It is Wednesday and Thursday, November 15th/16th and William Burns, former US Ambassador to Moscow and now Director of the CIA, is in Kiev for secret, urgent meetings with President Zelensky. Also present in separate talks is Lord Cameron, Britain’s new Foreign Secretary.
Burns was a good US Ambassador to Moscow, who understood – and still understands – the major concern of Russia about Ukraine remaining neutral regarding NATO and the previous expansion eastwards of the NATO block. Likewise Lord Cameron, whom I have met, like and admire, and he has a home near mine, is an asset to the UK Government. However, both gentlemen are now in the ‘executive’ of their governments and their room to move is limited by collective responsibility.
Ukraine is imploding. The crumbling of the Zelensky regime is no surprise; I predicted it in 2022. She has sustained way too many casualties to survive much longer. Ukraine either must find a way to make a deal with Russia or face an internal rebellion. We are seeing details of that starting right now.
The Russians have no incentive at this moment to agree any cease-fire or to accede to any interim solution that would result in NATO remaining in Ukraine. For Moscow, Ukraine is NATO, and Russia sees it as a threat if NATO builds air, land and naval bases on Ukrainian territory.
Zelensky made a significant mistake, together with the head of Ukrainian military intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, in attacking Russian territory, blowing up critical infrastructure, destroying airfields with nuclear bombers and sending kamikaze drones to hit the Kremlin. Not only has this been costly to Russia in terms of physical losses, but it has brought home to Russian leaders just how dangerous Ukraine is to Russian national security. These attacks have made it almost impossible to reach any sort of agreement between Ukraine and Russia unless, as the Russians demand, NATO is out and Ukraine is demilitarized. As previously stated, this is of course what Russia has always been concerned about.
Along with running a blatantly dictatorial operation from Kiev, Zelensky’s success is built on a base of corruption and theft. He finances his support by allowing officials to steal as much as they can. That way they stay loyal.
I do not expect the CIA Director to tell Zelensky to talk to Russia. Zelensky probably would not listen to him anyway. The problem in trying to move Zelensky one way or another is that Washington’s current policy is to drag out the conflict as long as possible until Biden is re-elected; only I do not think he will be. Americans are wising up.
Lord Cameron told Zelensky “what I want to say by being here is that we will continue to give you the moral support, the diplomatic support and the economic support and above all the military support that you need not just this year and next year but however long it takes”. Cameron’s lauding of Boris Johnson is understandable in the context of the UK/US government narrative, but he will know full well that Boris intervening on behalf of the US and UK is the reason a peace deal failed and hundreds of thousands of people have unnecessarily lost their lives.
As a UK government Minister Lord Cameron has to follow the agreed government line. So too William Burns has to work within the White House current policy boundaries. These gentlemen, and very many others, know perfectly well Ukraine is losing this conflict, but are hampered so far in ending the killing and helping to start a negotiated solution. No amount of equipment, even if available, will change things when Ukraine has no soldier reserves left. It is tragic but hopefully the inevitable collapse and change can come in 2024 and no later.