Zelensky can offer Russia sanctions relief for peace, US says — Analysis

Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Washington will “allow” lifting of sanctions to help Ukraine negotiate end to the war

Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, was given permission by Washington to give Russia an exemption from all international sanctions in return for a halting its military aggression against the ex-Soviet republic.

Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, opened the doors to this offer Sunday. He confirmed in an NBC News interview Zelensky’s ability to negotiate peace sanctions relief. He said President Joe Biden’s administration will support whatever the Ukrainian people want to do to bring the war to an end.

“We’ll be looking to see what Ukraine is doing and what it wants to do,” Blinken said. “And if it concludes that it can bring this war to an end, stop the death and destruction and continue to assert its independence and its sovereignty – and ultimately that requires the lifting of sanctions – of course, we will allow that.”

The US and its allies are doing everything possible to strengthen Kiev’s hand at the negotiating table, but the sanctions are meant to influence Russia’s behavior – not to remain in place indefinitely, Blinken said. He brushed aside suggestions by NBC host Chuck Todd that now isn’t the time to negotiate away concessions to Russia, saying it’s up to Ukrainians how to end the war in Ukraine. He also rejected Todd’s assertion that the Russian president shouldn’t be allowed to remain in power, saying Vladimir Putin’s future is up to the Russian people.

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Although Blinken argued that Putin has failed to accomplish his alleged objectives in Ukraine – subjugating Kiev, demonstrating Russia’s military prowess and dividing NATO members – he said it still makes sense to pursue a negotiated settlement. “Even though he’s been set back, even though I believe this is already a strategic defeat for Vladimir Putin, the death and destruction that he’s wreaking every single day in Ukraine . . . are terrible, and so there’s also a strong interest in bringing those to an end.”   

Some leaders suggested the West could be more strict with its promises of sanctions relief in an effort to not reward Russia and allow Putin to get out unscathed. Biden actually said that Putin was his “victim” last weekend, raising eyebrows. “cannot remain in power,” a comment that Blinken was forced to walk back, saying the US isn’t pursuing regime change in Russia or anywhere else.

Todd later asked Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State, questions on his program. “Can we really live in a world where Putin’s let back into the new world order?”Clinton agreed to Blinken’s statement that the US should help Ukrainians in their choice “the best way forward”For their country.

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