The Ukraine crisis has pushed relations between Russia and the West to their lowest in decades. United States leader Joe Biden ’s administration claims 130,000 Russian troops are in border positions preparing to invade, prompting the strengthening of Nato defences in eastern European member nations. Moscow denies such plans and accuses opponents of hysterical rhetoric, reminding governments sovereign countries have the right to deploy soldiers on their territory as they wish. President Xi Jinping, in an effort to calm tensions, called during a phone conversation with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, for a diplomatic resolution. Xi had wise words, telling Macron that “all parties concerned should stick to the general direction of a political settlement, make full use of multilateral platforms” and “seek a comprehensive solution to the Ukraine issue through dialogue and consultation”. The French leader has been in the vanguard of diplomatic efforts, meeting Russian, Ukrainian and Nato leaders. Talks between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin have made little ground. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who on Wednesday rejected Putin’s claim that some troops were being withdrawn and instead alleged they were increasing in number, will coordinate efforts with allies at the annual Munich Security Conference, which begins today. A war in Ukraine would likely have heavy casualties. Nato’s being dragged into conflict with Russia would be inevitable, and the ramifications of disruption of Russian gas supplies to Europe and Western sanctions against Moscow are certain to have a severe economic impact in the midst of the Covid-19 health crisis. Russia expels No 2 US official in Moscow amid Ukraine crisis Moscow fears Nato’s expansion to its European borders will threaten its security. Nato promised Kyiv in 2018 it would eventually be given an opportunity to join the Western security alliance and that goal has been enshrined in the Ukrainian constitution. Beijing is well aware of the geopolitical risks; at a summit between Xi and Putin on February 4, the Chinese leader supported Moscow’s demands that Nato should not admit new members among countries on its borders. Blinken has been telling allies sovereign nations can make alliances with whomever they want. But sabre-rattling by Washington would seem to be less about protecting the rights of nations than trying to show global leadership at a time of flagging influence. The Chinese and Russian leaders declared they sought a new era and would not accede to the American-led world order. Dialogue is the only sensible way to deal with such a crisis. To talk of war is irresponsible. If the US wants to show leadership, it should do so on matters of pressing global concern like climate change and the pandemic.