According to the Washington Post, CIA Director William Burns secretly traveled to Ukraine in June to discuss a plan to begin peace talks by the end of the year.
During the meeting with Burns, Ukrainian officials presented an ambitious plan to return Russian-occupied territory and begin negotiations with Moscow by the end of the year, the Washington Post reported, citing sources.
During the trip, Burns met with President Zelensky and Ukrainian intelligence leadership, among others. The meeting took place at the time when Ukrainian forces launched a counterattack but had not yet deployed most of their assault brigades trained and equipped by the West, the newspaper said.
According to one of the officials with whom WP spoke, the purpose of the visit was to “confirm the readiness” of the Biden administration and to continue providing intelligence to help Ukraine defend itself.
According to the paper, military officials in Kiev privately express confidence that Ukraine will be able to retake significant territory by the fall; move artillery and missile systems to the border of Russian-controlled Crimea; move further into eastern Ukraine; and then begin negotiations with Moscow.
“Russia will only go to negotiations if it feels threatened”, said a senior Ukrainian official.
In an ideal scenario, Kyiv would be able to influence Russia by stationing troops and heavy weaponry on its border with Crimea. In this case, the annexed peninsula would actually act as a hostage. Kyiv would be willing to give up combat operations in Crimea, but in return would demand that Russia accept any security guarantees Ukraine might receive from the West.
Publicly, Ukrainian officials have never agreed to hand over Crimea, and have expressed irritation over criticisms of the counterattack. In particular, Valery Zaluzhny, commander-in-chief of the AFU, stated in an interview with the Washington Post that soldiers paid in blood for the de-occupation of every meter of Ukrainian land, so he is annoyed by comments that the counteroffensive is slower than expected.