested in reaching out to the Russian people with a vision for a better future without Putin. For many politicians, Russia is little more than a convenient enemy. That makes it easier for Putin to maintain power.
Zelensky is seeking to accomplish a lot in the office, but he also faces formidable opposition and harsh scrutiny, which may seek to accuse him of harming Ukraine’s interests.
Because he wants to convince Ukrainians that their huge sacrifices were not in vain and that they gained something tangible by refusing to adopt the Minsk agreements, he must now prove that keeping up the momentum will be much harder to accomplish. That is why Kyiv is attempting to regain as much territory as possible.
It takes work to determine the right time to draw a line and fight for peace.
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