It becomes easier to negotiate a peace if you don’t believe that the underlying war is World War III. From Anatol Lieven at responsiblestatecraft.org:
These Washington foreign policy elites are recklessly suggesting that Russia is a universal threat that requires absolute victory over evil.
Susan Glasser of the New Yorker, and Fiona Hill, late of President Trump’s National Security Council, believe that “we’re already fighting the Third World War with Russia,” though we don’t know it yet. This is folly. As Daniel Larison has remarked, if we’re fighting World War III, there’d be no doubt about it — we would probably already be dead.
America is indeed fighting a proxy war with Russia in Ukraine, as the Soviet Union fought a proxy war with the United States in Vietnam, and America fought a proxy war with the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. During the Cold War, however, both Soviet and American leaders were extremely careful to prevent such proxy wars from turning into direct war between the superpowers, bringing with it the imminent threat of mutual nuclear annihilation. They did this in part by eschewing proxy warfare on the continent of Europe, where the vital interests of the superpowers abutted each other in a way that was not true in most of Asia.
There were two occasions in which the United States came close to using nuclear weapons during the Cold War. The first was in Korea, when the U.S. Army appeared to be facing defeat on the ground and General MacArthur asked for the use of nuclear weapons against China. This was rightly refused by President Truman as the overwhelming majority of observers have concluded. The second was during the Cuban Missile Crisis, which took place close to the very shores of the U.S. mainland and was averted by intense eleventh hour diplomacy. Both affected America and Americans directly in a way that the present war in Ukraine, for all its horrors, quite obviously does not.