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From War of Choice to War of Perseverance

What could make the situation in Ukraine more ripe for a peaceful resolution? There are three potential sources of pressure that could be brought to bear on Russian President Vladimir Putin, but none is likely to induce him to negotiate seriously.

NEW YORK – “Ripeness is all,” noted Edgar in Shakespeare’s King Lear. When it comes to negotiations to limit or end international conflicts, he is right: agreements emerge only when the leading protagonists are willing to compromise and are then able to commit their respective governments to implement the accord.

This truth is highly relevant to any attempt to end the war between Russia and Ukraine through diplomacy. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has any number of reasons to end a conflict that has already killed thousands of his citizens, destroyed large parts of several major cities, rendered millions homeless, and devastated Ukraine’s economy. And his standing has grown by the hour, giving him the political strength to make peace – not at any price, but at some price.

Already, there are signs he might be willing to compromise on NATO membership. He would not recognize Crimea as being part of Russia, but it might be possible for him to accept that the two governments agree to disagree on its status, much as the United States and China have done for a half-century concerning Taiwan. Similarly, he would not recognize the independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics,” but he could sign on to their being given significant autonomy.

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