Amid voices in the West echoing the need for peace talks between Kyiv and Moscow, Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba has said that a pause in the conflict at this stage will be a “strategic mistake” as Russian President Vladimir Putin will use the opportunity to create a “giant ticking bomb” of frozen conflict.
“We need a victory, not a draw. If we allow Russia to get a pause now, Putin will create a giant ticking bomb of a frozen conflict in the middle of Europe ready to explode at any moment. This would be a strategic mistake for Europe to seek such an outcome,” Kuleba said in a video address to participants of the 100 anniversary of the Paneuropean movement in Vienna on Saturday.
“I call on all of Ukraine’s partners: do not propose that we make compromises with our consciousness, territorial integrity, or sovereignty. For these would also be your compromises with your own security,” Kuleba added.
Stressing the need for Western partners to continue supporting Kyiv’s war efforts, Kuleba said, “What will bring real peace is the Ukrainian victory. This goal is fully achievable, and we have proved it with successful Kharkiv and Kherson counteroffensives this autumn.
“Ukraine’s victory will also be the victory of Europe and the West. It will restore peace and security in our continent for decades to come,” Kuleba emphasized.
Arguing that it was premature to pursue peace talks with Moscow, the Ukrainian foreign minister stressed that it was rather a time to embrace the goal of Ukrainian victory and work toward it collectively.
Kuleba’s comments come amid reports of the U.S. encouraging Kyiv to be open for peace talks and drop its hardline position of refusing to engage with Moscow as long as Putin remains in power.
As Ukraine forces pulled off a successful counteroffensive against Russian troops, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country “will not hold any negotiations with Russia as long as Putin is the president of the Russian Federation. We will negotiate with the new president.”
However, Washington fears Zelensky’s maximalist goals may not be appealing to Western powers who are facing economic battles with soaring inflation and energy prices.
In early November, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said the winter stalemate may be an opportunity for talks between Ukraine and Russia.
While pointing out that the Russians could use the retreat to reset their troops for a spring offensive, Milley said, “There’s also an opportunity here, a window of opportunity for negotiation,” now that both sides have expressed openness to talks.
However, Milley said negotiations only have a chance to succeed if both countries reach a “mutual recognition” that a military victory “is maybe not achievable through military means, and therefore you need to turn to other means.”
Fearing that the public voicing of differences would threaten the delicate relationship between the U.S. and Ukraine, the Biden administration rushed to reassure Kyiv of Washington’s support.
“We are not going to engage in any negotiation. There’s nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine, this is a decision Ukraine has to make,” Biden said, commenting on the possibility of negotiations with Russia, at a press conference in Bali on Monday.
Meanwhile, voicing solidarity with the war-torn country, France said there is a need to “reopen the negotiations” towards a permanent peace between Russia and Ukraine.
Commending Ukraine for its bravery “with the international support, particularly that of the US and Europe,” French President Emmanuel Macron reportedly said, “But at some point in time, we also need to work in favor of negotiations. I think we will probably achieve progress and there will be greater consensus.”