President Joe Biden’s recent diplomatic interventions in the Russia-Ukraine war have given Washington whiplash. In just the past two weeks, reporting has revealed that the Biden administration has had discussions with Ukraine to nudge it toward negotiations and engaged in secret direct talks with Russia to prevent nuclear escalation. The administration also recently agreed to resume inspections under the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty in coordination with Russia.
Ironically, the revelations of Biden’s diplomacy come less than a month after the now infamous — or perhaps visionary — retracted letter from 30 House progressives calling on Biden to invest more in diplomacy to bring about an acceptable end to the war. While that letter was mischaracterized and roundly criticized by much of the Washington establishment as appeasement, it turned out that Biden was already sensibly using diplomacy to try to reduce harm and help end the war on terms beneficial to Ukraine. It’s a promising development: Biden should be commended for shifting toward diplomacy and de-escalation.
Recent reporting has revealed that national security adviser Jake Sullivan earlier this month started discussions with Ukraine on ending the conflict while nudging Kyiv to show greater openness to diplomacy. Ukraine “must show its willingness to end the war reasonably and peacefully,” U.S. officials reportedly relayed to Kyiv. As a direct result of Sullivan’s efforts, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy outlined five conditions for negotiations last week that no longer included the non-starter demand that Russian President Vladimir Putin be out of power before talks can take place.
At the same time, Sullivan has initiated direct communications with his Russian counterpart, Russia’s Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, ensuring that U.S.-Russia diplomacy is no longer exclusively in the hands of the American generals. Extensive American support has helped Ukraine retake large swaths of land, including Kherson, forcing the Russians to give up territory it had formally annexed only weeks ago and adopt a defensive posture. “It’s increasingly apparent that Russia has now moved to a more definitively defensive position along most of the front lines,” a Western official told NBC.
Read the full piece in MSNBC.