ERR in the US: Opinions divided on theoretical Ukraine-Russia peace talks

Gen. Mark Milley.
Gen. Mark Milley. Source: SCANPIX/AFP PHOTO/Getty Images/Alex Wong

Some members of the United States Congress are of the opinion that Ukraine should be, via the White House, talked into holding peace talks with Russia, ERR's correspondent Maria-Ann Rohemäe reports, while Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in that country, General Mark Milley, sees options for a political solution which might force the Russian Federation to back down.

At the same time, some experts see any talk of Ukraine having to make concessions as a slippery slope.

The withdrawal of Russian forces from the Kharkiv and Kherson regions, in the face of Ukrainian military action, has raised hopes among many in the US that Ukraine might emerge victorious, Rohemäe told ETV foreign affairs show "Välisilm" Monday.

Gen. Milley, however, has stressed that while Ukraine has made remarkable progress, Russia still occupies a large part of the country.

He said: "Kicking the Russians physically out of Ukraine is a very difficult task, and it is not going to happen in the next couple of weeks unless the Russian army completely collapses, which is unlikely."

In his opinion, a political solution is possible, one which would force Russia to back down.

"The Russian military is really hurting bad. You want to negotiate at a time when you're at your strength, and your opponent is at weakness. It's possible, maybe, that there'll be a political solution. All I'm saying is that there's a possibility for it, that's all I'm saying."

Both Democrat and Republican representatives in the US Congress have voiced the opinion that the White House should pressure the Ukrainian government into holding peace talks with Russia, "Välisilm" reported.

Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican representative for Georgia's 14th congressional district, whom some mainstream media outlets have described as a conspiracy theorist, said that: "The protection and safety of American citizens, especially when being compared to a foreign country. A country that is not a member of NATO. A country that should be being told to negotiate for peace and end this war, and a country that our American military, that our American taxpayers, should not be funding."

On the one hand, the supporters of potential negotiations say they believe that US and EU citizens have suffered enough economic damage as a result of the war already, and that the endless supply of Ukraine is not sustainable. 

On the other, there remain fears that Russian leader Vladimir Putin may use a nuclear weapon if cornered.

Gen. Ben Hodges, former commander of U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR) and a comparatively familiar face on ERR said: "I would ask people, so which part of their country or their home state are they willing to give up, if Russia said, hey look, we just want a little bit of Florida, or let us have New England, and then we'll promise not to use nuclear weapons."

George Beebe, Director of Grand Strategy at thinktank the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, meanwhile evoked the famous "hotline" installed which allowed the POTUS, at the time John F. Kennedy, to speak directly to the leader of the Soviet Union, at that time Nikita Krushchev.

"I think the only way you get out of that escalatory spiral is by talking. That's the way that Kennedy handled the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, almost exactly 60 years ago, and that's what I think we need to do today," Beebe said, referring to the standoff which ended when Kruschev backed down and dismantled ballistic missiles which had been hosted by the Fidel Castro regime.

This would not mean that the Ukrainians would be expected to surrender any territory, but at the same time it does not mean that the channels of communication between the US and Russia should be completely closed either, especially when it comes to weapons of mass destruction, Beebe continued.

This would deemphasize Kyiv's role in the situation, he added.

"That is something that Ukraine doesn't get to decide. We shouldn't be outsourcing American national security to Kyiv, "Beebe said.

The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft is named after former U.S. president John Quincy Adams and has been described as following the line of former president Donald Trump on some foreign policy matters, for instancing regarding North Korea, while running counter to others, including Trump's stance on Yemen.

The official position of the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon on Ukraine has not changed, however, "Välisilm" reported. It is ill up to Ukraine to decide when it is ready for peace talks and what is considered victory on the battlefield.

Mark Cancian, a former colonel who is a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) International Security Program, meanwhile said: "Ukrainians wan to reclaim all f their territory, not surprisingly. The Russians haven't shown any indication of a willingness to withdraw, and once you start negotiations you build an expectation that you're about to make deal, that there's a deal on the table, you just have to find it.

"The only deal that you could make right now is an in-place cease fire, and that gives Russia about 18 percent of Ukraine, Cancian added.

The CSIS has been named the number one think tank in the US on defense and national security issues for several years, and has been described as "centrist".

Ukraine could still also obtain a symbolic victory, Stephen Kotkin, Birkelund Professor in History and International Affairs at Princeton University said: "If they don't completely evict Russia on the battlefield, they can still win a victory here, which is a victory of the west admitting a member."

Kotkin is also senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, an influential thinktank which also includes former Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves on its roster, as Distinguished Visiting Fellow.

Becoming a member of both the EU and NATO is the primary desire in Ukrainian society, so it is not excluded that they are ready to make concessions towards that goal.

Another Hoover Institution Fellow, Professor John H. Cochrane, an economist, pointed to the 1994 destruction or removal of the Soviet nuclear arsenal which had been in place on its soil – around a third of the Soviet Union's total in fact – and security guarantees put in place as a result.

"I think it's a global question whether the victory is a world where we negotiate with Putin or we keep the promises we made in 1994 when Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons," Cochrane said.

While reports have it that the Russian military has been running short of ammunition and other materiel, the extent to which this is the case is not clear, while Ukraine has been facing shortages of, for instance, artillery shells.

The original "Välisilim" broadcast (in Estonian and English) is here.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

Source: Välislim

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