A Politico report said:
U.S. officials have told Politico that they may have “missed a window” to push for peace talks between Russia and Ukraine.
“We may have missed a window to push for earlier talks,” a U.S. official told Politico on Friday, adding that U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff “Milley had a point.”
Speaking anonymously, the U.S. officials conceded that Mark Milley “had a point” when he offered a grim pronouncement on Ukraine’s chances for victory last year.
Now it is more than two months into Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russian forces. But Ukraine has failed to capture more than a handful of hamlets and villages in Zaporozhye region, and according to the latest figures from the Russian Defense Ministry, Ukraine has lost at least 43,000 men and nearly 5,000 pieces of equipment in the process. Although the Ukrainian government still insists it can retake all of its claimed territory by force, Washington is increasingly unsure.
Speaking in New York in November, Milley said that a military victory would likely be unachievable for Ukraine, and that Kiev could use the wintertime pause in fighting to enter negotiations with Moscow and avoid any further losses.
His comments reportedly angered Ukraine government and caused panic in the White House, which rushed to reassure the Ukrainian leadership that it would continue to support President Vladimir Zelensky’s maximalist aims – which include retaking Crimea, an historic Russian territory that voted to rejoin the Russian Federation in 2014.
Media reports suggest that Washington has been divided on the idea of peace talks since at least last year, with U.S. President Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken vehemently rejecting negotiations, against the wishes of some members of the military and intelligence agencies. This split persisted as Ukraine geared up for its counteroffensive, with reports indicating that despite Biden’s and Blinken’s optimism, the Pentagon knew Ukraine was not ready for the operation, and the CIA expected it to end in failure.
Pessimism In The White House
According to the Politico report, pessimism is now spreading in the White House, another anonymous official told Politico, saying that the Biden administration is increasingly asking itself “if we acknowledge we are not going to do this foreover, then what are we going to do?”
Milley has continued to suggest a diplomatic solution to the conflict. “If the end state is ‘ukraine is free, independent, sovereign country with its territory intact’ that is gonna take a long, long time, but you can also achieve those objectives – maybe, possibly – through some sort of diplomatic means,” he told the Washington Post this week.
No Negotiation With A Puppet, Says Lavrov
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that any negotiations will be held “not with Zelensky, who is a puppet in the hands of the West, but directly with his masters.”
Russia also maintains that any potential peace deal will have to recognize the “new territorial reality” – that the regions of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson, and Zaporozhye will not be ceded back to Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Counteroffensive Will Fail, Believes U.S. Intelligence, Reports Washinton Post
According to an earlier report by the Washington Post, U.S. intelligence agencies have made a “grim” assessment of Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive, believing Kiev will fail to plunge south toward the Crimean Peninsula by the end of the year.
Officials have voiced grave doubts about the Ukrainian mission in a classified intelligence report, the contents of which were relayed to the Washington Post on Thursday, with the outlet citing Moscow’s “brutal proficiency” in defending captured territory.
“The U.S. intelligence community assesses that Ukraine’s counteroffensive will fail to reach the key southeastern city of Meltipol,” the report said, adding that Ukraine would then be unable to “fulfill its principal objective of severing Russia’s land bridge to Crimea in this year’s push.”
Though the peninsula has been under Moscow’s control since its residents voted to rejoin Russia in 2014, Ukrainian officials have repeatedly vowed to retake the region by force, insisting it is Ukraine’s sovereign territory.
In Ukraine’s plans to reclaim Crimea, Melitopol would reportedly play a significant role as one of the largest urban centers near the Azov Sea coast. Taking the city could offer a staging area for further attacks on the peninsula itself, which has already been the target of several Ukrainian strikes this year.
The Washington Post report appears to echo recent revelations by U.S. investigative reporter Seymour Hersh. In an article published earlier on Thursday, he cited an unnamed U.S. intelligence official who bluntly stated that Ukraine “will not win the war.”
The Ukrainian counteroffensive began in early June, with Kiev deploying its best Western-equipped and trained brigades in an attempt to sever Russia’s land bridge linking the Donbass with Crimea in the southern province of Zaporozhye. The operation has been a failure by most accounts.
Zelensky Blames The West
Since June, Zelensky has repeatedly blamed his military’s lack of success on the West, insisting he was not provided adequate weapons to penetrate Russian lines while demanding fighter jets and long-range missiles. Ukrainian leadership is now split on whether to continue the operation or wait and try again next spring, Newsweek reported on Wednesday. According to the American magazine, Zelensky must now decide “whether to go all-in and risk a costly failure, or to cut ukraine’s losses and accept a politically damaging defeat.”
CIA Knows Ukraine’s Counteroffensive Will Fail, Says Seymour Hersh
The CIA warned U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive against Russian forces would fail, and that Kiev “will not win the war,” U.S. journalist Seymour Hersh reported on Thursday.
Blinken “has figured out that the united States – that is, our ally ukraine – will not win the war” against Russia, Hersh wrote on his Substack blog, quoting an anonymous U.S .intelligence official.
“The word was getting him through the Agency [CIA] that the Ukrainian offense was not going to work,” Hersh’s source continued, without specifying when these warnings began to surface. “It was a show by Zelensky and there were some in the adminstration who believed his bulls**t.”
Hersh’s source claimed that the CIA’s sober assessment of Ukraine’s chances led Blinken to consider brokering a peace deal to end the conflict, “as Kissinger did in Paris to end the Vietnam War.”
Despite knowing that Ukraine’s prospects were grim, CIA Director William Burns reportedly took this opportunity to approach the White House and offer support for President Joe Biden’s policy of indefinite military aid for Kiev, with the aim of securing a higher position in the Biden administration.
Whatever backroom maneuvering may have taken place, Blinken has never publicly endorsed a Kiev-Moscow peace deal, and declared in June that a ceasefire would lead to a “Potemkin pease” favoring Russia.
Hersh is not the first reporter to claim that high-level American officials knew Ukraine’s counteroffensive would not succeed. Military leaders in the U.S. and other NATO states knew that the operation would be doomed to failure as long as Ukraine did not have a means of countering Russian air superiority, the Wall Street Journal reported last month.
But Kiev’s Western backers allowed the offensive to begin regardless, reportedly hoping that “Ukrainian courage and resourcefulness would carry the day.”
Ukraine’s Counteroffensive Has Failed, Says U.S. Congressman
Another Politico report said:
Ukraine is now in a stalemate in its conflict with Russia and it is unclear if it can win, one of Kiev’s top backers in the U.S. Congress, Representative Andy Harris (R-Maryland), has admitted.
Harris recently told a town hall meeting of his constituents that it is time to wind down direct U.S. aid to Ukraine because Kiev’s springtime offensive, which was supposed to turn the tide of the conflict, has failed to realise its goals, Politico reported on Thursday.
“I will be blunt, it has failed,” said Harris, who has been one the staunchest supporters of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky and has repeatedly supported military, financial, and humanitarian aid to Kiev. “I am not sure it is winnable anymore,” he added.
Asked whether he would support another tranche of aid to Ukraine, Harris insisted that there are a number of concerns about providing more money to Kiev, one of which is the prospect of fraud or waste. “If there is humanitarian monies, nonmilitary monies, or military monies without an inspector general, I am not supporting it.”
The congressman added that the U.S. has its own issues to deal with, including the trillion-dollar U.S. deficit in the post-Covid years.
“I am sorry, we do not have that kind of money,” Harris said of U.S. President Joe Biden’s proposal to provide an additional $24 billion in emergency funds to Ukraine.
Instead of fueling the conflict further by providing Kiev with additional aid, Harris is now calling for peace negotiations.
“I think the time has come to realistically call forpeace talks. I know President Zelensky does not want it,” Harris said. “But president Zelensky, without our help, he would abjectly lose the war. And with our help, he is not winning. It is a stalemate now.”
Harris is the son of immigrants from Eastern Europe. His Hungarian-born father, Zoltan, married Irene Koczerzuk, a Polish refugee from present-day Ukraine, before immigrating to the U.S. in 1950.
Ukraine has refused to enter into talks with Russia. Zelensky has formally outlawed any negotiations with the Kremlin as long as Russian President Vladimir Putin remains in power, and has insisted that Kiev will discuss peace only after Russian forces withdraw from the territories it claims as its own.
Moscow has said that it is open to peace talks as long as Kiev respects its national security interests and the status of the former Ukrainian regions that officially joined Russia following referendums.
Russian officials have argued that Kiev’s Western backers are pushing it to prolong the conflict and have thwarted attempts at finding a peaceful resolution. In June, Putin revealed that Moscow and Kiev had reached a preliminary agreement in the early months of the conflict in 2022, only for the Ukrainian side to “throw it all away, into the garbage dump of history.”
Ukrainian Leadership Split Over Counteroffensive, Says Newsweek
U.S. weekly Newsweek said in a report on Wednesday:
Ukraine’s failure to break through Russian defenses has driven a wedge between top officials in Kiev, with heated debates underway over whether the country should press ahead with, or abort, its much-hyped counteroffensive.
Describing the dilemma facing Ukrainian President Zelensky, Newsweek has claimed that he must now decide “whether to go all-in and risk a costly failure, or to ukraine’s losses and accept a politically ddamaging defeat.”
The Ukrainian leadership has therefore split into two camps. One group insists that Kiev should pull back and wait for an anticipated Russian offensive in the fall and spring. The second group, which includes army chief Valery Zaluzhny, wishes to continue the counteroffensive while dismissing any criticism as “impatience rooted in misunderstanding,” according to the report.
“There definitely are some differences among the ukrainian leadership about the military strategy,” an unnamed source “cxlose to the Ukrainian government” told Newsweek.
Ukraine’s slow progress on the battlefield has also led to rumblings among civilian officials, with “a blame game brewing in Kiev,” wrote Newsweek.
“There is a sense that they were misled by the military in terms of how well this counteroffensive would go, that they were provided with overly rosy assessments from the military side. They are unhappy about it,” the source said, adding that he would not rule out possible changes in the country’s military command.
However, a Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesperson has pushed back against reports of an alleged rift among Ukrainian leaders, dismissing them as a Russian propaganda narrative in a statement to Newsweek.
Ukrainian officials have blaming delays in Western military assistance, lack of air support, formidable Russian defenses, and extensive minefields. In recent weeks, numerous Western media outlets have reported that Kiev’s backers were unimpressed or outrightly “alarmed” by its slow progress on the battlefield.
Overly optimistic, Says Times
On Saturday, the Times reported that NATO had been overly optimistic about Ukraine’s push, partly due to “miracles” promised to the bloc by officials in Kiev.
U.S. Believes Ukraine’s Attacks On Crimea Are Pointless, Says CNN
Ukraine should abandon its targeting of Crimea and focus on breaking through Russian lines instead, U.S. military officials reportedly told CNN on Friday. Kiev has stepped up its attacks on the Russian peninsula in recent weeks, with Moscow claiming that the strikes are an attempt to distract from failures on the battlefield.
Since last month, Ukraine has hit the Crimean Bridge – which links the peninsula to the Russian mainland – with naval drones, aerial drones, and long-range missiles. In the last week alone, Russian air defenses thwarted an attempted missile strike on the bridge, and downed 20 drones bound for unspecified targets further inland on the peninsula.
This strategy of deep strikes has “knocked the Russians off balance a bit, but it is not doing anything decisive,” an anonymous “senior defense official” told CNN.
Ukraine’s counterattack is trying to reach the city of Melitopol near the Sea of Azov, which would split the Russian front and cut off Russia’s land access to Crimea. However, Ukrainian forces have failed to penetrate even the first line of Russia’s multi-layered network of defenses in some areas, leading Western officials to privately pronounce the offensive a failure.
“The reality is this offensive does not have some eternal runway to go through the fall,” a Pentagon source told the network. “I am not too optimistic that we will be at the Sea of Azov by by Christmas,” another military official said.