Biden Admin Infighting On Ukraine Policy Goes Public

Fresh reporting in The New York Times points to a fierce internal Biden administration divide over how the US should respond to the Ukraine crisis as winter is closing in and there's as yet no sign the two sides are anywhere close to ending the fighting.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley is reportedly pressing hard for White House policy to shift toward pressuring Kiev and Moscow to the negotiating table.

Per the Times report, the top general "has made the case in internal meetings that the Ukrainians have achieved about as much as they could reasonably expect on the battlefield before winter sets in and so they should try to cement their gains at the bargaining table, according to officials informed about the discussions."

Biden Admin Infighting On Ukraine Policy Goes Public
Via Reuters

Top Biden foreign policy advisers, however, have said it's "too soon" and are pushing back against Milley, also as the White House cheers on the continuing significant Ukrainian battlefield gains in and around Kherson in the south.

They argue that any pause in fighting while efforts to get representatives to the negotiating table, a process which hasn't been seriously pursued since the opening months of the war, will only benefit pro-Kremlin forces, giving them opportunity to regroup. 

According to the report, citing those officials pushing back against Milley, "While Mr. Biden’s advisers believe the war will likely be settled through negotiations eventually, officials said, they have concluded that the moment is not ripe and the United States should not be seen as pressuring the Ukrainians to hold back while they have momentum."

Biden has lately reiterated that Zelensky and his government are the sole decision-makers when it comes to the timing of negotiations, and the Ukrainian leader recently vowed as a matter of policy enshrined into law that there will be no negotiations while Vladimir Putin is still president of Russia. 

But the reality is that Washington and ultimately the American taxpayer are funding the Ukrainian counteroffensive to the tune of billions of dollars in weapons and supplies. In Congress, GOP leadership has begun questioning Biden's "blank check" writing at the expense of ordinary citizens struggling with rising food, fuel, and cost of living. 

The Times notes that the internal admin schism has grown to the point of spilling over into public discourse

The debate, which the officials described on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss sensitive deliberations, has spilled out into public in recent days as General Milley made public comments hinting at his private advice. "Seize the moment," he said in a speech in New York on Wednesday.

Milley followed by telling CNBC on Thursday, "We’ve seen the Ukrainian military fight the Russian military to a standstill." He then said, "Now, what the future holds is not known with any degree of certainty, but we think there are some possibilities here for some diplomatic solutions."

This prompted subtle pushback from the White House, with national security advisor Jake Sulliven stressing in a press briefing, "The United States is not pressuring Ukraine" - at a moment that more and more headlines are speculating on the possibility of talks. Also looming in the background is the European energy crisis as temperatures begin plummeting going into winter. 

Ironically, news of this whole debate has emerged a mere couple weeks after House Democratic Progressives led by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, and which included AOC, sent a letter to Biden urging the US to get serious about diplomacy. Embarrassingly, they formally retracted the letter and made apologies less then 24 hours later after bipartisan outcry. And yet there's was essentially the stance of Gen. Milley. While the progressives quickly backed down, the top general doesn't appear to be.

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