The April 30 Normandy format videoconference, connecting the foreign ministers of Ukraine, France, Germany, and Russia, was one of the latest steps in the continuing negotiation process between Ukraine and Russia, whose policies support and prolong the occupation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and parts of its eastern Donbas region. But defense sector corruption expert Olena Tregub believes that Ukraine’s and Russia’s position have drifted far enough apart that the meetings may not amount to much.
“There is not much progress since the last meeting in December 2019… And it will, indeed will not bring any progress, at least some new ideas, some new solutions, new positions should be developed by the time they have the next summit and now we are out of ideas for now,” Tregub commented during a recent airing of the Weekly Wrap-up. Many of the topics formerly discussed during previous Normandy summits and negotiations – a “consultative council”, the Steinmeier formula – seem to have stalled, Tregub believes.
And one of the main, constant vectors of negotiation – aside from the infrequently held Normandy summits – the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk, involving representatives from Ukraine, Russia, and the so-called “Donetsk/Luhansk People’s Republics” has stalled itself, with the recent Normandy meeting doing little to change that trend.
“We see that there is no progress when it comes to agreeing on some issues about securing some [safe zones] for the local residents. On some humanitarian issues, there is no progress. There is no progress around control of the border issue or about ceasefire, delineation of troops, disengagement of troops, all this is just not taking place at all. And the only issue which is still functioning properly, more or less is the exchange of prisoners, which is still happening at the level of this group. All the other issues are, they are completely, like failed and stalled. And so [the Normandy summit] was an attempt to somehow resolve some of those differences,” said Tregub, but, she added, the fault in this freeze lies with Russia, pointing out that a recent TV appearance by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made it clear that the Russian and Ukrainain positions are “too far apart… they want us to basically capitulate. They want us to accept what Russia wants.”
In her view, the only possible resolution to the conflict can come not from Normandy negotiations or Trilateral Contact Group meetings, but from Russia itself.
“Only if Russian economy collapses fully will Russia then make some concessions. Otherwise, I don't see any possible progress in this negotiation possible at all,” Tregub argued.