General Milley Gives Biden Admin Reality Check on Need for Diplomacy With Russia

milley diplomacy ukraine
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from Washington D.C, United States, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

There seem to be some rumblings within the Biden administration that perhaps it’s time to start flexing some diplomacy to end the war raging in Ukraine. These rumblings, for the most part, were private and rumor-driven. Finally, however, one key member of the administration is being much more vocal and public with their thoughts.

Negotiations and diplomacy usually are something touted by, you know, diplomats. However, the most recent calls for negotiations come from the uniformed big wig of our mighty military.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and avid reader of all things social justice General Mark Milley has been publicly opining on the next phase of this war. His recommendation is to start thinking about diplomacy.

Seize The Moment

This past Wednesday, General Milley said at the Economic Club of New York regarding what Ukraine should be looking to do as we move into the winter months:

“When there’s an opportunity to negotiate, when peace can be achieved, seize it. Seize the moment.”

The opportunity that General Milley references is the recent withdrawal of Russian troops from the city of Kherson, which universally has been seen as a significant victory for Ukraine.

He followed up on CNBC the following day:

“We’ve seen the Ukrainian military fight the Russian military to a standstill. Now, what the future holds is not known with any degree of certainty, but we think there are some possibilities here for some diplomatic solutions.”

With Russia seemingly kicked back on its heels and a long winter on the horizon, it’s clear that Milley is hoping to avoid a World War I scenario where both sides are going into the last winter engaged in endless trench warfare that went nowhere in terms of tipping the scales of victory.

But who exactly is the ‘we’ he references in his statement?

Public Versus Private

General Milley’s public comments have raised eyebrows as rumor has it officials within the State Department don’t necessarily agree with the General that now is an excellent time to start massaging this idea of diplomacy. It seems to be it’s the military brass that appears keener to diplomacy than the actual diplomats.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan reassured the Biden administration’s commitment to Ukraine, stating:

“The United States is going to be with Ukraine for as long as it takes in this fight. There will be no wavering, no flagging, no flinching in our support as we go forward.”

Mr. Sullivan has had to continue to reassure the world that, at least publicly, we are on board with whatever Ukraine decides to do moving forward, stating after the announcement of another $400 million in military aid released to Ukraine:

“We’re not insisting on things with Ukraine. What we are doing is consulting as partners and showing our support not just through public statements or moral support but through the tangible, physical support of the kind of military assistance I mentioned before.”

Privately, however, Mr. Sullivan has started nudging President Volodymyr Zelensky to start thinking about what “just peace” looks like. 

Time To Live In Reality

On the same day General Milley hinted that the time for negotiations might be ripe, he explained a relatively simple and well-known reality of this war:

“There has to be a mutual recognition that military victory is probably, in the true sense of the word, not achievable through military means, and therefore you need to turn to other means.”

Essentially the General believes that both Russia and Ukraine need to wake up to the fact that a full-on military victory isn’t going to happen for either side, so instead of continuing to suffer significant casualties on both sides and physical destruction, it might be time to adjust the vision of the end state.

But those within the State Department might be right in believing neither party is ready for negotiations, at least not the Ukrainians.

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President Zelensky reiterated his terms for negotiations which include:

  • Removal of all Russian forces from Ukraine
  • Russia must agree to pay for war damages
  • Moscow must punish war criminals
  • Russia must guarantee never to invade again

Zelensky has also insisted that Ukraine retake Crimea – which should be viewed as a “poison pill” for any negotiations.

Change Of Direction

It wasn’t that long ago that to call for negotiations would earn one the label of Russian sympathizer or Putin apologist. In fact, the Progressive Caucus had to pull back a letter calling for the same thing that the State Department is pushing for privately, and our military leader is now calling for publicly.

Recently progressive Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said:

“I believe that progressives have always advocated to leaning on diplomatic solutions. We should continue to lean on that.”

I can’t imagine that the Progressive Caucus is too happy that they were embarrassed by the White House for asking for diplomacy. I wonder when General Mark ‘White Rage’ Milley will be issuing his retraction.

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I hope he holds his ground on his advice. A broken clock is right twice a day. In this case, I think the same General that has been wrong almost on every other military engagement since the Biden administration took over might prove smarter with diplomatic maneuvers than military actions.

Staring Contest

Let’s hope that the United States can urge President Zelensky to evolve his mindset on peace. But it was just last month that he said:

“We will negotiate with the next Russian president.”

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova claims Russia is:

“…ready for negotiations, taking into consideration the realities formed at a current moment.”

The statement is a nod to the Ukrainian’s demands that Putin is punished and removed and Russia return all territories, including Crimea. It is also possible to give Ukraine some credit that Russia could be bluffing about its willingness to negotiate; it wouldn’t be the first time.

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But both sides should still be open to the idea in the future. Otherwise, the alternative is a never-ending war where the only winners will be defense contractors. 

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USAF Retired, Bronze Star recipient, outspoken veteran advocate. Hot mess mom to two monsters and wife to equal parts... More about Kathleen J. Anderson

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