Peace Talks May Be Little More Than Russian Tactics, Analysts Say

But to completely withdraw from Kyiv would allow the Ukrainians to reinforce the Donbas region and give them a significant victory, suggested Michael Kofman, director of Russia Studies at CNA, a defense research institution in Virginia, in a tweet.

Traveling in Morocco, U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken also cast doubt on Russia’s pledge to reduce hostilities. “There is what Russia says and there’s what Russia does,” he said on Tuesday. “We’re focused on the latter. And what Russia is doing is the continued brutalization of Ukraine and its people and that continues as we speak.”

Russia did not stop fighting after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, but actively supported the separatists in the Donbas, said Ian Bond, a former British diplomat in Russia and the head of foreign policy for the Center for European Reform. “I’m a skeptic about the Russians giving up on the war,” he said. “We’ve seen this movie before in 2014 and 2015. I view this as only a pause.”

Ian Garner, a historian of Russian propaganda, pointed out on Twitter that “Putin’s Russia — indeed, post-Soviet Russia — has been engaged in mucky, endless conflicts for years,” citing Transnistria in Moldova, Abkhazia in Georgia and the Donbas, all areas in other countries where Russian forces back separatist movements. “Not ended, maybe,” he said, but “in the intermission.”

The senior Ukrainian negotiator, Mykhailo Podolyak, suggested after the talks on Tuesday that the two sides were talking seriously about neutrality for Ukraine, a treaty guaranteeing its security by NATO member states like the United States, Britain, Turkey, France and Germany, a cease-fire and humanitarian corridors.

Ukrainian and Western officials also suggested that Russia would be willing for a demilitarized Ukraine to join the European Union, so long as it forswore joining NATO or hosting any foreign forces.

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