Can Diplomacy Still Avert War in Ukraine?

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UPDATE: As Russian forces prepare for a potential invasion of Ukraine, a diplomatic resolution looks remote—but talks continue this week.

  • The US and Russia faced off in the United Nations on Monday, with both sides accusing each other of ramping up tensions over Ukraine.
  • Russia’s UN diplomat accused the US of “whipping up hysterics” even as some 100,000 Russian troops remain amassed on Ukraine’s border. The US accused Russia of endangering peace.
  • But amid the impassioned war of words, diplomatic channels remained open behind the scenes, with Russia and the US exchanging written correspondence on Russian security demands.
  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are scheduled to talk over the phone today even as fears of an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine remain high.
  • BACKGROUND: The Kremlin wants NATO to cease military activity in Eastern Europe and to restore a Cold War-era arrangement that ensures Russia's sway over former Soviet Bloc nations.
  • The US and NATO have flatly refused, and say Eastern European countries should be free to dictate their own fate. But there’s room to work with one Russian demand: that Ukraine not join NATO.
  • NATO promised Ukraine and Georgia in 2008 that they could join the alliance, though no date was given as to when. US President Joe Biden recently suggested membership remained a long way off.
  • But it’s not at all clear the Kremlin would be satisfied with small compromises. Putin’s greater goal is to remake Europe’s security architecture and tip the balance of power toward Russia.
  • Russia has been building-up its military for years. Western leaders now fear that Putin will put it to use in order to accomplish his geo-strategic goals.
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