According to two people familiar with the matter, the change in attitude of President Volodymyr Zelensky toward the possibility of starting peace negotiations with Russia while Russian President Vladimir Putin remains in office is directly attributable to the U.S. Biden administration.
On Monday, Nov. 6, Zelensky said he was open to “genuine talks” with Russia. He outlined five requirements for negotiations, some of which he has previously stated, such as the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, the punishment of war crimes, and reparations. In contrast to previous announcements, he omitted to mention the requirement that Putin must be removed from office before such discussions can occur.
The alteration, according to one of the sources, followed days of negotiations between Kyiv and Washington, including national security adviser Jake Sullivan’s in-person meeting with Zelensky.
A senior administration official claimed that while U.S. officials did not explicitly instruct Zelensky and his associates in Ukraine to change their stance, they did convey that Kyiv must demonstrate its eagerness to end the conflict amicably and sensibly. The idea is to show the International stage once again that Ukraine, not Russia, is the party seeking peace.
To discuss private and delicate conversations, the individuals were given permission to remain anonymous:
“That doesn’t mean they need to go to the negotiating table right now. We don’t even think right now is the right time based on what Russia is doing,” the official said.
“But they must show a willingness to resolve the conflict because no one wants this conflict to end more than Ukraine,” they continued.
In his visit, Sullivan said, “The conversation that we need to have with the international community in support of Ukraine is, what are the terms of a just and lasting peace for Ukraine? … That’s what we are intent on driving towards, that’s what we would support, and that’s what we believe our collective efforts can help achieve.”
Recent days have seen extra demand from Democrats and Republicans on Biden’s team to support strategic efforts to end the war. Although there isn’t a current campaign to bring the warring parties together, U.S. officials have since confirmed that they have been in contact with their Russian and Ukrainian counterparts in an effort to defuse tensions and prevent errors.
Just before the U.S. congressional elections, where Republicans are predicted to retake at least one chamber, Zelensky changed his position. The outcome of the midterm elections could jeopardize future financial and military support for Ukraine.
Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor argued that the five demands were reasonable because they upheld international law and made Russia answer for its wrongdoings. Zelensky’s offer for peace talks appears earnest, according to him, as long as Putin is being sincere.