Experts have made the case in recent months that such openings are crucial to avoiding a vicious circle of mistrust and protracted war.

by Blaise Malley, Responsible Statecraft

Communication between Washington and Moscow has been rare over the first 500 days of the war in Ukraine. But NBC News reported Thursday that a group of former high-level U.S. officials have held secret talks with Russians perceived to be close to the Kremlin, with the goal of laying the groundwork for an eventual diplomatic solution to the war.

According to the NBC News story, which cites “people briefed on the discussions,” the talks focused on some of the most pressing questions concerning the conflict, including “the fate of Russian-held territory that Ukraine may never be able to liberate, and the search for an elusive diplomatic off-ramp that could be tolerable to both sides.”

putin talks with biden in a book filled room

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attended at least one of the meetings when he made a rare visit to New York City to chair the UN security council in April, according to the report. The former U.S. officials named in the article are Richard Haass, the outgoing president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Charles Kupchan, and Thomas Graham — all of whom previously worked in senior positions in the State Department, among other national-security agencies — as well as former Pentagon official Mary Beth Long.

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