A senior State Department official appeared to deny any chance of a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis, saying in an interview Tuesday that he saw no hope for negotiations to end the war given that the president’s forces Russian Vladimir Putin seems determined “to bring as much violence to Ukraine as they can.
“I would like to see an opening for diplomacy right now, but I’m not,” State Department adviser Derek Chollet said in an interview with Yahoo News’ “Skullduggery” podcast.
Chollet served as a top adviser to Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a whirlwind period in which the Russian invasion sparked an international crisis and led to allegations of war crimes by US officials, including the president. Biden.
Chollet noted that putting diplomacy front and center was one of the “core tenets” of the Biden administration’s approach to foreign policy and “and boy, we really tried before the invasion to find a way out. diplomatic to that”.
But, he said, Russian officials rejected US efforts and recurring talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators came to nothing.
“They haven’t progressed to this point in a way that I’m optimistic about some sort of diplomatic solution,” he said. “I think the Russians seem very determined to bring as much violence as possible to Ukraine.”
The comments from Chollett, who served as assistant secretary of defense for international security during the Obama administration, are particularly noteworthy given that he now serves as principal deputy secretary of state, the department whose mission principal is to conduct diplomacy.
But the path to any sort of diplomatic exit has been complicated by the brutality of the Russian invasion combined with lingering uncertainty over what Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government would accept as part of a negotiated settlement.
“I mean, it’s the Russians doing these things, aren’t they?” Perpetrate these atrocities,” Chollett said. “That’s why our position has been, we’re going to do everything we can to support the victims of this invasion, the Ukrainians.”
Asked if U.S. officials would support a settlement that accepts Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and a possible referendum in the country’s eastern regions in exchange for a Russian withdrawal, Chollett replied: “First, I do not know what the Ukrainians are doing. accept. And I think, first and foremost, it’s not up to us to dictate terms to the Ukrainians on what they have to accept in terms of defending their own country. … They are going to have to make decisions as a sovereign state about what they would accept.
What’s more, Chollett said, he believes Putin’s initial goal went far beyond controlling Donbass, the eastern region of the country where the Russians have mounted a major new offensive. Instead, he said, it was about “bringing down the Ukrainian government.”