Last week in the wake of the Tucker Carlson interview with Russia's President Putin, we highlighted that Putin's offer to the West to negotiate the end of the Ukraine war appeared genuine. "We are willing to negotiate," Putin told Carlson in the lengthy interview. Importantly he said in reference to the US government: "You should tell the current Ukrainian leadership to stop and come to the negotiating table."
We further noted that Russian media is touting the widely watched interview as the first time Putin has offered 'concrete conditions' which can lead to settlement. "I think the most important message in Putin’s interview is that Russia is ready for for a political or diplomatic solution of the Ukraine conflict," said Dmitry Suslov, deputy director of the Center for European and International Studies at Russia’s Higher School of Economics, to Russia's Sputnik. "But it requires a political will from the United States." he said.
The overture's significance also lies in the fact that Russia is winning the war, and thus has less reason to enter negotiations at this moment of having the clear upper hand. This fact alone means Putin's words could represent a significant and authentic invitation to start serious talks.
But perhaps to be expected, the White House doesn't see it like that, as the US has swiftly rejected Putin's offer. A spokesperson for the White House’s National Security Council responded to the Putin interview by telling The New York Times there's nothing to indicate this is a genuine offer out of the Russian leader.
"Both we and President Zelensky have said numerous times that we believe this war will end through negotiations," the spokesperson said. "Despite Mr. Putin’s words, we have seen no actions to indicate he is interested in ending this war. If he was, he would pull back his forces and stop his ceaseless attacks on Ukraine."
The NSC spokesperson also repeated a familiar Biden administration talking point, telling the Times further that "Ultimately, it’s up to Ukraine to decide its path on negotiations."
Yet Ukraine would have to do the one thing Zelensky has vehemently refused to do: territorial concessions as well as forever giving up claims on Crimea. Even if Zelensky refuses, it is likely an inevitability, even if it takes years, Putin and his officials have pointed out.
Russia for now appears content to militarily solidify its firm grip over the four annexed territories of the east, and to continue to drain Ukraine of its manpower and ammo along the largely stalemated front lines. Planning over the future course of the war has already caused division within Kiev's leadership, resulting in Zelensky embarking on a major military and government "shake-up". There are also signs that a bigger Ukraine military mobilization is on the horizon, which could trigger division, and protests and unrest on Ukrainian streets.
As for Tucker Carlson's perspective, he has since voiced as reported in Russian media, "Putin wants to get out of this war. He’s not going to become more open to negotiation the longer this goes on."