West probing Ukraine for concessions to Russia: Report

Western officials are engaged in behind-the-scenes talks with Kiev about potential peace negotiations with Moscow, trying to find out what concessions Ukraine might agree to, in order to end the conflict, NBC News reported on Saturday, citing sources.

Several US officials familiar with the matter described the discussions – which took place during last month’s meeting of more than 50 nations that are backing Kiev – as “delicate”.

According to the report, the talks were driven by growing fears among Western officials that the conflict between Kiev and Moscow “has reached a stalemate”. Western countries are also said to be concerned that Ukraine is “running out of forces,” and about their own ability to continue providing aid to Kiev.

Two NBC sources stated that US President Joe Biden has been particularly focused on Ukraine’s manpower issues, with one official stating that while the West can provide Kiev with weapons, “if they don’t have competent forces to use them, it doesn’t do a lot of good.”

Another major concern is the conflict between Hamas and Israel, which has drawn attention away from the hostilities in Ukraine, potentially making new aid packages more difficult.

When it comes to the situation on the battlefield, some US officials reportedly described it as “a war of inches”, suggesting that the outcome of the conflict will hinge on how long each side can maintain a capable standing army. NBC’s sources also privately warned that Ukraine may only have several months “before more urgent discussions about peace negotiations should begin.”

Meanwhile, some Western officials reportedly suggested that as an incentive to consider talks with Russia, NATO could offer Ukraine some security guarantees short of formal accession to the bloc.

Publicly, Biden has said that Washington would not engage in any talks on the Ukraine conflict unless Kiev wants to. However, while Moscow has never closed the door to negotiations with Kiev, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky signed a decree last year banning all engagement with Russia after four former Ukrainian regions overwhelmingly voted to join the country.

Reported fears about Ukraine’s dwindling military potential come amid Kiev’s counteroffensive, which started in early June but has failed to gain any substantial ground. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said earlier this week that “the Kiev regime is losing”, with its forces suffering heavy losses. Previously, he estimated Ukraine’s casualties at more than 90,000 troops.

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