By Noah Millman The Week
Next week, Western diplomats will meet with their Russian counterparts for a series of meetings that are likely the best opportunity to prevent a Russian invasion of Ukraine, for which 100,000 Russian troops are already poised on the border. The question is: What can the diplomats actually do to stop it?
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s demands — an end to any further NATO expansion, not merely into Ukraine but anywhere; unilateral limits on deployment of American short- and medium-range missiles; and limits on troop deployments in NATO countries near Russia — are an obvious non-starter for the West. Agreeing would cut our European allies off at the knees at their moment of greatest concern about Moscow’s ambitions. But by the same token, rejecting them out of hand, or offering drawn-out negotiations with no promise of achieving any meaningful Russian objectives, would only provide Putin with a pretext to invade. And since neither America nor our European allies have any intention of going to war with Russia in the event of an invasion, the prospect for deterrence seems equally dismal.
Assuming Putin is prepared for war, as he seems to be, forestalling it seems to require exceptionally creative diplomacy. Anatole Lieven of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft has proposed just that: neutrality for Ukraine, modeled on the Austrian State Treaty of 1955 between the Soviet Union, the United States, Britain, and France, as wel las the Soviet-Finnish treaty of 1948, which established Austrian and Finnish neutrality, respectively, during the Cold War.