According to a report by The New York Times, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been privately sending signals that he is open to ceasefire talks with Ukraine. However, public rhetoric remains uncompromising, with Putin vowing this week to achieve Russia’s goals in Ukraine.
Putin’s Mixed Messaging Creates Confusion
While Putin has made several public statements this week indicating Russia’s determination to continue fighting, behind the scenes he appears to be signaling more openness to negotiations. This mixed messaging has created confusion over Putin’s true intentions.
In his year-end press conference on Thursday, Putin said “we are on our way” to achieving Russia’s aims in Ukraine and that “we aren’t in a rush” to end the conflict. However, The New York Times reported that Putin has been “sending signals — through intermediaries from the Kremlin — that he is open to negotiations with Ukraine.”
Putin at his year-end press conference this week (Sergei Bobylev\TASS via Getty Images)
This apparent contradiction between Putin’s public and private stances has analysts puzzled over his genuine intentions. Some speculate Putin could be testing Western and Ukrainian reactions to potential talks. Others say Putin may be looking for a ceasefire to buy time to regroup his forces for a renewed offensive.
Zelenskyy Dismisses Talk of Negotiations
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has firmly rejected any renewed talks with Putin following Russia’s withdrawal from the city of Kherson last month. Zelenskyy has stated Ukraine will not negotiate with Putin personally, but only with a different Russian leader.
Responding to Putin’s signals on negotiations, Zelenskyy said this week: “We have to guarantee security, Russia’s compensation for this war and justice…Only after that are negotiations possible.”
Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to Zelenskyy, tweeted: “Putin does not want negotiations. He spends too much time obsessed with PR.”
Will Western Support for Ukraine Wane in 2023?
In recent public remarks, Putin has indicated he believes Western support for Ukraine will diminish in 2023. This could be influencing Putin’s shift towards showing more openness on ceasefire talks.
At his press conference, Putin claimed Russia was in no hurry to finish what he calls the “special military operation” in Ukraine because he expects the West’s support for Kyiv to dwindle.
Putin expects Western backing for Ukraine to drop off through 2023 (Screenshot from year-end press conference)
However, U.S. and NATO officials insist they will continue supplying weapons and aid to Ukraine through 2023 and beyond. Some analysts say Putin is miscalculating if he thinks he can wait out Western support.
What’s Next in the War?
With no genuine peace talks in sight, most observers expect the war to continue raging through the winter and likely intensify in the spring.
Putin is widely anticipated to launch a new offensive in eastern Ukraine after replenishing his forces. Russia has embarked on a campaign of relentless missile strikes against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure ahead of the winter. This could set the stage for renewed ground attacks in 2023.
|Scenarios for 2023
|• Putin launches major new offensive after winter lull
|• War continues at current level of intensity
|• Surprise ceasefire allows peace talks
Zelenskyy has also vowed to recapture all occupied territories in 2023, indicating fierce fighting ahead for southern Ukraine regions under Russian control.
Most analysts say that even if ceasefire talks occur, major disagreements make a negotiated settlement unlikely. The only possibility is a return to the pre-February 24 status quo, which Russia is determined to avoid.
So while Putin may be quietly signaling more openness to talks, peace remains elusive as both sides appear intent on continuing the bruising war through 2023 and potentially years beyond.
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