Did President Joe Biden miss an opportunity to end the war in Ukraine diplomatically nine months ago? Some commentators and at least one U.S. official are starting to think he might have.
The queasy feeling was first articulated last week in a Politico article that recalled a speech last November by Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. The war was getting brutal, both sides had suffered horrible casualties, civilians were under attack. On the very day of Milley’s speech, Russian troops were withdrawing from the southern port of Kherson, one of four Ukrainian regions that Russian President Vladimir Putin had formally annexed just two months earlier. As a result, Milley said, there might be “a window of opportunity for negotiations.”
Cut to the present day. The war slogs on, and the Ukrainian counteroffensive is going more slowly than many expected. U.S. intelligence analysts assess that Ukraine’s army may never accomplish its strategic objective of cutting off Russian troops from Crimea, much less retaking all of the occupied land in the eastern part of its country.
“Milley had a point,” Politico quoted an anonymous official as saying. “We may have missed a window to push for earlier talks.”
The general may have had a point about the state of the battle at the time (and in the next several months). But there is no evidence at all that Putin was ready—or open to any pressure—for a negotiated end to the war. In fact, there is plenty of evidence that he was not. [Continue reading…]