The Observer view on US-Russia talks and tensions in Ukraine | Observer editorial

Diplomatic talks calm tensions for now but Europe is left looking feeble and irrelevant

Talks about the Ukraine crisis between senior US and Russian diplomats, held in Geneva at the end of last week, appear to have calmed tensions, at least for now. The situation on Ukraine’s land and sea borders, where Moscow has amassed troops and powerful military assets, remains grave. But alarmist predictions of imminent, large-scale conflict have proved wide of the mark.

The dogged insistence of Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, on pursuing diplomatic means to address Russia’s security concerns clearly made an impression on his notoriously intransigent opposite number, Sergei Lavrov. Russia’s foreign minister said the talks had been “constructive and useful” and agreed to continue them this week.

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Putin, a ‘rogue male’ on the rampage, threatens to start a war no one wants | Simon Tisdall

No western leader wants to lock horns over Ukraine – but they need to declare the Russian leader a pariah

The term “rogue male”, denoting a rampaging bull elephant, is also used figuratively to describe a dangerously out-of-control, cold-hearted loner. It may be that Vladimir Putin has a cuddly side. If so, it’s well-hidden. Russia’s president fits the rogue male profile to a T – unscrupulous, vicious, cunning, and ever ready to trample on other people and countries.

Much recent effort has been expended trying to understand and explain Putin’s motives in threatening a wider war in Ukraine. Does he hope to restore past Soviet glories or crush Kyiv’s pro-western trajectory? Is it about his historical legacy or his need for a repeat electoral “Crimea bounce”? Such theories carry weight, but they all miss the essential point.

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