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Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Disappointing results of the Munich Security Conference

The 56th Security Conference was held in Munich from 14 to 16 February 2020. The next one will be held on February 19-21, 2021. Wolfgang Ischinger, its Chairman, said this when closing the forum on February 16. Assessing the current conference, Ischinger noted that its theme – «Westlessness», provoked a lot of debate. The Conference was attended by about 600 guests, including nearly 40 heads of state and government, and more than 100 foreign and defense ministers. The vast majority of panels were devoted to European and Euro-Atlantic topics. This time the focus was slightly less on the Middle East, and little more on Central Asia. Ukraine was represented at the forum by President Volodymyr Zelensky, who spoke and participated in the discussion, as well as a number of Ministers who held bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the forum.[1]

But despite the eloquent speeches made by heads of the leading states, a loud response was caused by the plan to end the war in Ukraine published at the Conference on February 14, 2020, which was prepared by three international organizations in cooperation with the Russian International Affairs Council. The organizers proposed the following 12 steps to end the war in Ukraine:

1. Restore the JCCC on ceasefire issues in the Donbas with the participation of Ukrainian and Russian military

2. Establish a "Normandy Format" at the military level

3. Opening up access for SMM to the entire territory of Eastern Ukraine (Crimea is not mentioned) and new checkpoints across the contact line

4. Address the problem of missing persons

5. Launch of the mine-clearance program

6. Launch of the program to restore Donbas with the involvement of international donors, while Russia may become one of the parties that voluntarily invest in the restoration of the region  

7. Trade resumption between Ukraine and Russia on the FTA principles

8. Gradual lifting of sanctions against Russia (the document calls it "changing the sanctions regime") with the development of an appropriate plan (as we know now, it is assumed that the sanctions should be lifted only if "Minsk Agreements" is fully implemented); context indicates that it is about easing pressure on the Russian Federation regarding de-occupation of the Donbas

9. Search and deactivation of dangerous radiation sources in the conflict zone in the Donbas

10. Dialogue among NATO member-states on mutual security "to overcome things that divide" (the document does not specify what it is about and whether Russia has to be part of such a dialogue)

11. Identification of priority areas of convergence between the EU and Russia with the development of human and economic ties

12. Launch of the all-Ukrainian national dialogue about Ukraine's “new identity”, which will take into account the view of Ukraine's neighbors, including Russia. It is noted that the subjects of this dialogue should be issues of history, national memory, language, identity and minorities.[2]

On February 14, 2020, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine announced its disagreement with the ideas on the settlement of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which were made public on Friday in Munich. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted that they do not consider the odious document an official proposal that requires consideration by Ukraine. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also stressed that it does not agree with the proposed ideas: "Theses contained in this document do not correspond to the official position of the Ukrainian state".[3]

Andrey Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, who was one of the initiators of the scandalous Munich "peace plan" on the conflict in the Donbas, said that it is not necessary to perceive this document as "sinister political intentions" and "Munich conspiracy".  Regarding the point of this document on the beginning of a national dialogue on Ukrainian identity, including with Russia, he added that it would be useful for Ukraine. "Ukraine is a very pluralistic society and such a dialogue would be useful for it. Regarding the participation of other neighboring states, this is a question for the Ukrainian leadership, as far as it is ready for such a dialogue," the General Director said.[4]

On February 15, 2020, Volodymyr Zelensky made a speech at the Munich Conference. In particular, he drew attention to the fact that the war against Ukraine continues. «I want to draw your attention to the fact that it is not quite correct to say "war in Ukraine". This is a war in Europe <…..> Today Ukraine continues to consistently and steadily adhere to the peaceful, diplomatic way of settlement in accordance with international law.  But complete silence has not yet been provided». At the same time, the President of Ukraine rejected the possibility of negotiations with representatives of "DPR and LPR". «We are ready for a dialogue with the civilian population of these territories. But not with those who are unrecognized from the point of view of international law, and therefore cannot represent the civilian population. In addition, I have many times communicated with ordinary people from the temporarily occupied territories. And objectively, the voice of Donbas is not only their opinion. After all, there are at least one and a half million Donetsk and Luhansk residents who were forced to leave their home. That's why we initiated the creation of public dialogue platform "Peace of Donbas", to which they should be involved». Zelensky also added: «Our wish today – to hold local elections all over Ukraine, including separate areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, in October 2020. And I would like in Crimea. But it is impossible for us to do this without basic security and political conditions, violating the Constitution of Ukraine and international standards of democratic elections».

Regarding new conditions for the separation of forces Volodymyr Zelensky suggested the following: «I want to tell about the initiative of the Ukrainian side on separation according to the so called sectoral principle. According to which, the line of demarcation is divided into sectors. There is a gradual separation of forces and means. The transition from one sector to the next is possible only after the OSCE SMM verifies that there are no illegal armed groups, armed troops or military equipment in the sector. In the near future, we will inform the participants of the Normandy Format in detail about the content of this initiative. Remembering the agreements in the Normandy Format, I can’t confirm reliable, secure and round-the-clock access for the OSCE SMM on the entire temporarily uncontrolled territory of Ukraine. Unfortunately, it is still absent. I stress once again that the effective work of the OSCE SMM in monitoring and verification is a key condition for the successful implementation of the safe package of the Minsk Agreements.» Summing up the report Zelensky stressed: «Our key task today is to ensure the strict implementation of the agreements reached in Paris. Every day, step by step, we are moving towards peace. But this is a two-way road, and we expect reciprocal steps. I firmly believe that without ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine and the return of Crimea, we cannot repair the damaged regional security system in Europe».[5]

What should Ukraine do? What can we do against such Russian diplomatic attacks? The approaches described in this document are unacceptable. It's time for Ukraine to talk about our fatigue. We are tired of hypocrisy. And failure of greater Europe to uphold its own principles. We are tired of being forced to have a dialogue with a person who is not able to hear anything but words about the great empire. Person, who proves that Ukraine and Ukrainians are nothing, an empty place. We are tired of being set requirements for 6 years and drawing 12-step action plans. Draw them better for Putin. We are tired of changing the rules of the game and the rules of accountability on different platforms for Russia. We are tired of loud speeches and words of support. And we are also tired of the lack of action. But with all this fatigue, we stand firm and keep defense of the European democracy. Ukraine has become a stronghold of European and world security. And I wish those states that call themselves friends and partners of Ukraine do not forget about that.[6]

Therefore, thanks to the creation of cynical «12 steps» by Kremlin supporters, the conference was aptly named "Munich Conspiracy - 2020", because what is proposed is absolutely unacceptable for our state. However, an important point of this conference was that Zelensky during his speech ruled out the possibility of negotiations with representatives of the "DPR and LPR" and said that conditions for a meeting in the Normandy Format, which was also raised during this conference, were not met, only what Putin agreed to. But in today's realities it will not be possible «to adhere to a peaceful, diplomatic way of settlement in accordance with international law» as the President of Ukraine noted, because the process of peaceful settlement is not effective, which is actually demonstrated by 6 years of war with the Russian Federation.