As Russia and U.S. Debate Ukraine, Ukraine Would Like a Say


KYIV, Ukraine — Peace negotiations are usually thought to involve two sides brought together by a mediator trying to tease out possible compromises, far from the anger and destruction of the battlefield.

But the latest talks on the eight-year-old war in Ukraine are different. The conflict — and an overtly threatened Russian invasion that the talks are intended to forestall — is in Ukraine. Ukraine, however, will be missing from two of the three negotiating sessions scheduled for this week.

Such a limited role for Ukraine in the talks has clearly unnerved the government in Kyiv. Fearing the talks will yield little or nothing, and with President Biden’s statement that the United States will not intervene militarily if Russia invades, Ukraine has quietly pursued its own negotiating track with Moscow.

The latest threat of invasion began last month, when Russia massed more than 100,000 troops along its borders with Ukraine and demanded wide-ranging — and, to Western analysts, impossible — concessions from the United States and NATO on matters of European security.

Those were laid out in two draft treaties proposed by Moscow that the government in Kyiv — because it is not a member of the alliance — has no say over. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia subsequently threatened to launch an invasion of Ukraine if the talks on its proposals should fail.

In effect, that made Ukraine “the hostage,” of Russia, said Kostiantyn Yelisieiev, a former Ukrainian ambassador to the European Union.

Moscow’s sidelining of Ukraine and its demand for direct talks with the United States and NATO were intentional, Mr. Yelisieiev said.

One of Russia’s key demands is that NATO exclude any possibility of Ukraine’s membership in the alliance — NATO has already rejected that demand — and halt all military cooperation with the country. Russia also insisted that the alliance halt all military activities throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

The talks got off to a rocky start on Sunday when a senior Russian official warned that the United States had a “lack of understanding” of the Kremlin’s security demands, and the United States voiced doubts over whether Russia was “serious” about de-escalating the crisis in Ukraine.

In remarks reported by Russian news agencies, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei A. Ryabkov said he was intent on negotiating “dynamically, without pauses,” to prevent the West from “putting the brakes on all this and burying it in endless discussions.”

In appearances on Sunday morning’s network news shows, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said the United States was “not about making concessions” under the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, eight years after it annexed Crimea.

“It’s about seeing whether, in the context of dialogue and diplomacy, there are things that both sides, all sides can do to reduce tensions,” he said on CNN. “We’ve done that in the past.”

The current threat to Ukraine follows eight years of low-level conflict. Russia intervened militarily in Ukraine in 2014, annexing the Crimean Peninsula and fomenting separatist uprisings in two eastern provinces, leading to the…



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