Opinion | Putin seems to want to talk. The U.S. should take him up on it.

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The need for more diplomacy between Russia and the United States is crying out. But he should focus on preventing conflicts between the two countries, rather than working in vain to stop the war in Ukraine.

The conflict in Ukraine, for all its fear, is simply not ripe for arbitration. Ukraine has escalated into a war, and Russia, for all its nuclear saber-rattling, is in conflict. A defiant Ukraine wants to regain all its territory, while Russia refuses to back down. So, there is no middle ground, for now.

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When you have an insoluble problem, expand it. That’s a known management model, and it has some validity here. The United States should not (and cannot) insist on peace for Kyiv; instead, he must hold the flow of weapons, trust and be patient. But he must find a new way to show that the United States does not seek to harm Russia and wants to avoid a military conflict.

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A shaken Russia seems weirdly eager to communicate today, too, although it has sent a twisted and false message. The latest example is Thursday’s speech by President Vladimir Putin. He reiterated his usual grievances with the West, but his other point was that Russia needs a dialogue.

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“Sooner or later, the two new centers of international decision-making and the West will have to start talking equally about the future,” Putin told a different conference. country every year in Moscow. The Biden White House should forget the strange details of his view of reality: take it seriously; answer his words.

An example of Russia’s recent communication – and the positive response in the US – is the incredulity of the accusations of Ukrainian plans to build “dirty rock” .” For most Western analysts, this seems like a false Kremlin pretext, may prove Russian use of tactical nuclear weapons. That rating seems fine to me too. But it’s also possible that Putin actually believes him and thinks he has evidence.

The Kremlin is pushing every button it has. The Russian Minister of Defense called his US counterpart, twice, and with the British, French and Turkish defense ministers. The head of Russia’s armed forces sent the same message to his Pentagon friends. Russia has raised the issue with the UN Security Council. Putin himself repeated.

What did the Biden administration do? Granted, while denying the allegations, he moved quickly last week to support an investigation by Rafael Grossi, head of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency. To facilitate Grossi’s trip to Ukraine, the top White House and the State Department called their Ukrainian counterparts. In 24 hours, the Biden administration found an international forum to solve this problem (at least temporarily) and address Russia’s popular complaints.

This model of crisis negotiation should be repeated in all areas that could lead to – let’s say it – World War III. I think that Putin is a liar and a bully, and I hope that the Ukrainians continue to fight against Russia. But the United States still has a national interest in avoiding direct war with Russia, as Biden has said many times.

Some rules of engagement have emerged over eight months of bitter war. To show the US’s desire to avoid direct conflict, the Pentagon kept its planes away from Russian airspace and its ships outside Russian waters. Biden told Ukraine that our support is strong but not limited. Kyiv needs a no-fly zone and Military Tactical Missile Systems that can target the Russian city. Biden said no to both.

Kyiv seems willing to take big risks, especially in covert operations, which the United States does not support. According to an October 5 report in the New York Times, US intelligence has concluded that Ukrainian officials are responsible for the August car bomb that killed Daria Dugina, the daughter of of the Russian ultra-nationalist, and warned Kyiv later that he was against it. the struggle.

There is much that Washington needs to communicate to Moscow – about what it will and will not do – through subtle changes. In the run-up to this conflict, Putin asked for security from NATO. Professionals should resume that discussion. Biden should repeat the restrictions to stop the launch of missiles, share information about the military and avoid escalation. Let’s remember that this kind of security is the model for solving the Cuban missile crisis. The secret agreement was: We will withdraw our nukes from Turkey if you withdraw yours from Cuba.

Deterrence is inescapably part of the Russia-US balance. Russia knows that if it attacks the United States directly (or uses nuclear weapons), it will pay a heavy price. That also applies to the dubious threat Wednesday by Russian Foreign Minister Konstantin Vorontsov that commercial satellites helping Ukraine could be a “legitimate target for counter-terrorism.”

The flip side of this deterrence message is that the United States does not seek to harm Russia. Nuclear powers cannot afford each other. Putin may have lost the war he was so stupid to start, but this is not the country’s fault. We cannot save him from the consequences of his foolishness.

A lot of diplomacy makes sense – if it’s focused well. The United States should not try to negotiate now over the end of the war in Ukraine. That is Kyiv’s prerogative. Although the United States wanted to force a solution, it could not. But it is time for an urgent discussion on how to prevent this terrible war from becoming something very bad.

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