If we offered Russia a bridge out of conflict, would they buy it?

The mistaken assumption undergirding U.S.-Russia diplomacy

Vladimir Putin.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Getty Images, iStock)

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.

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Noah Millman

Noah Millman is a screenwriter and filmmaker, a political columnist and a critic. From 2012 through 2017 he was a senior editor and featured blogger at The American Conservative. His work has also appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Politico, USA Today, The New Republic, The Weekly Standard, Foreign Policy, Modern Age, First Things, and the Jewish Review of Books, among other publications. Noah lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son.