U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry turned his plane around last weekend to go to Paris and begin talks to resolve the crisis in Ukraine with his Russian opposite, Sergei Lavrov. This was a meeting about Ukraine, without Ukraine at the table -- the kind of negotiation that some diplomats with long experience of Russia believe is a trap for the West and a plain bad idea.
Here are five points to keep clear as this diplomacy track gets going:
1) Russia is playing by different rules.
Lavrov and Russian President Vladimir Putin have parlayed an alternative reality, which has no basis in fact, into a position of strength. This virtual reality includes a non-existent fascist threat to the lives of Russian speakers in Ukraine and the right to invade to protect them. Trade nothing away on the basis of this virtual reality.
2) Don't accept partial troop withdrawals.
If Putin commits to not attack Ukraine, he won't need an invasion force of any size in place. By contrast, many of the troops supposedly exercising on Ukraine's border are conscripts who will need to be rotated out of service. Partial troop movements would be fake bargaining chips traded for real concessions.
Western governments and their populations would understandably like this uncomfortable problem with Vladimir Putin to go away. It will not, in all probably, particularly if the sanctions are insufficient and therefore ineffective. Putin will feel confident that he has won the last round. Tactically, he is now lowering tensions to avoid further sanctions, while weakening Western resolve. He will also need to steady Russia’s economy.
The majority of stock market investors are no longer worrying about Russia. They are probably correct in the short to possibly medium term but we know that the former KGB Colonel has territorial ambitions. He is likely to pursue these unless restrained by other influential Russians.Back to top