• Gen. Mark Milley said winter was 'a window of opportunity' for talks between Ukraine, Russia
  • Washington nudged Kyiv to drop its position on avoiding talks till Putin remained in power
  • Biden administration fears mixed messaging would threaten the delicate relationship with Kyiv

After a top U.S. General suggested that the coming winter months would offer an opportunity for Ukraine-Russia peace talks, Washington sought to reassure Kyiv that it does not seek to undermine the war-torn country's goals for a victory.

As mixed messages strain Washington's relations with Kyiv, a report in Politico revealed senior U.S. officials are telling their Ukrainian counterparts that the winter pause does not necessarily mean that talks should be held.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley earlier said there was a window of opportunity for talks between Russia and Ukraine in the coming months when the fighting was expected to pause.

While pointing out that the Russians could use the winter to reset their troops for a spring offensive, Milley said, "There's also an opportunity here, a window of opportunity for negotiation," since both sides expressed openness to talks.

Emphasizing the need for talks, Milley pointed out that for negotiations to succeed, it was essential for both Kyiv and Moscow to mutually recognize that a military victory "is maybe not achievable through military means, and therefore you need to turn to other means."

As reported last Monday, given fears that war fatigue may set in among allies, Washington had privately encouraged Ukraine to drop its hardline position of not negotiating with Russia if Vladimir Putin remains in power.

Following Putin's staged referendum and annexation of four Ukrainian regions — Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky issued a decree declaring it "impossible" to negotiate with the Russian leader.

"Ukraine 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," the Ukrainian president had said.

The private nudge from Washington to drop its hardline position on talks was seen as an attempt to make sure Kyiv continues to receive the support of allies who are wary of fueling a long-drawn conflict.

Meanwhile, despite pressure from the Republicans, the Biden administration has maintained that they will support Ukraine "for as long as it takes."

According to Politico, the Biden administration's effort is to present a unified front on Ukraine due to the fear that public voicing of differences would threaten the delicate relationship that Washington shares with Kyiv at a time when Ukrainian forces are successfully pushing forward with their counteroffensive against the Russian invaders.

President Biden underscored this point during a press conference in Bali on Monday.

"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.

It did not help that the Ukraine war erupted when German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had barely taken office