Diplomacy Watch: How much is the US focused on it?
Every day since Russia’s invasion, mainstream headlines have focused on each new arms shipment to Ukraine and the tactical details surrounding the daily fighting and suffering on the ground. This constant flow of information is valuable for tracking troop movements, recording battlefield gains and losses, and documenting any potential war crimes — in essence, helping us write the first draft of history.
Diplomatic efforts, in so much that they are happening, have largely taken a back seat to these splashy headlines. But it’s important to remember that diplomacy is also part of history, and more importantly, the key to ending this war. And in many ways, the U.S. and its partners have an outsized role to play in it.
Indeed, New York Times chief diplomatic correspondent Steven Erlanger noted just last week that a return to serious diplomacy is “more dependent on decisions made in Washington and Paris and Poland because of the support these countries are providing in weapons and diplomatically.” Calling the U.S. role “crucial,” Erlanger added that “[t]here is no question that it’s American leadership on the anti-Russia coalition.”
So in our new weekly “Diplomacy Watch” feature, we would like to track and highlight the diplomatic news as it happens. We hope this will serve as a measure of what the United States and the West are actually doing to bring Russia and Ukraine to a ceasefire and an eventual settlement, and an end to economic suffering and violence on the ground.
With that in mind, here is our first round-up:
— On Saturday, according to the South China Morning Post, Ukraine’s chief negotiator said Ukraine could return to the negotiating table by the end of August, but not before a series of counter-attacks aimed at regaining territory lost to Russia. “The country will be in a better position to negotiate at that time, Kyiv’s chief negotiator, David Arakhamia, said in an interview with US broadcaster Voice of America, without giving details of the strategy.”
— French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters in Romania last Wednesday that the war can only end with a diplomatic solution, with the caveat that he hopes Ukraine will have the strongest hand at the negotiating table, according to The Wall Street Journal. “At some point, when we will have helped Ukraine as much as possible to resist, when I hope Ukraine will have won and fighting will have stopped, we will have to negotiate,” Macron said.
— Reuters reported Tuesday that Turkey will host talks with Ukraine, Russia and the United Nations “in the coming weeks” with the goal of creating a safe corridor for exporting Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea.
“The sources said the plan envisaged creating three corridors from Ukraine’s Black Sea port city of Odesa under Kyiv’s supervision, and that both Ukrainian and Russian food products would be shipped from there. They said 30-35 million tonnes of grain could be shipped from there in the next six to eight months.”
— Secretary of State Antony Blinken will attend talks in Berlin today (June 24) on food insecurity, a topic that will also be on the docket at this weekend’s G7 conference. According to a State Department press release, other summit attendees will include G7 members like the UK, the EU and Japan as well as prominent non-members like India, South Africa, Ukraine and Argentina. Meanwhile, the U.S. announced an agriculture partnership with Ukraine that will include technical assistance and aid aimed at rebuilding Kyiv’s farming capacity after the war.
— In this week’s State Department press briefing, spokesperson Ned Price had little to say about talks but assured reporters that lines of communication remain open with Moscow. “We have engaged with the Russian Federation consistently in recent months to try to get to a better place in terms of our embassy staffing in Moscow to seek to preserve that diplomatic channel that our embassies afford,” Price said.