The White House offered the proposal within days of rolling out a military aid package for Kiev that included main battle tanks, reflecting a growing rift in the Joe Biden administration.
President Joe Biden dispatched his CIA Director to Kiev with a proposal to end the war in Ukraine last month, according to the Swiss outlet Neue Zürcher Zeitung. The peace plan was offered at the same time the White House was preparing significant escalations in military support for Kiev, including announcing that it will send Abrams tanks to Ukraine.
The report cites high-level sources in Berlin who claim William Burns, the head of America’s spy agency, traveled to Kiev in mid-January to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. On January 19, the Washington Post reported that Burns recently traveled to Ukraine to meet with Zelensky. During that trip, Burns is said to have offered a deal to Zelensky wherein Ukraine would cede about 20% of its territory to Russia in exchange for Moscow ending its war in Ukraine.
NZZ’s sources claim that both Kiev and Moscow rejected the proposal. In a statement to Newsweek, the CIA denied Burns delivered the proposal. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov also dismissed the NZZ report labeling it a “canard.”
According to the German sources, the peace proposal reflects a growing rift within the White House on how to handle the war in Ukraine. “Security adviser Jake Sullivan and Burns [wanted] to end the war quickly so they could focus on China.” The report continued, “on the other side would be Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. They did not want to let Russia get away with destroying the rules-based peace order and called for massive military support for Ukraine.”
After Burns failed to sway Kiev and Moscow to agree with Washington’s plan, Blinken and Austin were able to sway the president to authorize the transfer of Abrams tanks to Ukraine.
NZZ reports the decision for the US to send main battle tanks to Ukraine caught German leader Olaf Scholz off guard. The Union in the German Bundestag issued a statement saying, “Scholz did not want to deliver until the very end because he firmly assumed that the Americans would not send battle tanks either.”
Negotiations between Kiev and Moscow have stalled for nearly a year. Last March, Turkish diplomats facilitated talks that nearly ended the war with Russian forces withdrawing from Ukrainian territory captured after the start of the invasion. However, then-UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson traveled to Kiev and told Zelensky that Ukraine’s Western backers were not prepared to allow the war to end.
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