Administration Policy On Negotiations In Russia’s War On Ukraine

Over the weekend, they’ve made it pretty clear. Samantha Power quotes Jake Sullivan:

It’s directly stated, looks like he had it written out when he gave it. I’ll write out the whole statement so it’s easy to read.

I’ve obviously seen a number of press statements on this topic, and I thank you for the opportunity to lay down what I think are the four core elements of consensus in the US government, and, fundamentally, what President Biden believes about this question.

The first is: He said in the press conference it’s up to Ukraine to decide when and how they want to negotiate. Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. We’re not going to pressure them; we’re not going to dictate to them.

The second is that we believe in a just peace based on the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity that are not things we made up but are embedded in the U.N. charter. The G7 leaders spoke to these principles of a just peace, including territorial integrity. President Zelenskyy has spoken to these.

The third point is that Russia is doubling down on its “annexation” – quote, unquote – annexation of Ukrainian territory. That’s not exactly a sign of seriousness about negotiating. As long as Russia holds the position that it simply gets to grab as much territory as it wants by force, it’s hard to see them as a good-faith counterparty in a negotiation.

And the fourth and final point is that the U.S. approach remains the same today as it was six months ago, which is that we’re going to do everything we can, including our announcement, our military announcement –  our military security announcement yesterday – to put Ukraine in the best possible position on the battlefield so that when they make their determination to proceed, they’re in the best possible position at the negotiating table.

And one more big-ticket item. So there’s this kind of sense about when is Ukraine going to negotiate. Okay, ultimately, at a 30,000-foot level, Ukraine is the party of peace in this conflict, and Russia is the party of war. Russia invaded Ukraine. If Russia chose to stop fighting in Ukraine and left, it would be the end of the war. If Ukraine chose to stop fighting and give up, it would be the end of Ukraine.

So this whole notion, I think, in the Western press, of “When is Ukraine going to negotiate?” misses the underlying fundamentals, which is that Russia continues, even as recently as the last 24 hours, to make these outlandish claims about annexed Russian territory quote unquote – “Russian territory” – including territory they just left.

Today, CIA Director Bill Burns is meeting with his Russian intelligence counterpart, Sergey Naryshkin, in Ankara. The White House is quite clear that the meeting is not about negotiations, but rather a warning against Russian use of nuclear weapons. They are also talking about Americans imprisoned in Russia.

In his short news conference in Bali this morning, President Biden said “The use of nuclear weapons is totally unacceptable.” Probably they have some indication that Russia is still considering that, but it is probably still just talk among people in the Russian government.

Back in the 1990s, when we were working with the Russians to secure their nuclear materials, some Americans actually accompanied Russians on transfers of nuclear weapons. We know exactly how that works. There may have been small changes in procedures since then, but the government knows what to look for. You will hear much stronger statements when that happens.

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money