Russian leader Vladimir Putin is sending signals to the U.S. that he is willing to discuss terms to end Russia's war against Ukraine, Bloomberg reported on Jan. 25, citing two undisclosed sources close to the Kremlin.
Except for unsuccessful talks during the spring of 2022, there have been no direct peace negotiations between Ukraine and Russia. Kyiv said categorically that a full Russian withdrawal is a condition for any talks.
Russian representatives relayed messages to senior U.S. officials last month through an undisclosed intermediary, Bloomberg wrote. In a surprising concession, Putin allegedly said he is willing to drop his opposition to Ukraine joining NATO in exchange for control over the occupied Ukrainian territories, amounting to about 18% of Ukraine.
The Russian leader has made no indication of such a concession in public. During a December 2023 conference, Putin reaffirmed that the original stated goals of the full-scale invasion remain the same.
"There will be peace when we achieve our goals. They haven't changed. Denazification of Ukraine, the demilitarization of Ukraine," Putin said.
The Kremlin has used false accusations of Nazi-led Ukraine to justify its aggression. Russia has also repeatedly spoken out against Kyiv's NATO aspirations, labeling them as a threat to its own security.
Kyiv has rejected recognizing any territorial concessions in exchange for peace. President Volodymyr Zelensky also said that freezing the war in its current state would only give Russia time to recuperate for another attack later on.
"If there is a stalemate and a frozen conflict, we have to honestly say that our children, or our grandchildren, will have to fight," Zelensky told journalists in November 2023.
U.S. officials approached by Bloomberg said they are unaware of any new efforts on Putin's part, adding that such potential attempts would likely be disingenuous.
They believe this may be an attempt to drive a wedge between Ukraine and its allies. It could also undermine Zelensky's effort to mobilize global support for his 10-point peace formula, which Ukraine envisions as a basis for peace talks.
"The Russians want us to create this idea that the channel is there and that everything depends on the U.S., so no one or nothing else plays a role," Fiona Hill, a former top White House official responsible for Russia, told Bloomberg.
"It's a classic Russian play."
Concerns about Ukraine's prospects in the war have been mounting as over $100 billion in U.S. and EU aid remain stalled by domestic political disputes. In turn, Russia has ramped up its defense production and secured assistance from its partners like Iran or North Korea.