(PatriotWise.com) — Former national security officials have been holding secret talks with Russians known to have close ties to the Kremlin in hopes of laying the groundwork for a negotiated end to the war in Ukraine, NBC News reported.
Sources familiar with the discussions told NBC News that back-channel talks have been taking place for months, including an April meeting in New York between the former officials and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
According to the sources, Lavrov met with former diplomat Richard Haass and other former and current officials, along with Russia expert Thomas Graham and Europe expert Charles Kupchan, two fellows with the Council on Foreign Relations.
The sources told NBC News that the goal of the meeting was to gauge whether there was any interest in possible negotiations and compromise for ending the war in Ukraine while keeping the lines of communication open with Russia.
While the Biden administration is aware that these discussions have taken place, the talks are not being directed by the White House. It is also unclear how many back-channel discussions have occurred or if they are all part of a single, coordinated effort.
The sources said the US officials involved in these discussions include some former Pentagon officials, including Mary Beth Long, a one-time assistant secretary of defense with extensive experience in issues involving NATO. At least one former US official traveled to Russia as part of the discussions.
In addition to meeting with Lavrov, the former US officials have also had discussions with Russian academics and officials from Russian research institutes and think tanks, as well as other foreign policy experts believed to have connections with decision-makers in the Kremlin or the ear of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The sources who spoke to NBC News declined to identify the Russians involved in the discussions, citing safety concerns.
An official from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office would not comment on the reports but told NBC News that Kyiv’s position has not changed. The official said Ukraine’s fate will not be decided “without Ukraine.”
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