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US Prepares for Talks With Putin After Ukrainian Offensive

Some high-ranking US officials are beginning to lean towards the position of a number of European countries that, in the event of a successful Ukrainian offensive, they can try to start peace talks towards the end of this year. And it is worth bringing China to them so that it will involve Moscow in the process of resolving the conflict.

Such an approach is based on the assumption that neither Russia nor Ukraine can fight indefinitely, and that Beijing’s expressed willingness to play the role of an intermediary is worth testing in practice, European and American officials explained to The Wall Street Journal. Greater readiness for negotiations and China’s participation in them indicates a change in the position of the West, primarily the United States, the newspaper notes. However, the opportunity for such negotiations may open after a successful counter-offensive, which is being prepared by Ukraine, officials on both sides of the Atlantic say.

Senior officials in Paris and Berlin who are familiar with discussions between their leaders and President Joe Biden say the White House is expected to be involved in trying to arrange negotiations after Ukraine liberates at least some of the territory. Thus, the de-occupation of the southern regions can be considered a success, even if part of the Ukrainian lands remains under Russian control.

So far, there is no idea how the negotiations can be organized and what will be discussed at them, but French and German officials are interested in discussing a ceasefire, and China, in their opinion, can act as one of the guarantors of the agreement. Beijing wants to participate in the settlement of the conflict, they say.

While US National Security Council leaders are in favor of talks, European officials say they are more skeptical at the State Department and CIA and want to see first what Ukraine can achieve on the battlefield. A representative of the council told the WSJ that there is no difference in positions between departments.

At the same time, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who previously spoke negatively about China’s position in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, said last week that there is “nothing wrong in principle” with Beijing’s participation in its settlement. Blinken said at a forum hosted by The Washington Post:

If countries with significant influence are ready to participate in the establishment of a just and lasting peace, we will welcome this. And, of course, China can play a role in such efforts.

In February, French President Emmanuel Macron privately suggested to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that he organize a peace conference in Paris whenever Kyiv sees fit. Zelensky replied that he was ready to participate in it only together with Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping. In April, during a visit to China, Macron tried to convince Xi to “reason” Russia.

“It’s too early to talk about anything right now, and we are waiting for Xi’s special envoy to arrive in Kiev,” whom he appointed after a recent phone call with Zelensky, a senior Ukrainian government official told WSJ.

Western leaders are slowly coming to a consensus that ending the conflict would be the best option, said Fiona Hill of the Brookins Institution, who used to be in charge of Russia on the National Security Council.

But at the same time, the West admits that Vladimir Putin does not show any interest in resolving the situation. “We continue to believe that Putin is likely counting on time to be on his side,” and Western willingness to support Ukraine will decline over time, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haynes said last week.

On the other hand, according to her, Russia does not have the forces and means for a new offensive, so Putin is likely to focus on strengthening control in the occupied territories.

For the armed conflict in Europe to end, Ukraine must either defeat Russia, or at least liberate the territories occupied since the start of the war, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week: “I would under no circumstances trust Putin at the negotiating table if Ukrainians (with our support) will not have enough leverage.”

Source : The Moscow Times