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Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Waiting for the «Normandy format»

In Berlin, on September 2-3, a meeting of political assistants of the heads of the Normandy Four countries was held, «Ukrinform» reports.[1] Ukraine's position. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Vadym Prystaiko said that during the talks they were talking about the implementation of specific agreements that will open the way to the summit, «Ukrinform» reports. "I hope that the agreements reached, which we are going to fulfill all, will be implemented in the near future, and we will be able to open the way to the summit. There is a certain success, on the basis of the results of which we are going to base the next meeting of leaders," the Minister said. Prystaiko noted that he could not disclose details of the agreement "Normandy Four", but among the important points on which attention was concentrated, he called the completion of the process of withdrawal of troops in Stanytsia Luhanska. Regarding the meeting of the leaders of the "Normandy format", it is too early to talk about it. According to Prystaiko, the leaders of Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia must decide it on the basis of reports presented to them by their assistants.

Russia's position. According to Director of the Center for political conjuncture of the Russian Federation, Aleksey Chesnakov at the meeting in Berlin they did not agree on the date of the summit of leaders of the Normandy format. Instead, assistants leader of the "Normandy Four" discussed the conditions under which this summit could take place. According to Chesnakov, the Russian delegation insisted that primarily it is necessary to implement the decisions of the previous meetings, namely, to disengage the forces in Petrovske and Zolote, as well as to agree on the "Steinmeier Formula". Chesnakov also said that the parties at the meeting managed to make significant progress in the discussion on the above topics. "In general, the possibility of resuming the work of the “Normandy format” is congratulated by all parties. The work will continue both at the level of assistant leaders and in the Contact Group," he added.  Thus, now such dispositions of the parties were allocated.

Ukraine. During the meeting with Emmanuel Macron, held in the twentieth of August, the President of the aggressor state, Vladimir Putin noted that he is ready for negotiations in the Normandy format, but only if such negotiations will be productive. The result of any negotiations (if it is not a negotiations about surrender) provides for the desire of the parties to make reasonable compromises. Ukraine officially considers the implementation of the Minsk agreements as a painful but acceptable compromise. Another question is that the Ukrainian vision of step-by-step implementation of the Minsk agreements is fundamentally different from the Russian vision.

In general, experts note the strengthening of the rhetoric of the Ukrainian President in comparison with the one that was a few months ago. "Zelensky is becoming tougher towards Russia. He had more information about what is happening in the Crimea, Donbas, and what is the threat to the survival of the state. He drew his conclusions. Second, he was chosen in order not to to make peace at any cost. From a political point of view, Zelensky does not make sense to go for things that are difficult to explain to Ukrainians," Peter Burkovsky says.

Russia. Russia, in turn, remains on the same positions, exposing Ukraine, the same conditions as before. Two of them are key to Moscow: the approval of the special status of the Donbas at the constitutional level and direct negotiations of Ukraine with the "DPR and LPR". In fact, both of these conditions are only mechanisms that allow Moscow to achieve its main goal one way or another: to keep Ukraine in the orbit of its influence. At the same time, Andriy Miselyuk considers that Moscow will try to insist during a meeting on its conditions. "Putin understands that now the ball is on his side, because Ukraine, France and Germany are interested in the meeting, and whether it will take place depends on Moscow, and he will try to squeeze the maximum out of this favorable situation. What Russia wants has been repeatedly voiced, in particular, Moscow would be satisfied with the implementation of the "Steinmeier Formula", and they want Ukraine to agree in then written form to implement it. Russia has always sought to legitimize "DPR and LPR", and now it has a light at the end of the tunnel," Andriy Miselyuk says.

West. After Vladimir Putin's meeting with Emmanuel Macron and compliments to the Russian President, that had been heard during his visit, Ukraine began saying that meeting in the "Normandy format" could be dangerous for Ukraine because the West can play on the side of Russia.  Leonid Kuchma, a former Ukrainian president and now a representative of Ukraine in the Tripartite Contact Group on Donbas, expressed his concern that France and Germany can encourage Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky to unacceptable concessions to Moscow." It will be very difficult for Zelensky because he will stand alone against three opponents," he said[2].

How will the meeting of the leaders of the Normandy Four end, and what will happen next? Representatives of the Ukrainian authorities, in turn, express hope to end the war by the end of the year. As for the experts, they make the opposite predictions about the outcome of the summit. Also, according to experts, Russia in case of failure of negotiations will try to create as many problems as possible to the new Ukrainian authorities. "I think Russia is counting on a few things. First of all, is that the new command eventually will not cope with the management of the state, and quarrel with everyone. Perhaps in the winter they will try to organize a "gas crisis". In addition, the global economic crisis, which everyone expects in 2020, may have a negative effect. And  Kremlin expects that in the midst of all there will be a serious political crisis in Ukraine, as a result of which they will be able to win back the positions," Peter Burkovsky says. Director of the Institute for Social and Political Design "Dialogue" Andriy Miselyuk, in turn, fears that the Kremlin with the support of Germany and France this time will succeed. "I think new agreements will be signed. At the same time, unfortunately, Russia will achieve much better results. And, unfortunately, it already calls into question further opportunity for Ukraine to return Donbas on the own conditions. I think the probability of such a result is not 100% of course, but very high," expert said.[3]

Summarizing the above, it is clear that many experts are now expressing concern about the future of the Normandy format. And there are good reasons for this anxiety. As we can see, Russia has a lot of questions that can be manipulated at this meeting, for example, now it actively insists on the implementation of the "Steinmeier Formula", which provides for the following actions:

1. Holding elections in the "DPR and LPR" without disarmament of the militants, the withdrawal of Russian troops and border control.

2. After the elections, Ukraine grants political and economic autonomy to the "DPR and LPR".

3.  Ukraine should declare a full amnesty to all militants.

4. Militants receive the status of “people's police”.

According to the provisions of the "Formula", Ukraine must primarily agree to the elections in the Donbas, give a “special status” to the region and only then the withdrawal of troops will take place. For Ukraine, the implementation of such a "Formula" would mean surrender in the war with Russia. It is no coincidence that Leonid Kuchma said that the Ukrainian side does not agree with the provisions of the "Steinmeier Formula" on holding elections in the occupied territories without withdrawal of troops. He noted that the participants of the "Normandy Four" should take into account the interests of Ukraine.[4]



[2] Кучма стурбований тим, що Зеленського можуть підштовхнути на поступки Москві.


[4] Кучма про вибори на Донбасі: не можна здавати інтереси України. УНІАН. 13.09.2019