Hostages of Normandy Process: Ukraine as a Systemic International Problem

The Normandy summit in Paris was a "practice run". It did not resolve the main stumbling blocks regarding the Donbass conflict (elections and border issues). For this, a new meeting is expected in the next four months. The final communiqué even promised “full implementation” of the Minsk agreements. In the meantime, there has been some decrease in the likelihood of escalation and a movement towards a new withdrawal of troops and an exchange of prisoners.

With a little luck, a new meeting may consolidate the emerging positive trends and help bring about a stable peace. But it is unlikely to fundamentally change the situation. The slide towards 'Greater Transnistria' will continue.

The problem is that Ukraine has turned into an international systemic problem at the stage of transition to a new world order. It contains all the main contradictions between Russia, which expresses the interests of the rising non-Western world, and the West, which seeks to maintain global dominance. Ukraine itself had chosen this path for itself, making the results of the 1991 referendum the basis for the path to Europe without Russia (and at the same time at the expense of Russia). Today, this path has degenerated into a movement to embrace Europe as a result of anti-Russian sentiment.

Properly in this capacity, the Ukrainian nationalists and globalist elites of the United States need Ukraine. Germany and France, which recently began talking about changing the attitude toward Trump’s America and the importance of taking into account Russia's position, are not ready for action and are therefore not important players. Their position, at least for now, can be neglected.

Each of the participating countries in the Normandy format is hostage to the trends of the world order transition and is not able to offer a solution to the Donbass conflict. President Zelensky is not capable of being a strong player, both because of his psychological qualities, and due to his dependence on Avakov and local nationalists. Zelensky does not hide his intention to refuse to implement the Minsk agreements. One way to bury them is to bring the United States into the Normandy format. This is precisely what the president of Ukraine is calling for. US involvement could help him maintain power in his domestic confrontation with ethno-nationalists, but is counterproductive in terms of resolving the conflict.

Zelensky is right that the US is too important to ignore. Not represented in the Normandy format, America resembles an elephant in a room which is difficult to squeeze through, but for which everyone would like to turn a blind eye, wanting to look independent. However, resolving the Ukrainian conflict doesn't suit the interests of the American elites. Neither Washington nor Ukrainian nationalists want the return of Donbass to Ukraine on the basis of the Minsk agreements. The American experts of Ukrainian origin, lobbying for the position of nationalists, like Alexander Motyl, do not hesitate to write about the need for Kiev to completely abandon the Donbass. The position of elites dominating in the USA is more Jesuitical. The preservation of the conflict only with the appearance of its possible solution and the inclusion of Donbass in Ukraine is necessary for the American elites to exert pressure on Russia, control Kiev and maintain the image of the defenders of international law. Washington understands the significance of the Ukrainian question to influence Europe and will not allow the Donbass conflict to be resolved on conditions unfavourable to America.

France and Germany are not capable of being strong players; they are hostages to a policy of sanctions and unwilling to pursue a security policy independently of the United States. Europe would have weight and could help resolve the conflict, but only as an independent mediator. In the absence of this status, all attempts to find a new course towards Russia will end in nothing, and the Normandy format, contrary to its stated goal, will only help freeze the conflict.

Putin has no choice but to insist on the Minsk agreements, but he understands the impossibility of their implementation at this stage of relations with the West and, especially, with the USA. The accession of Crimea to Russia was not the beginning of the struggle for a new world order, but Ukraine has always been the main reason and the main stake in rivalry with the West. In this sense, Russia is a hostage to a policy of establishing the status of a great power and demonstrating the ability to defend its interests and values ​​in the face of pressure from the Western countries. Ukraine has seen the merger of several factors: Russia's antipathy to the expansion of NATO, access to Europe, and the protection of Russians from 'the oppression of Kiev', as well as considerations regarding the prestige of the state in the eyes of the Western and non-Western world. Therefore, Russia will insist on its own demands and wait for the maturation of new international conditions.

There is no way out of this vicious circle. I repeat: Ukraine is a systemic problem. It reflects all the main contradictions between Russia and the West at the stage of world order transition. The problem of Ukraine can only be resolved if these contradictions are resolved.

Normandy Four: How Should We Evaluate the Outcome of the Summit?
Artyom Sokolov
The Paris summit can be assessed as a rather accomplished attempt to give a new impetus to the implementation of the Minsk agreements. Following the victory of Vladimir Zelensky in the presidential election, changes in a number of key variables occurred within the confusing equation of the Ukrainian crisis. This gave hope for concrete results in resolving the Donbass situation.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.