According to NBC News, a clandestine meeting took place in April between a group of former US officials and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during his visit to New York for a UN Security Council meeting. The purpose of the meeting, as reported by NBC News, was to establish the groundwork for potential negotiations to bring an end to the ongoing war. The White House later confirmed the occurrence of the meeting but clarified that it was not initiated by them. On the other hand, Russian diplomacy dismissed the information about the meeting as false.
NBC News revealed that Richard Haass, a former US diplomat and outgoing head of the Council on Foreign Relations think tank, participated in the meeting, along with two former White House advisers and former Pentagon officials.
Citing six sources familiar with the talks, NBC News disclosed that the discussions aimed to lay the foundation for possible negotiations to resolve the conflict that arose following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
The sources indicated that the Biden administration was aware of the talks but had not orchestrated them. After the meeting, the individuals who met with Lavrov reportedly briefed the White House on the discussions.
It remains unclear how frequently the group engaged in discussions with other prominent Russian figures. However, according to NBC News, at least one member of the group traveled to Russia.
In response to the report, a State Department spokesman commented, as reported by Reuters, that the Biden administration did not authorize the discussions. He emphasized the administration’s position that negotiations regarding Ukraine should involve Ukraine itself. He further stated that the Biden administration would continue to support Ukraine by providing arms, enabling Ukrainian leaders to negotiate from a position of strength when they deem it appropriate.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby also acknowledged that the White House was aware of the unofficial talks. However, he emphasized that the discussions were not instigated or supported by the White House. He reiterated that the White House does not endorse negotiations on Ukraine without the involvement of Ukraine.
In response to the report, Russian diplomatic spokeswoman Maria Zakharova dismissed it as “disinformation.”