Raphael S. Cohen and Gian Gentile at RAND:
At this particular moment, diplomacy cannot end the war in Ukraine, simply because Russian and Ukrainian interests do not yet overlap. The Ukrainians, understandably, want their country back. They want reparations for the damage Russia has done and accountability for Russian war crimes. Russia, by contrast, has made it clear that it still intends to bend Ukraine to its will. It has officially annexed several regions in eastern and southern Ukraine, so withdrawing would now be tantamount, for them, to ceding parts of Russia. Russia’s economy is in ruins, so it cannot pay reparations. And full accountability for Russian war crimes may lead to Russian President Vladimir Putin and other top officials getting led to the dock. As much as Western observers might wish otherwise, such contrasts offer no viable diplomatic way forward right now.
If diplomacy means ramming through a settlement when the battlefield circumstances dictate otherwise, it is not necessarily the morally more-justifiable or strategically wiser approach. Sometimes fighting—not talking—is indeed the better option. “To everything there is a season,” Ecclesiastes says, including “a time of war, and a time of peace.” There will come a time for diplomacy in Ukraine. Hopefully, it will come soon. But it doesn’t seem to be today.