Huanqiu shibao: three possible outcomes of the meeting in the Normandy format

Хуаньцю шибао: три возможных результата встречи в нормандском формате

After three years of inactivity, the quadripartite mechanism meetings in the channel format (Russia, Germany, France, Ukraine), meant to resolve the crisis in Ukraine will resume its work next week in the French capital. In the course of negotiations will first meet Vladimir Putin and Vladimir Zelensky.The talks will take place at the very moment when the relations between the two countries associated with the issue have been major changes: from Russia receives assistance and participation, and by the US — cold and indifference. Softened Russia’s relations with Europe and Ukraine, the country regained the status of a member of the Council of Europe. France, Germany, Norway, Italy and other European countries began to talk about lifting anti-Russian sanctions. Between the heads of Russia and Ukraine held a telephone conversation, the countries exchanged prisoners 35, Russia returned to Ukraine, the ships arrested during the incident in the Kerch Strait. At the same time in relations between Ukraine and the United States have encountered some difficulties. Because of the suspicion by some in the “relations with Ukraine” the United States ceased to provide assistance to the country. After the former US Ambassador to Ukraine and special representative for Affairs of Ukraine resigned, their places are still empty.The resumption of negotiations in the Normandy format — the result of joint efforts of all four sides. Russia, who occupied the dominant position, hoping to take advantage of the new political course of the new people in the Ukraine, and the weakening of the us strategy to alienate this country from the West, to strengthen relations with Europe and to achieve the lifting of sanctions. France and Germany, occupying a neutral position, and hope to maintain security on the Eastern borders of Europe and to renew economic ties with Russia. Zelensky, occupying the most disadvantaged, but extremely important position, wants to fulfill a campaign promise to launch a channel coordination mechanism, to establish peace in the East of Ukraine and to strengthen political security. Therefore, for the resumption of negotiations in the Normandy format he accepted the difficult conditions of the Putin — to give a written consent with the “formula Steinmeier”.This formula was composed in 2016, the foreign Minister of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier. According to her, the Ukrainian government should adopt a law on assignment of Donetsk and Lugansk regions special status and special elections to bodies of local self-government. The past, the Ukrainian government has stated that local elections will be held only if the withdrawal from the East of the country armed groups and military equipment. In other words, Ukraine has put security above politics. Russia also held the opposite view on this account.At first glance, the cause of the collision positions of Russia and Ukraine seems to be a confrontation of equal forces in the East of the country, in fact the reason was the conflict of interests of the parties concerning foreign orientation of Ukraine.Ukraine determined membership in the EU and NATO as part of state policy relating to the status of the country and interests of its security and development. For Russia, security issues trump economic interests, because the security in the border areas is part of national security. The country simply could not allow its neighbour to join NATO. The Crimean issue has reinforced the antagonism of the parties on this issue. But even if Russia wants to bribe Ukraine, acting in its interests in the gas deals, and support from the West will be very limited in the short term, Ukraine is unlikely to abandon attempts to join the EU and NATO.Contradictions in Russian-Ukrainian relations due to the orientation of Ukraine’s foreign policy became result of intrigues that took place between Russia and the West in Europe and Asia after the cold war. Ukraine is just a key point within this large Euro-Asian games. The West sees Russia as a defeated party, and does not allow her to retain the land of special interests. After the entry into NATO of the three Baltic countries, Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova signed EU Association agreement, and as a result, more strengthened military cooperation of Ukraine and Georgia with NATO. The front line in the confrontation between Russia and NATO gradually shifts eastward, closer to Russia’s Western border, from which the country expresses clear dissatisfaction. Some of the States have become hostages of the situation in the framework of the big Eurasian game, chose to remain neutral (Turkmenistan), others began to look at the current situation benefits for themselves (Kazakhstan), and others stood in line (Ukraine).While geopolitical confrontation in Eurasia is still far from complete, negotiations in the Normandy format may lead to three possible results. The most probable is the occurrence of some progress in certain issues. For example, the parties vowed to seek a ceasefire in the Donbass, and Ukraine would agree to act in accordance with the “formula Steinmeier”. Then there are the short-term agreement reached in the negotiations between Russia, Europe and Ukraine on gas issues will strengthen relations between Russia and Europe.This result is due to the joint efforts of all four parties to the talks in the Normandy format. Russia occupies a dominant position and sets the pace of negotiations, will be able to put forward a scenario that meets her own interests and to direct the development of Ukraine towards federalization. In terms of reconciliation between France and Germany, the Ukraine, occupying the weakest position, as before, will compromise and agree with the Russian scenario.In accordance with the second scenario, the negotiations would be extremely difficult, the positions of Russia and Ukraine will be sharply different. In the end, the two sides will continue to deepen the understanding on issues such as the preservation of the status quo and avoiding crisis situations. The positive role of negotiations is that the leaders of Ukraine and Russia will have the opportunity to meet and exchange views in person and to lay the Foundation for further communication.The main reason for this outcome is that despite the claims Zelensky, the desire to solve problems by discussing them with the Russian side, the Ukrainian President is under pressure from the anti-Russian nationalist forces in the country and don’t dare to go for obvious concessions in matters relating to national territories and sovereignty. In addition, it can offer the option, more convenient Ukraine itself. Zelensky is not just talking about the principle of the superiority of safety over politics. Its terms within the four-party talks include the exchange of all prisoners, a complete cease-fire, the imposition of sanctions on persons that impede the reconciliation process, the transfer of control over Ukrainian-Russian border in the hands of the Ukrainian side and the creation of conditions for holding local elections. However, Russia will not support Ukraine this profitable project.The third outcome is very unlikely. In accordance with him in the negotiations will be a major break, the parties will constitute a legally valid plan for a final resolution of the conflict in the Donbas. As the leaders first meet in person, but their positions vary greatly in the near future it will be difficult to decide on a compromise on such important issues. Moreover, despite the limited American investment in Ukraine, States still have a great influence on its domestic policies. The reconciliation of Russia with Ukraine does not fit their anti-Russian strategy of blockade. The United States will not stand by if there is a likelihood of such a development.

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