Commentary: An off-ramp for Vladimir Putin is repugnant but necessary

Until recently, Putin would have deemed this unacceptable. Now it might not look so bad.

Of course, Ukraine and its most ardent supporters would hate it too. Rewarding Russia’s hostility with territory and sustaining Putin in power seem unconscionable.

But it has been a grave mistake throughout for the US and its friends to defer as much as they have to Ukraine’s judgment of what’s at stake and how much risk to run. Ukraine’s interests and calculations of warranted sacrifice are aligned with those of the West, but not identical to them.

Most of the world would see a negotiated outcome not as Ukraine might, but as a salutary defeat for Russia.

The suggestion that Putin would simply pause, gather strength, and then renew his wars of expansion in pursuit of Greater Russia is a stretch. The course of the war has underlined the limits of Russia’s power, tested the patience of its allies, and cemented the capacity of the West to challenge its actions.

The total humiliation of Putin, or his removal from power, isn’t necessary to drive this home.

Accepting this deeply unsatisfying result would lessen the risk of a catastrophic wider conflict. It’s a price worth paying.