KYIV, Ukraine — Peace negotiations are usually thought to involve two sides brought together by a mediator trying to tease out possible compromises, far from the anger and destruction of the battlefield.
But talks starting in Geneva Monday on the eight-year-old war in Ukraine are different. The conflict — and an overtly threatened Russian invasion that the talks are intended to forestall — is in Ukraine. But Ukraine will be missing from two of the three negotiating sessions scheduled for this week.
Such a limited role for Ukraine in the talks has clearly unnerved the government in Kyiv. Fearing the talks will yield little or nothing, and with President Biden’s statement that the United States will not intervene militarily if Russia invades, Ukraine has quietly pursued its own negotiating track with Moscow.
The latest threat of invasion began last month, when Russia massed more than 100,000 troops along its borders with Ukraine and demanded wide-ranging — and, to Western analysts, impossible — concessions from the United States and NATO on matters of European security.
threatened to launch an invasion of Ukraine if the talks on its proposals should fail.
In effect, that made Ukraine “the hostage,” of Russia, said Kostiantyn Yelisieiev, a former Ukrainian ambassador to the European Union.
Dmytro Kuleba, posted on Twitter last week, noting he will also meet with NATO officials in Brussels. “Part of a wide diplomatic effort to deter further Russian aggression.”
The current threat follows eight years of low-level conflict. Russia intervened militarily in Ukraine in 2014, annexing the Crimean Peninsula and fomenting separatist uprisings in two eastern provinces, leading to the deaths of about 13,000 people.
Given the stakes for Ukraine, the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky has decided not to rely wholly on the U.S.-led negotiations. Mr. Zelensky announced a separate, Ukrainian diplomatic initiative with Russia in late December, the specifics of which were later published in the Russian newspaper Kommersant.