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Three former US ambassadors to Russia call for giving diplomacy a chance

Jack Maltock, Thomas Pickering and James Collins say that each time relations broke down, there was a high cost to the cause of peace and security for both the United States and Russia
US Embassy in Moscow, Russia ITAR-TASS/Gennady Khamelyanin
US Embassy in Moscow, Russia
© ITAR-TASS/Gennady Khamelyanin

NEW YORK, September 09. /ITAR-TASS/. It is time for the US to use its diplomatic assets, including a new ambassador in Moscow, to take active leadership of diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis over Ukraine and set American relations with Russia on a new, more productive course, says an article by three former US ambassadors in Moscow, which The New York Times published Monday.

“The crisis over Ukraine has all but frozen official communication between the United States and Russia,” write Jack Maltock, Thomas Pickering and James Collins. “The Russian reaction to the political upheaval in Kiev… and the American responses to those actions have brought about a near-complete breakdown in normal and regular dialogue between Washington and Moscow.”

“Relations between the two capitals have descended into attempts by each side to pressure the other, tit-for-tat actions, shrill propaganda statements, and the steady diminution of engagement between the two governments and societies,” they say.

The three ambassadors recall the NATO summit that ended in Wales last Friday made explicit statements the US and its allies were going to respond to Russia’s alleged “intervention and violence in Ukraine” with an escalation of aggressive steps on their own part, “including further sanctions, enhanced military presence in front-line states, and possibly greater support for Ukraine’s armed forces.”

Matlock, Pickering and Collins indicate that the Western strategy lacks what they call “an equally vigorous diplomatic approach to ending this conflict.”

“Diplomatic efforts should aim to provide Ukraine and its neighbors with a future that can sustain peace and security for all countries in the area,” the former ambassadors said, adding that there is a need to re-establish respect for the core principles of Europe’s political order and to open the way for more productive American-Russian relations.

As they call for reinvigoration of US diplomatic efforts towards Russia, they say, “Each of us has seen the high price paid when relations and dialogue between Washington and Moscow break down.”

“Each time relations broke down, there was a high cost to the cause of peace and security for both the United States and Russia, as well as their allies,” the ambassadors say. “Our experience convinces us that creative, disciplined, serious active diplomacy - through both official and unofficial channels - provides the one path out of destructive crises and a reliance on violence and confrontation.”

They indicate that dialogue between “nonstate actors” like experts and groups of individuals on both sides could also play a useful role in the general efforts to stop the aggravation of current tensions.

Matlock, Pickering and Collins say the ceasefire agreement announced last Friday by Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko “seems to be holding”. “There is ample reason to treat this opening with caution,” they write. “But this potential opportunity should not be allowed to slip away.”

The resumption of regular dialogue between Moscow and Washington will be central to the restoration of relations, the former ambassadors say. In the light of it, they hail the arrival in Moscow of America’s new ambassador, John Tefft, which they believe “provides an opening to enhance communication and dialogue.”

“His arrival gives both governments an opportunity to rebuild relations and to move away from the present path of confrontation,” they write.