Ukraine is ready to negotiate with Russia but on our terms – ZELENSKY


Wednesday, December 20, 2023 – Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy has admitted his country is willing to negotiate with Russia but only on its own terms, pushing back against doubts about Ukraine’s battlefield prospects and about the support of its allies.

Talking to reporters on Tuesday night, December 19, Zelensky said that his country is not losing the war and that Russia has not achieved any of it’s set out goals.

Ukraine’s military fell far short of its goals in a counteroffensive over the summer, but Zelenskyy emphasized that it has strengthened its air defenses and scored naval successes in the Black Sea, while Russia has little but heavy casualties to show for its own war effort this year.

“Russia failed to achieve any results,” Zelenskyy said at a news conference promoting the opening of talks with the European Union about eventual Ukrainian membership.

The shocks of the Russian invasion in February 2022, the initial setbacks and the subsequent victories of the first year of war produced a remarkable unity within Ukraine and among its supporters.

But in 2023 the war took enormous human and financial costs without much movement on the ground, leaving Ukraine in a state of stalemate in battle, despite receiving hundreds of billions of dollars from the US and European allies.

The United States has provided about half of Ukraine’s weaponry and ammunition directly to its army and about one-quarter of the foreign aid to the Ukrainian budget, while Europe has led in providing financial assistance.

But Republicans in Congress have held up President Joe Biden’s request for $64 billion more in support for Ukraine, along with aid to Israel and Taiwan, saying they will not approve it without overhauls in policies on immigration and border security.

Also, a European Union decision on a $54 billion, multiyear financial assistance package for Ukraine was delayed until January as Hungary blocked it, as the agreement needed to be a unanimous decision by the 27-member bloc.

Zelenskyy said he expected both Europe and the United States to deliver. “I think we will not be betrayed by our partners,” he said. “I am confident the United States will not let us down.”

Russia demands recognition of Russian sovereignty over four Ukrainian provinces it now only partly controls, as well as over Crimea, which it seized in 2014.

Ukraine has it’s own 10-point peace formula, and Zelenskyy reiterated on Tuesday that he is willing to negotiate on those terms. His government’s efforts are seen partly as an effort to parry Russian diplomatic outreach among developing nations and partly as positioning for talks. When the proposal is finalized and endorsed by the several dozen countries in talks now, it will be conveyed to Russia, Zelenskyy said.

He said Russia did not seem inclined to negotiate now. “We don’t see any request from Russia,” he said. “Not in their rhetoric, not in their action. We just see brazen willingness to kill.”

He offered his most extensive comments to date on the implications for Ukraine sustaining its war against Russia if Donald Trump who supports negotiations with Putin, were to win the U.S. presidential election next year.

Without naming Trump, Zelenskyy said that if a future American president would pursue policies “that will be colder, or more inward oriented, if they will economize more, then these signals would have a very significant impact on the course of the war.”

Zelensky compared a potential pullback by the United States to a crucial part being removed from the machinery of global security.

“The mechanism starts breaking,” he said.

On Monday, the Biden administration said it would announce just one additional package of military aid under spending already authorized by Congress.

“When that one is done,” the National Security Council spokesperson, John Kirby, told reporters, “we will have no more replenishment authority available to us.” Some military aid could still flow from a separate program overseen by the Pentagon, however.

Zelenskyy said military commanders recommended that Ukraine draft 450,000 to 500,000 men next year — an enormous figure for a country of about 40 million people — to sustain the war effort and allow soldiers who have fought continuously for 22 months to rotate away from the front.

The call-up, Zelenskyy said, will be “sensitive,” conceding this and other grave challenges Ukraine faces.

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