Analysis: Only Putin can end the war, but he’s stepping up its brutal record and potential for spillover
While some comments from Ukrainian, Russian and American officials raised the possibility of progress in the negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow, which are due to resume on Monday, Putin on Saturday defied a call from French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for a immediate ceasefire. And everything indicates that the Russian leader, despite presiding over an invasion that has turned Russia into an economic and diplomatic pariah, plans to pressure and destroy Ukraine to pursue his personal ambition to prevent it from joining the ‘West.
None of these developments suggest that the war is nearing a point where ceasefire negotiations or peace talks could succeed. And the risks of a wider conflict appear to be growing.
US warns China against offering ‘lifeline’ to Russia
In fact, the story of the invasion, dominated in its early stages by the heroic resistance of the outnumbered Ukrainians and Zelensky, seems to be taking a dark turn. Putin appears indifferent to the human toll his actions have caused in a conflict that may be critical to his own ability to stay in power in Moscow.
In another new dimension of what threatens to become a wider geopolitical confrontation, the United States has warned China that it must not provide a “lifeline” to help Russia escape sanctions strangling its economy. following its brutal invasion, ahead of crucial talks between senior US officials and Chinese officials in Europe on Monday.
“We are communicating directly, privately to Beijing that there will absolutely be consequences for large-scale sanctions-busting efforts or support for Russia to fulfill them,” Sullivan said. “We will not allow this to continue and for there to be a lifeline for Russia from these economic sanctions from any country in the world.” Sullivan, who will meet his Chinese counterpart in Rome on Monday, did not say whether Chinese companies or government entities would face sanctions if they helped Russia.
Asked by CNN about the report of Russia’s request for military aid, Liu Pengyu, spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in the United States, said in a statement: “I have never heard of it.” .
There is no public indication that Beijing is helping Putin’s war effort – and there are reasons why China might not see its interests as fully reflecting those of Moscow in this situation. It is widely believed that Xi will secure a historic third term in power at the Communist Party’s 20th National Congress in Beijing this fall. In such an important year, the Chinese government might be wary of its companies facing cascading sanctions. Soaring oil prices could, in the long term, hurt its economy at a time when its galloping growth rates are slowing.
Western and international sanctions have plunged Russia’s economy and banking system into deep crisis, but the extreme pain they will inflict may not come quickly enough to save Ukraine from Putin’s relentless barrage. Any Chinese aid, if it came, could weaken the Western grip on the Russian economy and ease political pressure on Putin to change course.
War becomes more dangerous
Putin is stepping up his bombardment of Ukraine rather than backing down.
Another sign of Putin’s aggressive intention, after more than three weeks of being bogged down in the country, his troops were less than 25 km from the capital Kiev, according to British intelligence services on Saturday.
There were mixed signs in Europe and Washington on Sunday about the prospects for talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials, which have so far made little headway, as well as a broader international diplomatic effort to get Putin to accept a cease fire. US Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman told Fox the sanctions pressure was starting to have an effect on the Russian leader.
“We see signs of a willingness to have real, serious negotiations,” Sherman said. But she added: “It looks like Vladimir Putin is intent on destroying Ukraine.” Sullivan was optimistic about the prospects for “State of the Union” diplomacy, saying Putin “doesn’t seem ready to stop the onslaught.”
Still, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podoliak said he believed the talks could “lead to concrete results” in the coming days as Russia began talking “constructively”. And Leonid Slutsky, a member of the Russian delegation for the talks, said “significant progress” had been made in negotiations with the Ukrainian delegation since the start, Russian news agency RIA reported.
But the sides seem distant in principle, with Ukraine demanding the withdrawal of Russian troops. Moscow entered the conflict by calling on NATO to withdraw troops from former Warsaw Pact states in Eastern Europe, which is even less likely given Russia’s treatment of Ukraine.
And nothing Putin has done so far suggests he is considering reversing a plan that has devastated large parts of Ukraine and now appears to be focused on Kiev for the decisive battle.