The heads of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine have agreed to organize a meeting of foreign ministers of the Normandy Four countries in the coming weeks, according to a communique from the Elysee Palace.
Earlier that Vladimir Putin had a phone conversation with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, reported in Moscow. In a statement on the Kremlin’s website, it is said that during the talks, “the worrying situation in connection with the stalling of the process of resolving the internal Ukrainian conflict was thoroughly discussed.” In particular, the President of Russia “gave a principled assessment of the line of the Kiev authorities, stubbornly evading the fulfillment of both their obligations under the Minsk agreements and the agreements reached at the previous Normandy summits, including in Paris on December 9, 2019”.
“Given the current difficult state of affairs in the settlement of the conflict in southeastern Ukraine, the leaders instructed their political advisers and foreign ministries to intensify contacts and work along the lines of the Normandy Four,” the document says. In addition, the parties will continue to “study the preconditions for the possible organization, if necessary, of a Normandy summit.
Apparently, they quickly studied it.
“These two trilateral conversations made it possible to take stock of the measures approved at the Paris summit in the Normandy format in December 2019 within the framework established by the Minsk agreements,” the Elysee Palace communique says.
“The parties agreed on the need to work on the full implementation of the conclusions (of the Paris summit) and to this end agreed to organize in the coming weeks a meeting at the ministerial level between France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine,” the statement also says.
How did they come to an agreement so quickly? And how to understand the abrupt change in Moscow’s position? Indeed, in the Kremlin lately, they only said that it was inexpedient to meet or even talk with the Ukrainian president until Kiev fulfills the obligations undertaken during the last summit.
Just on the day when the trilateral talks took place, an article by the chairman of United Russia was published Dmitry Medvedev, in which he stated: Vladimir Zelenskyfearing to get another “Maidan”, he is forced to change his political and moral orientation and begin to defend the views of nationalists that are disgusting to him. In such a situation, negotiations with the Ukrainian leader are impossible, Medvedev summed up.
And suddenly Moscow agrees to a meeting? What happened?
– The opinion prevails in Moscow, which is also contained in Medvedev’s article that Ukraine is not an independent country in its politics and receives “valuable instructions” from Washington, – notes Stanislav Byshok, Ph.D. in Political Science, Executive Director of the International Monitoring Organization CIS-EMO…
– At the same time, the Kremlin did not express optimism about the idea of Kiev to expand the “Normandy format” by attracting a fifth participant – the United States. It turned out to be possible to get out of this situation thanks to the actual involvement of the American foreign policy department in the person, in particular, Victoria Nuland to negotiations without formalizing this participation. Everyone remains with their own people, but at the same time everyone is happy.
SP: – Did Nuland’s visit somehow influence the change in Moscow’s position?
– There is a saying in English: better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. There is no direct analogue in Russian, but the point is that the old and well-known enemy is in every way better than the new and unknown. In Moscow, Nuland is considered one of the arsonists of the second Ukrainian “Maidan” and, in general, an anti-Russian hawk. At the same time, she is perceived in Washington as an expert on Ukraine who, in negotiations with the Russians, whom she also knows well, will not yield an inch of American interests, whatever they may be.
“SP”: – What is the point in this meeting at all, if the same Merkel leaves, and Macron has elections next year?
– Neither Germany nor France are participating in the Donbass conflict and will not participate, no matter who comes to power in Berlin and Paris. At the same time, the policies of both countries are quite predictable and are unlikely to change significantly with the change of the chancellor and the president. And those agreements that Merkel or Macron sign, they sign not in their personal capacity, but as representatives of their countries. In this sense, it is never too early and never too late to meet in the Normandy or any other format.
“SP”: – Is there anything new to expect from Ukraine?
– In Ukraine today there is no significant political force that would advocate the implementation of the constitutional reform required by the Minsk agreements, with the approval of broad autonomy for Donbass. All parties to the conflict seem to have come to terms with the fact that the problem is of a protracted, long-term nature and that no breakthroughs, be they diplomatic or military, are to be expected.
– We are talking about a meeting at the ministerial level, so there will be no meeting between Putin and Zelensky, – I’m sure political scientist Vsevolod Shimov…
– I think we are talking about the usual “reconciliation of watches”, nothing more, although there really is no special sense in this. Nevertheless, given that the negotiations on Ukraine have long been deadlocked, and there is still no alternative to the “Normandy format”, everyone continues to pretend that it is still deciding something.
“SP”: – Merkel leaves for sure, Macron has elections next year. Are there risks of talking to lame ducks?
– Regardless of who is at the helm of Germany or France, they remain participants in the Normandy format, so consultations continue, regardless of the reshuffle in governments.
“SP”: – Potential replacements of Merkel and Macron will bring, in your opinion, something new?
– If a ruling coalition with the participation of the Greens comes to power in Germany, and they get the post of Foreign Minister, one should expect a tougher and more aggressive course from Germany towards Russia. It cannot be ruled out that in this situation the entire “Normandy format” will cease to exist.
As for France, the presidential elections there are unlikely to bring any fundamental changes. It is highly likely that Macron will remain for a second term. Even if not, the French elites are generally quite sympathetic to Russia and are much less involved in Eastern European and Ukrainian affairs than Germany. France here plays the role of a “wedding general”, little depends on its position.
“SP”: – And what to expect from Ukraine? Someone believes that the position of Kiev will change, and the same will not happen? Zelensky’s entourage is constantly talking about the impossibility of implementing the Minsk agreements. At the same time, all parties in the course of negotiations constantly emphasize their lack of alternatives. How long can this circus be supported?
– This circus still has a sense – it stabilizes and freezes the situation, not allowing a return to a confrontational scenario. So far, it suits everyone – Ukraine, the West, and Russia. There is no way out of the current impasse, and no one wants to escalate. How long this situation will last is hard to say. Most likely, more than one year. Therefore, the parties will continue to imitate negotiations – both endless and fruitless.
“SP”: – Nuland arrived in Moscow the day before. Do you think her visit influenced anything? Maybe, in general, it is worth starting to negotiate directly with the United States, excluding from the negotiations their puppet Ukraine and Germany with France, which already have little influence on what?
– The United States will never agree to this kind of negotiations – at least not publicly. After all, the West supports the illusion that Ukraine is a sovereign state suffering from Russian aggression. Therefore, the claims that the Kiev regime is an American puppet will always be rejected with indignation in Washington. It is another matter that in a non-public format such negotiations are quite possible and it cannot be ruled out that they are already underway. And their results will most likely be “legalized” through the same “Normandy format”.