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Foreign Policy Research Institute

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"Steinmeier Formula" as a source of civil confrontation in Ukraine

On October 1, about 700 people protested in the center of the Ukrainian capital against Ukraine's approval of the "Steinmeier Formula", which they consider a way to surrender. At the same time, the protest took place near the President's Office on Bankova street, where representatives of the parties "National Corps" and "Svoboda" were present among the protesters. The actions began after a briefing by President Volodymyr Zelensky, who confirmed the approval of the "Steinmeier Formula" at a meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk. Protesters consider such actions as a "path to surrender." The leader of the party "National Corps", a non-faction member of the Verkhovna Rada, Andriy Biletsky announced an indefinite action against Ukraine's approval of the "Steinmeier Formula". "Today happened what Churchill called: "We shall choose Shame, and then have War thrown in a little later," he said, adding that Volodymyr Zelensky betrayed 16 thousand Ukrainians who died at the front.  Subsequently, residents of many cities of Ukraine came to protests with calls for "No surrender!". But the head of the office of the President, Andriy Bohdan believes that the actions were organized for money. Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Dmitry Razumkov also reacted to the action. He stated that it is not the surrender of national interests, and that the law on peculiarities of local self-government in some areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions would be adopted by the deputies together with society. Nevertheless, the organizers of the action noted that they will continue to protest.[1]

On October 10, 2019, Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky stressed that he went to the elections as a "President of peace". Because the majority of voters will vote for such candidate, but not for the one who went with statements that today in Ukraine there will be a martial law, and the army will begin large-scale attack on the Donbas. If  leader says that he is ready to go to war, ready for numerous losses to regain his land, he must go to the occupied territories by war, Volodymyr Zelensky explained during the presmarathon. Then we must go to war in the Crimea, for which our army is not ready. It's not even about the army – as a President I'm not ready to lose our people. Therefore I have chosen the diplomatic path, the President emphasized. In addition, he stressed that much has been inherited from predecessors - war, corruption, "PrivatBank", licenses taken away from the channels. "All this is not solved by martial law. I'm not ready to lose people. I have always said that if we are talking about people and territory, the first priority is people. I want to try it thanks to Minsk and the Normandy format," President said. At the same time, he noted, he doesn’t want to scare people. Separately, he recalled how the previous President, Petro Poroshenko imposed martial law on the territory of Ukraine."Do you remember what happened to the people? How did all the people react? Fear, panic, the need to run. Do you want chaos? I do not want it",  Volodymyr Zelensky summed up.[2]

On October 15, 2019, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Vadym Pristayko also explained that despite "Steinmeier's Formula" is a "painful compromise", it allows to keep the process of restoring sovereignty over the temporarily occupied territories "in a peaceful direction". The Minister of Foreign Affairs said that the authorities "know and hear every word said against such an option, but the alternative to the Formula is mobilization. "If it ("Steinmeier's Formula" – red.) is an acceptable price for the people, we’ll do it. If not, we should know. I have already said to our deputies: if they take this seriously, then we’ll take away a third of our budget, from pensions, salaries, medical insurance, we transfer it to mobilization of our army and try to protect ourselves without peace process", Pristayko explained.[3]

Nevertheless, the representative of Ukraine in the Trilateral Contact Group, Leonid Kuchma warns the Ukrainian leadership against unacceptable concessions to the Russian side at the upcoming meeting in the Normandy format. Kuchma said that Kyiv should not accept compromises, such as approving a plan for separatists to hold elections in areas they control in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions without the control of the Ukrainian authorities.  He also expressed concern that France and Germany may encourage Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky to unacceptable concessions to Moscow. "It will be very difficult for Zelensky - he will stand alone against three opponents," Kuchma said.[4]

Political expert, Olexiy Minakov identified five negative consequences for Ukraine in case of approval of "Steinmeier's Formula" :1) Aggravation of the internal conflict in Ukraine; 2) Shifting the discourse from the security aspect to the political; 3) Increasing the subjectivity of the puppet leaders of the occupied Donbas; 4) It is easier for Western partners to put pressure on Ukraine and to make concessions to Russia; 5) If the "Formula" is  fulfilled then a time bomb under the whole Ukrainian statehood will be laid,".[5]

Obviously that tension in Ukrainian society around the "Steinmeier Formula" may play into Putin's hands. And then Russia will reach its goal to have in Ukraine not pseudo-civil war in Ukraine, but in fact civil. But the Kremlin is doing all this in order to eventually weaken the Ukrainian state in one form or another and eventually destroy it. As noted by senior fellow of the Atlantic Council of the United States, Thomas Umland discussions in Ukraine around the "Steinmeier Formula" are dangerous. In his opinion, the discussion around the "Steinmeier Formula" is exaggerated because it is mainly based on mistrust. Among other things, mistrust of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, because this OSCE structure can be used to actually create Russian "satellite states" inside Ukraine. He also added that Russia is simply using this situation to create and increase tension in Ukraine and to heat distrust, to try to create with its help a real confrontation within Ukrainian society. After all, the ultimate goal of the Kremlin – in one form or another to weaken the Ukrainian state and subsequently destroy it.[6]

Therefore the adoption by Zelensky the "Steinmeier Formula" will indicate that he has embarked on a slippery slope of further concessions to the aggressor. Then it is unlikely that anything will save him from the trap of implementing "peace" under Putin's dictate - the incorporation of malignant Putin-controlled tumor of the Kremlin-controlled Donbas into the body of Ukraine. And the Ukrainians will get an internal front against "Russian worls" and "separatists" metastases throughout the country, including state institutions in Kyiv. Combined with the news of Zelensky's record support rating as President, this indicates our accelerated movement toward a new epic battle for the fate of Ukraine.[7]

Consequently, with the beginning of the protests, the situation with the "Steinmeier Formula" in Ukraine began to deteriorate sharply and led to the fact that the current authority of Ukraine tried to intimidate Ukrainians «to take away a third of our budget, from pensions, salaries, medical insurance, we transfer it to mobilization of our army and try to protect ourselves without peace process». Of course, in today's conditions, the implementation of such a "threat" is impossible. Instead, the protests highlighted two types of dissatisfied people  first, this is a team of Poroshenko, that wants a revenge and is trying to take advantage of the opportunity to quarrel the people and the newly elected power team of Zelensky. Second, veterans who do not share the attempts of authorities to end the war between Ukraine and Russia in this way. However, already on these days the leader of the "National Corps", Andriy Biletsky reported a certain victory - "Steinmeier Formula" is frozen now and the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops is not happening. Whether it will remain so, we will see further.