Author: Maurizio Vezzosi – 20/12/2019
On Monday, December 9th in Paris a meeting took place of the so-called Normandy Format, with the highest representatives of Germany, France, Ukraine andR ussia in attendance. Its focus wasthe Ukrainian conflict, between the Kiev army and insurgents from the Eastern provinces of Lugansk and Donetsk, backed by Russia. This low-intensity warfare has been going on for the last five years.
The final agreement includes respecting the ceasefire, the de-militarization and de-mining of more areas along the contact line to be implemented before March 30th 2020, the release of all war prisoners in the current year,and new crossing points along the contact line. It further more includes the insertion of the Steinmeier formula in Ukrainian legislation, namely a constitutional change that gives ample autonomy to the rebel provinces.
Significantly, Crimea is not mentioned in the text of the final agreement. The exclusion of the Russian Federation from the Olympic Games does not seem to have influenced the meeting’s outcome.
The next meeting, scheduled for the spring, will deal with the election in Donetsk and Lugansk provinces.
A few days before the Paris meeting, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) decided to grant Ukraine a new $5.5 billion loan. Its executives defined this move as a “politically oriented“ decision.
Before New Year the Russian gas transit deal through Ukraine should be concluded, and this has probably influenced the Paris negotiations. A few days ago, the Kremlin started the gas pipeline “Sila Sibiri” (in English: “Siberian strength”). Ukrainian gas pipelines are still unreplaceable until North Stream 2 and Turkish Stream are completed. Ultra-nationalist ideological exasperation is still one of the main obstacles to a real peace and normalization process with the Russian Federation.
The power of President Volodymir Zelenskijis weakening, as the problems of the country are still unsolved. According to the IMF, Ukraine is the poorest country in Europe, with a pro-capita income of less than 3.000 USD per year. Violence, both criminal and political, is spreading and the disarming of fascist formations seems rather half-hearted. While Russian President Vladimir Putin was satisfied with the Paris results, his Ukrainian counterpart Zelenskij seemed much more nervous, as the reaction of his right-wing coalition will be far from good-mannered. In fact, Zelenskij signed off on several issues that went far beyond the conditions imposed by former president Petro Poroshenko and former PM Julija Timoshenko, as well as by para-military organizations such as C-14 and the National Corps. An alliance among such political forces against a more realistic policy towards Moscow could seriously endanger the Ukrainian political balance, and even the European ones.
The USA seem to consider Ukraine solely in the context of their domestic matters, including the impeachment of President Donald Trump. The latter recently suggested that Zelenskij should seek an agreement with Moscow, and showed a luke warm interest in Ukrainian matters.
The problem of the sanctions against Russia is still unsolved: they showed their ineffectiveness in the last few years, where on one hand they failed to influence the Kremlin while on the other they seriously damaged several economies, Italy among them. While France and Germany are showing the will of a new strategic policy towards Moscow, Italy seems more prone to Washington’s diktats.
The results of the Paris negotiations will be checked by facts, particularly by the real French and German policies. If, as Macron stated, theAtlantic pactis “cerebrally dead”, they just have to put it in practice.
The article “Ukraine after Paris, between risks and chances “, here reproduced by kind permission of the Author, has been previously published in Atlante Treccani.
The author – Maurizio Vezzosi – is an Italian freelance analyst and reporter based in Rome