President Joe Biden said this week the U.S. would take a more direct role in diplomacy to address Vladimir Putin’s concerns over Ukraine and Europe at large, part of a broader effort to dissuade the Russian leader from ordering a destabilizing new invasion of Ukraine.
But any negotiations to peacefully resolve Europe’s tangled East-West rivalries will present minefields all their own for the U.S. president.
Administration officials have suggested that the U.S. will press Ukraine to formally cede a measure of autonomy to eastern Ukrainian lands now controlled by Russia-backed separatists who rose up against Kyiv in 2014. An undefined “special status” for those areas was laid out in an ambiguous, European-brokered peace deal in 2015, but it has never taken hold.
Biden also will have to finesse Ukraine’s desire to join NATO. The U.S. and NATO reject Putin’s demands that they swear off membership for Ukraine in the Western military alliance, ever.
But senior State Department officials have told Ukraine that NATO membership is unlikely to be approved in the next decade, according to a person familiar with those private talks who spoke on condition of anonymity.