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Washington, Feb 22 – A former American envoy to Moscow has said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was not interested in negotiating before he launched the invasion of Ukraine and “he’s still not interested in negotiating” nearly a year into the ongoing war.
John Sullivan, who was the US Ambassador to Russia from February 2020 to September 2022, had conversations with Russian officials about trying to prevent a war.
But “there was no engagement”, he told the BBC on Tuesday.
“They demanded security guarantees for Russia but wouldn’t talk constructively about security for Ukraine. They never moved beyond their talking points… it was a charade,” the former envoy added.
When queried if the US should work harder to at continuing those conversations to try to end the war, Sullivan told the BBC that President Putin “wasn’t interested in negotiating before the war. He’s still not interested in negotiating”.
Despite the failures of Moscow’s self-declared “special military operation” in Ukraine, Sullivan said the goals initially declared by the Kremlin remain the same — to “de-Nazify” and “demilitarise” Ukraine.
The former diplomat interprets that as “removing the government in Kiev and subjugating the Ukrainian people”.
“He (Putin) can’t have a democratically elected government, particularly one led by President (Volodymyr) Zelensky, in Kiev. He will never be satisfied as long as that government exists because he considers it a threat to Russia and to his vision of this larger Russian state he’s trying to create.
“He has to be convinced that he can’t win. He’s going to double down until he’s convinced that there’s just no way he can win. I’m not sure how significant the battlefield setbacks have to be for him to reach that point, but he’s nowhere near that today,” Sullivan told the BBC.
He went on to say that neither Putin will surrender easily nor the the Ukrainians.
“The Ukrainian people aren’t going to forgive and forget,” he says.
“Even if President Zelenksy wanted to end the war, wanted to make territorial concessions, basically wanted to surrender, the Ukrainian people wouldn’t let him.”
On a grim note, Sullivan concluded by saying that he does not expect the war to end this year.