If the Biden administration fails to deter Russia’s further aggression toward Ukraine, it will not be for lack of diplomatic effort.

The administration has defined red lines (e.g., respect Ukraine’s sovereignty, Russia cannot dictate NATO membership), described severe consequences (going beyond the feckless 2014 response), coordinated with allies and established talks with Russia. It has also provided Russian President Vladimir Putin with some alternative off-ramps to, for example, enter into more general, reciprocal talks about European security.

Former ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul tells me, “I am not a fan of rewarding Putin with talks because he threatens to invade Ukraine. But sometimes you have no better option than to talk to hostage-takers.” He adds, “While forced to have these talks under very bad circumstances, I thought the Biden team’s preparation was superb. . . . [Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman] brought a larger set of substantive ideas to Geneva, all of which had been coordinated with allies and partners and did not just react to Putin’s wish list. That was smart.”

The Biden administration has been unusually forthcoming in describing the long list of meetings, calls and personal visits it conducted with Ukraine and NATO partners in an effort to display an unwavering and unified stance against Russian aggression. A White House fact sheet explained: “The United States has approached this week’s diplomatic engagements with Russia — in the bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue, the NATO-Russia Council, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) — closely aligned with our European Allies and partners, including Ukraine, after extensive consultations. In recent weeks, President Biden has spoken to leaders across Europe.” The fact sheet provided a long list of consultations by the president and other administration officials with allies, including 20 contacts with Ukraine, a dozen with NATO partners and more than a dozen with members of the Eastern European group of countries known as the “Bucharest Nine.”

Brian Katulis at the Middle East Institute observes, “The contrasts between [former president Donald] Trump’s performance with Russia’s President Putin at Helsinki and his erratic approach on Russia versus how the full Biden team is handling this episode is strong, with the Biden team working closely with partners in Europe.” He adds, “It looks so far that some of the Biden team have learned important lessons from the relatively weak response to the Russian invasion of Crimea in Obama’s second term.” He cautions however that the administration cannot skimp on “diplomatic engagement with Ukraine," which constantly frets deals will be made without its agreement.

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The administration is also well aware that Russia might stage a variety of false-flag or pretextual events to justify an invasion. To head that off, Biden officials plan to reveal what some of those tactics might look like, thereby making it harder for Russia to concoct a rationale for aggression.

The administration’s extensive diplomacy and candor about its efforts are meant to convey a simple point: Unlike the prior administration, this administration has done the hard work of coordinating with allies to provide a united diplomatic front to deter Russian aggression. After criticism over its communication with allies on the withdrawal from Afghanistan and its dust-up with France over the new Britain-Australia-U.S. strategic submarine deal, Biden’s foreign policy team has worked furiously to remove any doubt about the West’s unity and resolve. That will be critical if the administration is to dissuade Russia from plunging into a full-scale invasion of Ukraine that might even include Kyiv.

Max Bergmann of the Center for American Progress tells me: “The Russians came forth with ridiculous demands. And in response, the administration has said in a clear and measured way: Look, if you really have security concerns about things like military exercises or deployments of forces and weapons, we can talk about that.” He adds, “The U.S. is the constructive and reasonable player, while the Russians look like they are just looking for a diplomatic pretext for war.”

Meanwhile, the administration has attempted to discourage Congress from moving ahead with Nord Stream 2 sanctions for two reasons: First, the administration sees them as leverage for the West, given that Russia understands any further incursion into Ukraine would mean Nord Stream 2 could not become operative. Second, the administration knows that the sanctions would upset Germany, which would not be conducive to a united front in the event of an invasion.

How will we know if the Biden administration is succeeding? Aside from the absence of news of Russia’s military advance, ongoing conversations with Russia and our allies about items other than Ukraine’s future inclusion in NATO might signal that Putin is moving away from his plan to derail Ukraine’s drift to the West.

But this is not a month-long or even a year-long diplomatic effort. Putin’s ambitions are not likely to be quenched anytime soon. That means the diplomacy and close coordination with allies must continue as long as Putin’s revanchist dreams persist.