Normandy Four Paris Ukraine Peace Talks
Much of what happened at the Paris Summit is being reported a bit differently, and sometimes rather enigmatically, and will include ‘breaking news’ toward at the end. This may be the War and Peace report (both literally and figuratively) on the Summit, but in my defense, I’ll ask you to consider that it’s the nexus of proxies for NATO/US Ukrainegate/and Putin’s Russia.
I’ll start with: ‘Normandy Four agree to ‘stabilize’ eastern Ukraine in Paris communique’, Dec. 9 2019, RT.com
“Prior to the news conference, the leaders said in a joint communique that they agreed to “immediate measures to stabilize the situation in the conflict area in east Ukraine.” Previous attempts by the ‘Normandy Four’ group to simmer down the conflict have achieved mixed results at best.
Among these new additions are the release of prisoners on each side by the end of the year, the creation of three new disengagement areas and the creation of new crossing points, allowing civilians to cross the control line separating Donetsk and Lugansk from the rest of Ukraine.
”We need to make sure there are no more hour-long queues, so the thousands of ordinary people who live in this area can easily pass,” Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters. “Let’s not forget about ordinary people who reside here. All of our arrangements need to improve their lives, and not sometime in the future, but now.”
The group also agreed to implement the ‘Steinmeier Formula’ into Ukrainian legislation. Named for Germany’s former foreign minister, the formula calls for elections to be held in Donetsk and Lugansk, with a view to granting autonomous status to these regions. Kiev, Moscow, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) agreed to the formula in principle in October.
Heading into the talks, Zelensky maintained that such elections would only be possible under Ukrainian law, and once foreign military forces withdraw from Donetsk and Lugansk. The leaders’ communique did not touch on Zelensky’s conditions, but the Ukrainian leader said he is “confident” that the issues can be ironed out at future meetings.”
The author writes that many Ukrianians have supported Zelenskiy’s outreach to Putin, the nationalists see this as capitulation to Putin, and given that, Zelenskiy’s between a rock and a hard place. (There also have been internal threats that Zelenskiy might be putsched if he doesn’t toe the nationalist’s line.
“For our part we are ready to follow all the agreements,” Zelensky said, “but this is a two-way street.” Given that these autonomous regions would share a border with Russia, Zelensky told reporters that himself and Putin have “completely different views” on the transfer of control of this border.
“We do have divergent views,” Putin replied. “We want the Minsk accords to be complied with. Just read what the Minsk accords say. Why do we need to undermine and rewrite the Minsk accords?”
And right on cue: ‘Ukrainians protest ‘capitulation’ to Russia outside president’s office’, kyivpost, Dec. 8, 2019
“Around 1,500 activists rallied near the president’s office in Kyiv on Dec. 8, demanding that President Volodymyr Zelensky defend Ukraine’s interests at the Normandy format peace summit in Paris the next day. Zelensky met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as the leaders of Germany and France.” Looks like a hella more that 1500… note translations about NATO and the EU association…
From the BBC yesterday: ‘Ukraine and Russia agree to implement ceasefire’, no author named (a few outtakes):
‘What was agreed?
The two sides also pledged to disengage military forces in three additional regions of Ukraine by the end of March 2020, without specifying which regions would be affected.
Additional talks will be held in four month to take stock of the ceasefire’s progress.
At a press conference after the talks in France’s Élysée Palace, President Putin hailed the talks as an “important step” towards a de-escalation of the conflict.
President Zelensky said the issue of Russian gas exports via pipelines through Ukraine had been “unblocked” after a dispute about transit tariffs, and an agreement would now be worked out.
But Russia and Ukraine continue to disagree on issues such as the withdrawal of Russia-back (sic) troops, and elections in areas of Ukraine held by separatist rebels.
Mr Putin also called for a change in Ukraine’s constitution to give special status to the Donbas region, which is held by the rebels.”
But no mention whatsoever of “the creation of new crossing points, allowing civilians to cross the control line separating Donetsk and Lugansk from the rest of Ukraine, a Big Deal to Putin.
Bryan MacDonald adds a few other twists: ‘Putin & Zelensky meet: Lasting peace in Ukraine closer, but still far away’, Bryan MacDonald, Dec. 10, 2019
“That said, the Western consensus which supported the last Maidan probably doesn’t exist now. Macron has made “normalizing” relations with Russia a priority, so he’d hardly support any uprising which would undermine Zelensky. And Merkel is on her last lap before retirement.
At the same time, US President Donald Trump is not remotely as fervent a supporter of NATO expansion as his predecessor, Barack Obama. And the key supporters of Ukrainian nationalism in Washington, Joe Biden and John McCain, no longer have direct influence: one is out of power and the other has died.” [snip]
‘More to do
In order for some movement to begin, both sides have to disengage from the military frontlines. It appears Russia has proposed a complete withdrawal, but Kiev won’t agree. And the probable reason is that Ukrainian forces have slowly taken more territory in the supposed neutral (or “grey”) zone and now don’t want to pull back from their gains. It’s worth noting this area should be demilitarized under the Minsk agreements.
However, some progress was made, which increases hope that everyone is finally pulling in the right direction. There was a fresh commitment to ceasefire enforcement and three new front-line disengagement areas agreed, plus a promise to work towards a further prisoner exchange and open extra civilian crossing points. All this is positive, as is the pledge to meet again within four months.
Afterward, Putin stressed that he wants the opposing sides in Donbass to communicate directly – something Kiev has been unprepared to do, up to now. This policy, of course, denies local separatists any agency and will have to change before any final settlement is reached, because they hold legitimate fears about how they will be treated if the region comes back under Ukrainian government control.
It’s also notable that Crimea wasn’t mentioned in the post-summit communique, which was apparently put together before the leaders even sat down – although Zelensky did briefly reference the peninsula during the subsequent press briefing. Make of that what you will.”
The section I’ve bolded above is a bit inscrutable to me, especially given that the separatists seem to have had no input, but may only be faced with two choices at the ballot box…”if all foreign troops are withdrawn before any election”.
This longish op-ed by Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs analyzes a lot of the backstory: ‘Normandy Four summit on Ukraine’s future: What’s at stake?, 8 Dec, 2019, RT.com
“Pursuing any policy requires special skills that were masterfully displayed by Ukraine’s former president Leonid Kuchma (1994-2004) and to a certain extent by Petro Poroshenko. Zelensky has none.
Zelensky received an unprecedented level of support and a virtual carte-blanche after three quarters of the population voted for him, and his party won parliamentary majority. However, he doesn’t really seem to know what to do with all that.
Nothing indicates that Zelensky learns from the mistakes he makes and finds ways to avoid new ones.Zelensky is desperate for success in Paris. On the one hand, he has to show Putin and his European partners that he is a competent leader who stands by his words.
On the other, he needs to convince his domestic audience that he didn’t budge an inch on key issues but managed to make headway in peace talks. If the negotiations in Paris yield no results or, even worse, further undermine the situation, Zelensky will be returning home only to face growing chaos.
The entirety of the former Ukraine establishment would oppose his course of actions, his base would be left disappointed, and the constant scheming by the financial and industrial groups would exacerbate even further.”
Then come these analyses:
Macron sees new window of opportunity for France
Worried Merkel, consistent Putin
“The Western countries act based on two major assumptions which, according to them, could induce Moscow to negotiate a compromise. The first one is that Russia desperately needs the sanctions to be lifted, and therefore is ready for all sorts of concessions.
The second one – that supporting Donetsk and Lugansk is costly to Russia, and that Russia would eagerly get rid of the burden, or at least lessen it. To be sure, sanctions are damaging to the Russian economy, and remain a constraining factor.
At the same time, Russia’s economy has adapted to the new environment and remains stable, even though the growth rate is far from perfect. Either way, getting rid of sanctions is not an issue pressing enough for Russia to start forcibly speeding up negotiations.
As for Russia’s own political stability, it is in no way affected by Moscow’s support for Ukraine’s two breakaway regions.This does not mean that Russia is not interested in resolving the conflict.
The state of affairs circa 2015 is not satisfactory to anyone, first and foremost to the Donbass people, who found themselves in the “grey area” between Russia and Ukraine.
For Russia, the ideal option would be the implementation of the Minsk Accords, which would mean reintegrating Donetsk and Lugansk regions into Ukraine with considerable powers of autonomy, enabling them to maintain special relations with Russia. However, Moscow is not hard-pressed to achieve this immediately through any means possible.
As for the people of that region, they might be thoroughly dissatisfied with the status quo, but that doesn’t mean they want to reunite with Ukraine, seeing how they had tensions in the past (e.g. culture- and language-wise) and how in the six years that passed since Euromaidan Ukraine has moved forward in the direction that the eastern part of the country doesn’t support.”
Clara Weiss adds a hella lot more: ‘Paris summit on Ukraine overshadowed by inter-imperialist conflicts’, Clara Weiss, 10 December 2019, including these outtakes, including noting that the Normandy format excluded the US:
“However, there was no concrete agreement achieved on the status of the East Ukrainian separatist regions. Ukraine and Russia were also unable to agree on a new gas contract [contra the BBC], leaving Ukraine in danger of running out of gas this winter. Another meeting within the Normandy format is scheduled to take place within the next four months.
On Saturday and Sunday, thousands of supporters of the far-right in Ukraine gathered in Kiev to demonstrate against a rapprochement with Russia. The parties supporting the protests included the anti-Semitic neo-Nazi party Svoboda, which played an important role in the 2014 coup. Ex-President Petro Poroshenko addressed the far-right rally on Sunday.
The Ukrainian delegation in Paris included, apart from Zelensky, the interior minister of Ukraine, Arseny Avakov, who is notorious for his ties to the country’s paramilitary fascist organizations and has been praised by Democrats in the impeachment inquiry against US President Donald Trump in Washington. Ruslan Homchak, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, was also part of the delegation.
Also on Saturday, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper declared that the US Department of Defense was planning another tranche of $250 million for Ukraine’s military. The withholding of lethal aid to Ukraine’s army and fascist paramilitary organizations, which are engaged in direct military conflict with Russia-backed separatists, has been at the center of the impeachment hearings against Trump.
The announcement on the eve of the talks in Paris constituted a thinly veiled warning to France and Germany not to make any significant changes to the line on Russia and Ukraine. Kay Bailey Hutchison, the US ambassador to NATO, told the Washington Examiner ahead of the summit, “NATO is firmly committed to Ukraine. I believe the French are as well. We’ll all be there to make sure and work to strengthen Ukraine and not let anyone soften the approach to letting Ukraine be Ukraine.”
The summit had been aggressively pushed for by the French President Emmanuel Macron, who has met with Zelensky several times, both before and after the latter’s election as president. Under conditions of growing transatlantic tensions, Macron has been calling for NATO and the EU to “reconsider our position towards Russia.” In a recent interview with the Economist, Macron called NATO “brain-dead.” His criticisms of NATO and the US were sharply rebutted by US president Trump at the NATO summit just days before the Ukraine summit on Monday.” [lengthy snip]
“The deadlock of US foreign policy in the region was spelled out in a recent piece in Foreign Affairs, the publication of the US Council of Foreign Relations, which advises US imperialism on its strategy. The journal noted, “Over the past quarter century, nearly all major efforts at establishing a durable post-Cold War order on the Eurasian continent have foundered on the shoals of Ukraine. For it is in Ukraine that the disconnect between triumphalist end-of-history delusions and the ongoing realities of great-power competition can be seen in its starkest form.”
The only solution offered by the advisors of US imperialism was to double down on a strategy that has proven both disastrous and dangerous, and escalate the war preparations against Russia and US involvement in the region. The piece concluded: “Washington’s best option at this point is to strengthen its bilateral political and security ties with Ukraine while working closely with its European allies to ensure Ukraine’s ability to protect its sovereignty… Above all else, Washington must protect the impeachment process from Russian interference and get past the illusion that it can promote a stable political order either at home or abroad without successfully navigating the shoals of Ukraine.”
Breaking news from RT: ‘If Kiev gets control of rebel-held border, a Srebrenica-type massacre may follow – Putin’, 10 Dec, 2019, RT.com
“Moscow is concerned that if Kiev troops take control of the border between Russia and eastern Ukraine without ironclad guarantees to anti-government militias, a massacre not unlike the one in ex-Yugoslav Srebrenica may occur.
Speaking of Kiev’s demands on Tuesday, Putin said there needs to be absolute certainty that people in eastern Ukraine would be safe once control of the border changes hands, considering that there is not even an amnesty in place.
“We agreed [on the roadmap] in 2015. They have an amnesty law, some decisions have been taken, but nothing has been put into force,” Putin told the presidential human rights council. Without guarantees, “I can imagine what would happen next. There will be a Srebrenica.” [snip]
“Putin said he was not certain that President Volodymyr Zelensky would be able to keep a check on Ukrainian radical nationalists, who gained significant prominence in the country since the 2014 armed coup in Kiev, in which nationalist fighters played a key part.
“We have seen the way Zelensky talks to the nationalists, and it’s not clear who has the upper hand there,” he explained.”
(cross-posted from Café Babylon)