Biden administration working to clear Milley’s memos on Ukraine diplomacy


The Biden administration is working to reassure the Ukrainian government, outside experts and former US officials that it will not push Ukraine to seek an immediate diplomatic outcome to the war with Russia, after the top US general publicly pushed for a more urgent diplomatic effort. winter.

The administration has scheduled a phone call earlier this week with outside experts and former US officials to discuss their views on the war, after Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley sparked a tense relationship with the administration among those worried about rewarding Russia. President Vladimir Putin and undermining Ukraine’s military gains, three sources familiar with the matter said.

Some of those invited to the call – which will take place on Wednesday – said they believe it is part of a continuing effort to clean up the administration after Milley’s remarks, the sources said.

Milley’s push for peace went public in comments at the Economic Club of New York last week, where Milley praised Ukraine’s military for fighting Russia to a standstill, but said military victory was out of reach.

“When there is an opportunity to negotiate, when peace can be achieved, take advantage of it. Seize the moment,” Milley said.

Milley’s comments also upset some Ukrainian and US officials, two US officials told CNN. Ukrainians were prompted to worry about a possible shift in US policy and administration officials were concerned about whom Milley’s comments were related to, with one official calling it “absurd” that Ukrainians should seek negotiations now.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan addressed the issue directly when he spoke to the press on Friday night on President Joe Biden’s flight to the G20, making it clear that Milley’s comments did not mark a change in US policy.

Referring to the “position shared by the US government”, Sullivan said the US will continue to do everything it can to put Ukraine “in the best possible position on the battlefield so that when they decide to go forward, they will be in a position”. the best possible position at the negotiating table.”

Sullivan also publicly quoted Biden last week as saying it was up to Ukraine to decide “when and how they want to negotiate.”

Biden also reiterated that the US will not negotiate anything related to war without Ukraine at a G20 press conference on Monday.

“I have been very clear that we will continue to give the Ukrainian people the ability to defend themselves. And we will not enter into any negotiations,” said Biden. “Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. This is a decision that Ukraine must make.”

Military personnel working with Milley privately told people outside the government that they were concerned about the escalation and were not trying to contradict the Biden administration’s policy, a source familiar with the matter said.

CNN previously reported that most diplomats and national security officials in the Biden administration are wary of giving Putin any leverage at the negotiating table and believe the Ukrainians should decide when to hold talks, not the US.

Sullivan’s public comments came as a relief to those worried about the US urging Ukraine to come to the table as its military push continues to succeed.

“Jake’s comments, his clarifications were very welcome. They made it clear that the decisions about the negotiations belong to the Ukrainians, that is the position of the USA. And in that sense the US position and the Ukrainian position are the same,” said Bill Taylor, former US ambassador to Ukraine and vice president for Russia and Europe at the US Institute of Peace.

While the Biden administration has held a number of calls with outside experts over the past year, as the war in Ukraine continues, this is the first in a while. The call, which is scheduled for this week, could again prompt the administration to ask more questions about the war in Ukraine.