On the same weekend that Russia angered the West by pulling out of the UN-brokered grain export deal, which allowed Ukraine to ship its wheat and food supplies to global markets via an internationally monitored safety corridor, the Kremlin has floated a potential basis for "high-level re-engagement", state media reported on Sunday.
Despite this big step back on what constituted the only diplomatic 'positive' of the past months between the warring sides, Putin office spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in an interview with Rossiya-1 TV channel that talks with the United States remain possible if Washington "pays heed to our concerns."
Such an opening in negotiations related to the war in Ukraine would ultimately be contingent on "the US desire to go back to the state of things as of December-January" Peskov described, and the US must ask, according to his words: "what the Russians are offering may not suit all of us, but maybe we should still sit down with them at the negotiating table?"
The last time President Vladimir Putin weighed in on the possibility came in statements earlier this month, wherein he stated, "there is no platform for any negotiations yet."
Peskov's reference to the pre-invasion "state of things" in the December-January timeframe appears to be a reference to Russia's insistence on agreement on a formal declaration that Ukraine would never enter the NATO military alliance and other "security guarantees". This came in in the form of written proposals offered by the Russian side at the time, which both the Ukrainian government and West rebuffed.
NATO's official line has remained that it would never allow Russia to in effect exercise any kind of veto power over who or who should not be considered for membership in the bloc. Complicating the possibility of any near-term reengagement on this issue is the fact that NATO countries have only greatly increased their support to Kiev, turning Ukraine into a de facto NATO partner.
And yet recent polling shows most Americans want a diplomatic track between Washington and Moscow, particularly given growing fears of nuclear confrontation. As one poll from last month revealed:
Nearly 60 percent of Americans would support the United States engaging in diplomatic efforts "as soon as possible" to end the war in Ukraine, even if that means Ukraine having to make concessions to Russia, according to a new poll.
The survey, conducted by Data for Progress on behalf of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, also found that a plurality (49 percent) said the Biden administration and Congress have not done enough diplomatically to help end the war (37 percent said they had).
Russian officials keep saying they're ready for talks, Biden should listen. If he really thinks we're close to nuclear 'armageddon,' it's criminal not to pursue diplomacy.https://t.co/ng7MyaJzjV— Dave DeCamp (@DecampDave) October 30, 2022
Further, as Responsible Statecraft pointed out, the Ukraine war is not even among the three top driving concerns among the American public...
"Just six percent said Russia’s war in Ukraine is among the top three most important issues facing the United States today, with the top three being inflation (46 percent), jobs and the economy (31 percent), and gun violence (26 percent)," the think tank commented.