On March 21, Russian state media misquoted John Kirby, the U.S. National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications. Multiple Russian press outlets reported that Kirby said any peace settlement for Ukraine was “unacceptable.”
Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov told the “Moscow, Kremlin, Putin” program on Russian state television’s Channel One that Kirby’s statement meant “the masks are off and everybody has shown their beastly grin, apart from us and the Chinese comrades.”
“Washington and European capitals, but above all Washington - they are overwhelmed with the desire not to allow under any pretext to get on track to a peaceful settlement, they won’t allow Kyiv to even think about it.”
That is misleading.
Kirby did not say a “peace settlement is unacceptable.” He was talking about an immediate cease-fire. Kirby’s comments came amid Chinese President Xi Jinping’s three-day visit to Russia, including a meeting with President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin.
Speaking with Fox News Sunday on March 19, Kirby said Washington would not accept any “cease-fire” calls from Xi in Moscow, because it would only serve Russia’s interests in the war the Kremlin waged against Ukraine:
“China has not condemned Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. They are still buying Russian oil and energy resources. And they have at least given tacit approval because they’ve taken the Russian claim that this is somehow an existential threat against Russia. That the war is the West’s fault.”
" Now, what we have said before and we’ll say it again today that if coming out of this meeting, there’s some sort of call for a ceasefire, well, that’s just going to be unacceptable because all that’s going to do … is ratify Russian’s conquest to date."
" All that’s going to do is give Mr. Putin more time to refit, retrain, re-man and try to plan for a renewed offensive at the time of his choosing."
Kirby said the United States hopes that “that President Xi will call and talk to [Ukrainian] President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy because we believe that the Chinese need to get the Ukrainian perspective here.”
Xi has not responded to Zelenskyy’s invitation to visit Ukraine or even speak by phone. While claiming “neutrality,” Beijing has provided diplomatic, material and rhetorical support for Russia since the Kremlin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine a year ago.
China’s 12-points peace plan for Ukraine does not require Russia’s invading forces to leave Ukraine or for Russia to give up its claim over the five Ukrainian regions it has occupied. It also does not include any measures for Ukraine’s reconstruction.
Instead, China’s plan calls for an immediate cease-fire and the removal of any sanctions imposed on Russia without the approval of the United Nations Security Council, in which Russia and China hold veto power.
The U.S. and European governments condemned China’s plan, saying it only benefits Putin. In addition, China proposed its peace plan while simultaneously considering providing Russia with lethal aid to be used against Ukraine, according to CNN, which cited a U.S. intelligence report. China denied the allegations that it was planning on giving military aid to Russia.
In February, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spelled out the U.S. position on how the war on Ukraine could be ended, telling CNN:
“This war could end tomorrow if Russia stopped attacking Ukraine and withdrew its forces. Ukraine wasn't attacking Russia, NATO wasn't attacking Russia, the United States wasn't attacking Russia. This was a war of choice waged by Putin.”