Talks between American and Russian representatives on the security relationship between Russia and the West have gone nowhere. There are, however, a couple small, encouraging signs when it comes to Ukraine. The first is that the Russian envoy, Sergei Ryabkov, has said Russia has no intention of invading Ukraine – though with Russian troops still massed on Ukraine’s border, it still has the capability to do so.
The second is that the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has hinted that it may be willing finally to put real weight behind the Minsk II agreement of 2015 on a settlement to end the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine. The agreement ws signed by France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine and endorsed by the United States. It establishes autonomy for a demilitarized Donbas within Ukraine.
This is indeed the only possible solution for this conflict. Since 2015 however Ukrainian governments and parliaments have repeatedly refused to establish the legal basis for this autonomy, and Washington has brought no pressure on them to do so.
The reason for this Ukrainian refusal is also an indication of why a solution to the Donbas conflict can lead to a wider agreement between Russia and the West. For the Ukrainian government fears that an autonomous Donbas would act to block Ukraine from ever joining NATO. By the same token, therefore, autonomy for the Donbas would also indirectly allay Russian fears about Ukraine joining NATO, without the necessity (already categorically excluded by Washington) of any formal agreement that Ukraine cannot do so. The West and Ukraine would lose nothing significant by granting Donbas autonomy; so long as the Donbas conflict remains open, Ukraine cannot join NATO in any case. In other words, the U.S. insistence on keeping NATO membership for Ukraine open, and Russian opposition to this, are both largely pointless.
Read the full article in RealClear World.