Mon. May 23rd, 2022

The failure of last week’s high-stakes diplomatic meetings to resolve escalating tensions over Ukraine has put Russia, the United States and its European allies in uncharted post-Cold War territory, posing significant challenges for the main players to avoid an outright and potentially disastrous confrontation.

(ctr.org)

Unlike previous disagreements that have arisen since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the current Ukraine crisis and seemingly insurmountable differences between Washington and Moscow carry real risks of debilitating economic warfare and military conflict that are exacerbated by the dangers of miscalculation and overreaction.

For the U.S. and its NATO and other European allies, nothing less than a vast pullback of the roughly 100,000 Russian troops now deployed near the Ukrainian border will prove that Russian President Vladimir Putin has any intention of negotiating in good faith. For the Russians, the West’s absolute refusal to consider a ban on NATO expansion and the withdrawal of troops from Eastern Europe is proof of its perfidy.

Potential concessions are complicated by the fact neither Putin nor President Joe Biden wants to be seen as backing down before either domestic or foreign audiences.

The refusal thus far by each side to climb down from what the other regards as unrealistic and maximalist demands has left the prospects for diplomacy in limbo, with the U.S. and its allies accusing Russia of stoking tensions for no legitimate reason and the Russians complaining again that the Americans are the aggressors.

Some believe the situation will have to become even more dire before the impasse can be broken.

“The gap in perceptions is so broad that a new and dangerous escalation could be necessary to make the parties open up their imagination and search for agreements,” Fyodor Lukyanov, the head of the Moscow-based Council for Foreign and Defense Policies, observed in a commentary.

For Western analysts, it seems a situation in which Putin will have to compromise if conflict is to be avoided. Some think Putin’s focus on NATO, which has struggled for years with questions about its relevance, may have given the alliance a new lease on life.

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