As Ukraine’s counteroffensive is failing, some US officials are wondering if they should have listened to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley’s calls for peace talks last November, POLITICO reported on Friday.
Milley called to “seize the moment” for peace talks after Ukraine made gains in the Kharkiv and Kherson region, arguing that the battle lines likely won’t change much in the future.
According to media reports at the time, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan opposed Milley’s calls for negotiations. Earlier this year, ahead of the counteroffensive, Blinken came out strongly against the idea of a ceasefire.
A US official who spoke with POLITICO on the condition of anonymity said Milley “had a point.” The official said that the Biden administration “may have missed a window to push for earlier talks.” However, the official said that no senior officials believed backing the counteroffensive was a mistake despite the failure and high casualty rate.
The US insists it will back Ukraine for “as long as it takes,” but another US official told POLITICO that the administration is increasingly asking this question: “If we acknowledge we’re not going to do this forever, then what are we going to do?”
In comments to The Washington Post, Milley, whose tenure as joint chiefs chairman will be over at the end of September, made clear that he thinks the war will not end anytime soon without diplomacy.
“If the end state is Ukraine is a free, independent sovereign country with its territory intact, that will take a considerable level of effort yet to come. And this is a long, very difficult, high casualty-producing war that’s ongoing,” Milley said.
“You can achieve those objectives through military means. That’s gonna take a long, long time, but you can also achieve those objectives maybe possibly, through some sort of diplomatic means,” he added.