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Washington, May 30 : When President Barack Obama and other world leaders gather in Germany next week, Russia’s Vladimir Putin will be left off the guest list, part of his punishment for more than a year of alleged Kremlin-supported aggression in Ukraine. But despite vows from Obama and his European counterparts to isolate Putin as long as the crisis in Ukraine remains unresolved, the Russian leader is still a central player in major international affairs, including the US-led nuclear talks with Iran. Also Read - Barack Obama Administration Knowingly Funded Al-Qaeda Affiliate: US Report

Just this month, German Chancellor Angela Merkel travelled to Moscow for talks with Putin and Secretary of State John Kerry went to Sochi to confer with the Russian leader. Putin and British Prime Minister David Cameron also spoke by phone in recent days and agreed to resume talks aimed at ending Syria’s civil war, another matter where Putin’s cooperation is crucial. (READ : Vladimir Putin laughs off ‘rumours’ over his 10-day absence) Also Read - Vladimir Putin Decides to Receive Russian Coronavirus Vaccine Sputnik V

US officials defend the engagement with Russia, saying it’s limited to areas where Moscow and the West have shared interests.
Outreach to Putin on such matters, officials argue, should not be seen as a sign that the West has accepted the status quo in Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists continue to stoke instability.

“It makes sense to cooperate where there is a clear mutual interest as long as you’re not being asked to back off matters of principle that matter to the security and well-being of your country and your allies and your friends,” Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday. However, some regional analysts say the West risks sending mixed signals to Ukraine, where the government been pushing for more support.

Matthew Rojanksy, an expert on the former Soviet states at the Wilson Centre, said there is “growing disappointment” in Ukraine about what officials there see as the West’s “pale commitment” to protecting its sovereignty. “They are all deeply worried that the United States will throw them under the bus to make a grand bargain with Putin,” Rojanksy wrote in an email from Kiev, where he was meeting with government officials and civil society groups.

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine escalated last year when the Kremlin-backed president in Kiev fled amid protests. Pro-Russian separatists moved to take over the strategically important Crimean Peninsula, which was then formally annexed by Russia. While the West doesn’t recognise the annexation of Crimea, the US and Europe have largely given up on Russia returning the area to Ukraine.