Is diplomacy failing with Russia?

The Atlantic posted a headline today proposing to explain “Why the West’s Diplomacy with Russia Keeps Failing.” This is just one example of recent fatalistic declarations that all is lost with respect to Ukraine and the possibility of a Russian invasion.

I confess I don’t understand headlines like this concerning the situation with Ukraine. Diplomacy is succeeding every day Russia DOESN’T invade; it’s succeeding every day Ukraine remains an independent nation; it’s succeeding every day NATO is not pulled into a war. Tomorrow may change things.

(And I’ll grant that if you go back a decade, you’ll see examples of Western diplomatic powerlessness; specifically, the inability to stop Putin from annexing Crimea in 2014. Although the West was not able, or willing, to force Russia to withdraw from Crimea and return it to Ukraine, the incident had the result of making Putin a pariah, if he wasn’t already. He gained Crimea but lost any plausible deniability that he’s not an autocrat and a despot.)

What would “succeeding” look like to these critics? For Putin to move all his troops to the far east, and then publicly beg forgiveness for his transgressions? Right now it looks like everyone is getting something but not losing everything. NATO (and the US) have forestalled an invasion of Ukraine, which is not even a NATO member! Putin gets to thump his chest about how he rattled NATO and has put the fear of god into Ukraine should they consider trying to join NATO. Ukraine is still independent (although they’ll have to walk a fine line to stay on peaceful terms with Russia without falling into their orbit again). Anyway, nobody’s completely happy but at least we’re not in a hot war right now.

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