As diplomacy drags on, peace seems far off in Ukraine.

BRUSSELS — Ukraine and Russia are engaged in intermittent negotiations to finish a brutal battle now in its third week. However regardless of indicators of progress, Western officers have little optimism that the talks have reached a critical stage and even confronted essentially the most tough points.

The president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, has raised hopes with latest statements that appear to simply accept that his nation won’t be part of NATO, regardless of the alliance’s promise in 2008 to simply accept it sooner or later and despite the fact that the Ukrainian structure was amended three years in the past to make membership in each NATO and the European Union nationwide objectives.

A type of neutrality for Ukraine with out NATO membership would appear to fulfill a key Russian demand, although solely considered one of them. And any type of neutrality should include safety ensures towards additional Russian aggression, the Ukrainians say. However who would offer such ensures, and, if some guarantors are NATO members, how that might be basically totally different from precise membership within the alliance, are solely a few of the elementary questions excellent.

On Wednesday, Mr. Zelensky mentioned neutrality should embrace dependable ensures that defend Ukraine from future threats. “We are able to and should defend our state, our life, our Ukrainian life,” he mentioned. “We are able to and should negotiate a simply however truthful peace for Ukraine, actual safety ensures that may work. Endurance is required.”

However Moscow has additionally demanded that Ukraine settle for the lack of Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014, and settle for that a big chunk of the nation within the east — the whole areas of Donetsk and Luhansk, components of that are occupied by Russian-backed separatists — turn into unbiased republics, as Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president, has decreed.

Ukraine rejects such a dismembering of its nation, so it’s tough for now to see the place a compromise is perhaps discovered.

As a senior NATO official steered, negotiations solely work, as they lastly did in Bosnia, when a battle reaches a stalemate or one facet wins. Neither Russia nor Ukraine is but able to cease combating — Russia in its quest to grab Ukraine’s seacoast, principal cities and the capital, Kyiv; or Ukraine to withstand. Even when Russia’s advances have slowed, Mr. Putin offers no indication that his navy or political objectives have modified.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken mentioned Thursday that america noticed no signal that Mr. Putin was ready to cease his navy efforts.

“From the place I sit, diplomacy clearly requires either side participating in good religion to de-escalate,” he mentioned. “The actions that we’re seeing Russia take each single day, just about each minute of every single day, are in complete distinction to any critical diplomatic effort to finish the battle.”

Numerous international locations are making efforts to mediate between Russia and Ukraine, most notably Turkey and Israel, that are usually seen as having much less fraught ties to each international locations than Germany and France, which have additionally tried to make overtures to Mr. Putin. However efforts at fundamental and non permanent cease-fires for civilians to flee the combating round cities like Kharkiv and Mariupol have been tough to realize.

On Friday, it was Mr. Putin who complained in a name with the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, that Ukraine was “making an attempt to pull out the negotiation course of by placing ahead new unrealistic proposals” and accused Ukraine of battle crimes.

Mr. Putin mentioned Russia was “able to suggest a seek for options according to its well-known principled approaches” in a fourth spherical of talks. However even a negotiated cease-fire appears a distant prospect, not to mention an enduring peace.

To this point, in accordance with a senior Ukrainian official, Russia’s calls for are largely unacceptable.

In essence, he mentioned, Russia is demanding that the Ukrainian Parliament vote to enshrine the nation’s neutrality, downgrade its military to 50,000 troops or fewer, pledge to not host any overseas navy bases, and settle for Russian sovereignty in Crimea and the independence of the whole Donbass area, which incorporates Donetsk and Luhansk.

Solely then, the official mentioned, would Russia conform to withdraw from different territory it has already occupied.

Ukraine, the official mentioned, gained’t conform to something except Russia first withdraws its forces, or to a navy that small, which is lower than 1 / 4 of its prewar standing drive. However it’s prepared to simply accept some type of demilitarized zone of some 50 to 100 kilometers on both facet of the border, the official mentioned.

The Ukrainians additionally need a world peacekeeping drive in Ukraine, with its sovereignty assured — and never merely “assured,” as within the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, through which the nation agreed to surrender its nuclear weapons inherited from the Soviet Union. They usually need these safety ensures signed by the everlasting members of the U.N. Safety Council — america, Britain, China, France and Russia — plus Turkey and Germany.

That might commit the important thing members of NATO to struggle for Ukraine ought to Russia (or another nation) invade. On condition that NATO is unwilling to struggle Russian troops in Ukraine now, and even to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine for threat of fight with Russia, it’s exhausting to think about that such ensures might be agreed upon, the senior NATO official mentioned.

Even on the problem of neutrality, there are issues sufficient, past the thought of altering the structure. The Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov has steered Austria as a mannequin for Ukrainian neutrality. And Austrian officers have briefed Ukrainian officers, in accordance with a senior Western diplomat. However on condition that Austria has no limits on the dimensions of its personal navy forces, it’s unlikely that its mannequin shall be acceptable to Russia.

Turkey is making its personal mediating efforts. Turkey’s overseas minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, traveled from Moscow to Lviv for separate talks with the Russian and Ukrainian overseas ministers this week. He expressed hopes for progress on a cease-fire, and arrange a phone dialog Thursday between Mr. Putin and the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

One other view of Russia’s calls for emerged from that dialog. In keeping with Mr. Erdogan’s senior aide and spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, who was on the decision, Mr. Putin can also be insisting on Russian once more changing into an official language in Ukraine and on what he phrases the “de-Nazification” of the nation.

Mr. Kalin told the BBC that nonetheless offensive that final demand is perhaps to Mr. Zelensky, who’s Jewish and misplaced household within the Holocaust, it is perhaps sufficient for Ukraine to pledge to sentence neo-Nazis and crack down on a few of its far-right nationalist teams to meet it.

Mr. Kalin mentioned a second class of calls for was tougher for Ukraine, involving territorial compromise, however he didn’t specify them.

The pinnacle of the Russian delegation, Vladimir Medinsky, mentioned in Moscow on Friday that on the problem of demilitarization, the 2 sides are “someplace midway,” however didn’t disclose particulars.

A senior Western diplomat, briefed on the talks, steered that neutrality and giving up Crimea could be simpler for Ukraine than Russia’s different calls for, like an extra japanese partition and demilitarization. The diplomat confirmed that Mr. Putin appeared prepared to speak to Mr. Zelensky, who appears to be making an attempt to arrange Ukrainians for an eventual deal.

If correct, Mr. Putin’s willingness to speak to Mr. Zelensky, whose ouster he initially demanded, is a type of progress. That can also be an acknowledgment that the present Russian workforce negotiating with Ukraine is low-ranking and has little authority to settle essentially the most tough points. So peace seems a really good distance away.

Steven Erlanger reported from Brussels and Patrick Kingsley from Tbilisi, Georgia. Safak Timur contributed reporting from Istanbul.

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