On April 16, 2021, amid the buildup of the Russian Federation regular armed forces around the border with Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with French President Emmanuel Macron as part of a working visit to Paris. During the visit, the parties discussed security and bilateral cooperation issues and prospects for Ukraine's entry into NATO. At the same time, the planned consultations in an expanded format were canceled, because «face to face» negotiations of the two presidents took away all the time. After bilateral negotiations, trilateral negotiations were held in video format with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The leaders of the three countries discussed the aggravation in Donbas and considered the possibilities of achieving a de-escalation.
Predictably, this time Volodymyr Zelenskyy again received no assurances from Macron and Merkel that they are ready to practically support Ukraine against the background of Russian aggression. After the meeting, the three leaders called on Moscow to withdraw its troops from the Crimea and Ukraine-Russia border. Angela Merkel made a statement in which she once again expressed concern about the Russia’s expanding military buildup near the Ukrainian border, while Macron «limited himself to a tweet». The newspaper Le Monde noted that it was said «almost nothing» in Paris and Berlin about Zelenskyy's desire to integrate Ukraine into the EU and NATO. Although, Volodymyr Zelenskyy acquainted the President of France with the declaration that Ukraine signs with the member states of the European Union on the support of these countries for Ukraine's accession to the EU. In the last month, since the beginning of the growing tension around the Ukrainian borders, the representatives of Ukraine have made great efforts to consolidate the position of the world community against the aggressive actions of the Russian Federation. At the same time, the rhetoric of the Ukrainian side was aimed at the need to obtain concrete assurances and determine the real prospects for Ukraine's accession to the EU and NATO. Specifically for this purpose Ukraine has developed the concept of a Declaration on the European Prospect of Ukraine. In addition to the declaration, the Ukrainian leadership insistently calls on NATO member states to make decision to provide Ukraine with a NATO Membership Action Plan as soon as possible, which would allow Kyiv to focus on the specific steps necessary for NATO membership and send a decisive signal to Russia about the inadmissibility of dividing Europe into spheres of influence. After the visit to Paris, Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated he expects clear signals from NATO during the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in June.
However, the position of France and Germany does not cause optimism in Kyiv, because guided by expectations not to enter into conflict with the Russian Federation, both states are trying to maintain partnership relations with Vladimir Putin. On April 3, in particular, a joint statement was published by the foreign ministries of the two states regarding the aggravation in Donbas, in which they «call on the parties to restrain and immediately de-escalate tensions». In fact, France and Germany have blamed both the Russian Federation and Ukraine which has been suffering from Russian armed aggression for the seventh consecutive year for the deployment of the Russian troops and the aggravation in the East. Although, a few days after the statemen release, German Chancellor Angela Merkel publicly appealed to Putin to stop the buildup of forces on the border with Ukraine for de-escalation.
Despite the sanctions that were introduced against the Russian Federation after the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and the occupation of a part of East of Ukraine, it can be stated that Russia has managed to maintain economic relations with the states of the European Union. In the diplomatic dimension, the Kremlin has escaped diplomatic isolation and continues to try to advance the Russian agenda in international organizations. In this regard, Angela Merkel's answer to the question of the Ukrainian deputy from the conservative group in PACE Olexiy Honcharenko, who asked Angela Merkel to answer the question whether she considers Vladimir Putin to be a killer, was indicative in this regard. And although the PACE chairman presiding at the session, Belgian Rik Daems, made a remark on this matter and asked the Ukrainian deputy «to refrain from insulting» in the session hall, the chancellor nevertheless answered this question. «I say this in my own words: When it comes to criticism of Putin, I don’t hold back. I also say this in personal conversations, and this is my way of dealing with this phenomenon, that we do not agree with everything that happens in Russia with regard to human rights». Even before Goncharenko's conversation with Merkel on the same day, Rick Daems took away Oleksiy Honcharenko's opportunity to speak during the session on the pretext that the Ukrainian deputy had shown the Ukrainian flag.
The story with Honcharenko culminated in the first in history of the PACE disciplinary proceeding against the deputy and deprivation of the right to vote for three months on the complaint of the head of the Russian delegation to the Assembly. As «European Truth» noted, complaints about Honcharenko and prejudice against the Ukrainian delegation appeared precisely after Rick Daem's visit to Moscow in March. While, all meetings of the PACE chairman with Russian authorities were closed for journalists and after the meetings no press conferences were held. Thus, upon the return of the Russian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, PACE continues to play along with Russia, turning a blind eye to its aggressive policy and disregard for all principles of organization, while actually silencing Ukrainian deputies.
In such circumstances, Ukraine's leadership should focus on practical cooperation based on Ukraine's pragmatic state interests, rather than on «European values» which Europeans neglect themselves. Obviously, France and Germany reject the possibility of granting Ukraine a MAP. Even the candidate for the post of Federal Chancellor of Germany from the Green Party, which traditionally opposes the construction of Nord Stream 2, has stated that she does not see Ukraine in NATO due to the conflict with Russia. First of all, Ukraine needs to strengthen its defense capabilities. Ukraine is already in dialogue on a possible supply of defense weapons from Germany. Against the background of the recent escalation with Russia, Kyiv has turned to Berlin for weaponry to strengthen coastal defenses. In particular, Kyiv asked for warheads for “Sea Spear” anti-ship missiles, GDM-008 “Millennium” anti-aircraft guns, as well as “Sea Cat” and “Sea Fox” unmanned underwater systems to detect and neutralize sea mines. However, there is no consensus in the FRG government regarding the idea of selling weapons to Ukraine, and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas opposed this idea. Thus, Western European officials hope that they can come to an agreement with the Kremlin through negotiations and, possibly, concessions at the expense of Ukraine and do not want to be involved into an unacceptable direct conflict with Russia if weapons are provided to Ukraine. However, just as in 1938 the European states did not manage to avoid a large-scale war with Hitler at the expense of Czechoslovakia, so now, it will not be possible to appease Putin's revisionist Russia at the expense of Ukraine.