U.S. privately asks Ukraine to show it’s open to negotiate with Russia


The Biden administration is privately encouraging Ukraine’s leaders to signal an openness to negotiate with Russia and drop their public refusal to engage in peace talks unless President Vladimir Putin is removed from power, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The request by American officials is not aimed at pushing Ukraine to the negotiating table, these people said. Rather, they called it a calculated attempt to ensure the government in Kyiv maintains the support of other nations facing constituencies wary of fueling a war for many years to come.

The discussions illustrate how complex the Biden administration’s position on Ukraine has become, as U.S. officials publicly vow to support Kyiv with massive sums of aid “for as long as it takes” while hoping for a resolution to the conflict that over the past eight months has taken a punishing toll on the world economy and triggered fears of nuclear war.

While U.S. officials share their Ukrainian counterparts’ assessment that Putin, for now, isn’t serious about negotiations, they acknowledge that President Volodymyr Zelensky’s ban on talks with him has generated concern in parts of Europe, Africa and Latin America, where the war’s disruptive effects on the availability and cost of food and fuel are felt most sharply.

“Ukraine fatigue is a real thing for some of our partners,” said one U.S. official who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive conversations between Washington and Kyiv.

Serhiy Nikiforov, a spokesman for Zelensky, did not respond to a request for comment.

In the United States, polls show eroding support among Republicans for continuing to finance Ukraine’s military at current levels, suggesting the White House may face resistance following Tuesday’s midterm elections as it seeks to continue a security assistance program that has delivered Ukraine the largest such annual sum since the end of the Cold War.

In a trip to Kyiv on Friday, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the United States supported a just and lasting peace for Ukraine and said U.S. support would continue regardless of domestic politics. “We fully intend to ensure that the resources are there as necessary and that we’ll get votes from both sides of the aisle to make that happen,” he said during a briefing.

Inside the growing Republican fissure on Ukraine aid

Eagerness for a potential resolution to the war has intensified as Ukrainian forces recapture occupied territory, pushing closer to areas prized by Putin. Those begin with Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014, and include cities along the Azov Sea that now provide him a “land bridge” to the Ukrainian peninsula. Zelensky has vowed to fight for every inch of Ukrainian territory.

Veteran diplomat Alexander Vershbow, who served as U.S. ambassador to Russia and deputy secretary general of NATO, said the United States could not afford to be completely “agnostic” about how and when the war is concluded, given the U.S. interest in ensuring European security and deterring further Kremlin aggression beyond…

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