US Chief of Staff General Mark Milley stressed on Wednesday that US support had not diminished, but said kyiv was in a good position to start talks as its soldiers managed to stand up to Russia.
He said that the Russians were now strengthening their hold on 20% of Ukrainian territory and that the front lines from the city of Kharviv to that of Kherson were stabilizing.
"The probability of a Ukrainian military victory, consisting of driving the Russians out of all of Ukraine, including from [...] Crimea, the probability of that happening soon is not high, militarily speaking," he said. he declared.
"There can be a political solution where politically the Russians pull out, it's possible," Milley added.
- No American pressure -
The White House reiterated on Friday that only Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was in a position to approve the opening of negotiations between Ukraine and Russia, dismissing any notion of US pressure on kyiv.
"We also said that it was up to President Zelensky to say if and when he would be ready for negotiations and what form those negotiations would take," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters. .
"No one in the United States is encouraging, insisting or pushing him to the negotiating table," he said.
But earlier this month, Volodymyr Zelensky said he was no longer demanding Vladimir Putin's departure to start negotiations, a change of course that came after pressure from the White House.
- The example of the First World War -
US support for Ukraine remains strong. This week the White House asked Congress to release an additional $38 billion in support for kyiv.
But at the same time the executive did not contradict the point of view of General Mark Milley, who indicated last week in New York that Ukraine had deplored 100,000 dead and wounded on the battlefield - a close balance sheet of that estimated for the Russian army -- and 40,000 civilian casualties.
These balance sheets could still climb if Ukraine persisted in fighting to try to recover the pre-2014 borders, Mr. Milley further suggested.
He notably compared the situation to the First World War, when the two sides were bogged down in a conflict that claimed a million lives between August and December 1914, with a stabilized front line and a refusal to hold peace negotiations. . Four years later, at the end of 1918, the death of 20 million people was mourned.
"So when there is an opportunity to negotiate, when peace can be achieved, seize it," he said.
- A diplomatic way -
Milley's comments raised fears the US may want to revisit kyiv's goal of reclaiming all Russian-occupied lands, including Crimea and Donbass, which Ukraine lost control of in 2014 .
Charles Kupchan, a professor at Georgetown University, said the Biden administration is probably trying to make sure the door remains open to negotiations, and Mr Milley is simply already "a little more forward-looking".
"I don't think it's premature. I think it's prudent. The Russians and the Ukrainians have to keep the possibility that there is a diplomatic channel," he said.
And it is also a signal for Volodymyr Zelensky, whose statements are testing the patience of some allies.
"Zelensky, understandably, gets a little heated and says things that allies don't necessarily like," Kupchan says.
He adds that the White House is seeking to preempt any pressure from European allies to end the war before kyiv is ready.
"The Biden administration wants to move slowly, to ensure that the transatlantic consensus remains strong."