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Diplomacy can still prevent a war in Ukraine

From all appearances, the confrontation over Ukraine is still dangerous. Even if Russia continues to deny planning an attack, its president, Vladimir Putin, has concentrated troops, hardware, weapons stockpiles, and medical units on its border with Ukraine, and continues to increase their numbers. The United States is sending 2,700 troops to reinforce the eastern flank of the NATO and has at least 8,500 more ready for deployment. Having previously downplayed the possibility of an imminent Russian attack, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy more recently warned that the crisis could lead to a European war.

Still, there are glimpses of a way out. Faced with a surprisingly strong Western response coupled with his actions, Putin has signaled a willingness to engage in talks on Russia’s security concerns in Europe. Without giving in to Putin’s more extreme demands, US President Joe Biden and European leaders should seize the opportunity to find common ground with him. Doing so has the potential to avert a dire conflict and also advance Western security interests.

The proposals made by the US and NATO in recent weeks offer a starting point. Among other things, they aim to improve communication between the two sides by resuming mutual briefings on military exercises and nuclear policies. The NATO proposal would reinvigorate the NATO-Russia Council, which has met only sporadically since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, and reinstate representative offices.

The West should push for tangible agreements in key areas of dispute. These should include measures to avoid conflicts between ships in the Black Sea and to achieve greater transparency in military exercises, which Russia has circumvented in the past. The US can allay Russian concerns by allowing Moscow to inspect missile defense sites in Romania and Poland that the Kremlin says are fronts for offensive nuclear-armed missiles, provided Putin agrees to offer access to the bases. missiles in Russia, including those in the Kaliningrad region, which borders Poland. Biden’s offer to discuss such a deal is a promising start. If the talks move forward, the US must ensure that the Romanian and Polish governments are involved and that protocols are in place to prevent Russian inspectors from obtaining classified information.

As a condition for a broader dialogue, the US and Europe should pressure Russia to fulfill its obligations as a member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and agree to update its agreement with the entity on security-promoting measures. trust, such as military information exchanges and large-scale exercise notifications. Both sides also have an interest in resuming the dialogue on nuclear weapons, in particular on the preservation of the 1987 US-Russia Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, from which the US withdrew in 2019. The US had reason to accuse Russia of violating the treaty, leaving the pact without a replacement has done little to improve US security and has made NATO allies more vulnerable to Russian intimidation. The Biden Administration should use Russia’s proposed draft treaty late last year, which hinted at greater Russian openness to disarmament verification measures, as a basis for resuming talks and restoring the treaty’s ban on missile deployment. intermediate range in Europe.

There is no guarantee that Putin will respond positively to such proposals. Discussions about military transparency and arms control do not address Putin’s biggest obsession, NATO’s eastward expansion and Ukraine’s future. Still, the Kremlin has not been explicit in its goals, leaving room for Putin to withdraw from Ukraine’s borders and view progress on broader security issues as an acceptable outcome.

Arms control diplomacy has worked before. It could buy time for the world once again.

Source: Gestion

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