The first thing we need to do is the remember what each participant wanted from this summit. Here is a summary of what I think (not how they officially stated it) each starting position was:
Zelenskii: key notion “a flexible approach” to the Minsk Agreements
- No direct negotiations with the LDNR
- No special status
- Ukrainian control of the border with Russia
- Disarmament of the LDNR “militias”
- Removal of all foreign forces (he means Russian forces, nevermind that they don’t exist!)
- Creation of a “municipal police”
- Elections under Ukrainian control
Putin: key notion “Minsk Agreements cannot be changed”
- Kiev must negotiate with the LDNR
- A special status for the LDNR must be included in the Ukrainian Constitution
- The control of the border between the LDNR and Russia will be handed over only at the very end of the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements
- No Ukrainian forces inside the LDNR, even under the guise of a “municipal police”
- Completely free elections under international supervision
Merkel: key notion “Germany needs Russian gas and access to the Russian market”
- Economically, Germany needs this conflict solved
- Politically, Merkel personally needs to back the Ukrainian negotiating position and she agrees that the Minsk Agreements must be implemented “flexibly”
Macron: key notion “France as a whole and Macron personally need a deal with Russia”
- Macron is facing an extremely severe internal crisis; he needs to open the Russian markets to French products again and present that as an immense success.
- Macron sees that the US is losing Europe and he wants the personal credit for “solving” the conflict in the Ukraine to show that he and France, not Merkel and Germany, are the real leaders of Europe.
Finally, here is what was obviously agreed upon before the actual summit:
- A general ceasefire
- Exchange of prisoners
Now, setting aside all the verbal statements, comments, replies to journalists, etc. – here is what was actually agreed upon: (emphasis in red added by me, VS)
Paris “Normandie” summit – Common agreed conclusions
The President of the French Republic, the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, the President of the Russian Federation and the President of Ukraine met in Paris today.
The Minsk agreements (Minsk Protocol of 5 September 2014, Minsk Memorandum of 19 September 2014 and the Minsk Package of Measures of 12 February 2015) continue to be the basis of the work of the Normandy format whose member states are committed to their full implementation.
They underline their shared aspiration to a sustainable and comprehensive architecture of trust and security in Europe, based on the OSCE principles, for which the settlement of the conflict in Ukraine is one of several important steps.
On this basis, they decide on the following:
1. Immediate measures to stabilize the situation in the conflict area
The sides commit to a full and comprehensive implementation of the ceasefire, strengthened by the implementation of all necessary ceasefire support measures, before the end of the year 2019.
They will support the development and implementation of an updated demining plan, on the basis of the decision of the Trilateral Contact Group on demining activities, dated March 3, 2016.
They will support an agreement within the Trilateral Contact Group on three additional disengagement areas, with the aim of disengaging forces and equipment by the end of March 2020.
They encourage the Trilateral Contact Group to facilitate the release and exchange of conflict-related detainees by the end of the year, based on the principle of “all for all”, starting with “all identified for all identified”, with the understanding that international organisations including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) be granted full and unconditional access to all detained persons.
They will support an agreement within the Trilateral Contact Group, within 30 days, on new crossing points along the line of contact, based primarily on humanitarian criteria.
They recall that the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) should be able to use all possibilities of the 21 March 2014 mandate, and have safe and secure access throughout Ukraine in order to fully implement its mandate.
2. Measures to implement the political provisions of the Minsk agreements
The sides express interest in agreeing within the Normandy format (N4) and the Trilateral Contact Group on all the legal aspects of the Special Order of Local Self-Government – special status – of Certain Areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk Regions – as outlined in the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements from 2015 – in order to ensure its functioning on a permanent basis.
They consider it necessary to incorporate the “Steinmeier formula” into the Ukrainian legislation, in accordance with the version agreed upon within the N4 and the Trilateral Contact Group.
3. Follow up
They ask their Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Political Advisors to ensure the implementation of the agreements reached and they agree to have another meeting in this format within four months on the political and security conditions, inter alia for the organization of the local elections.
Looks pretty self-evident to me but, still, I will offer my personal reaction to what just happened next.
First, let’s sum it up in plain language. First, the actual results:
- There might be a ceasefire
- There might be a prisoner exchange
- There might be future talks
Next, what has been reaffirmed:
- The Minsk Agreements are the only way out and cannot be changed
- The Steinmeier Formula is the only way out and cannot be changed
Again, I think that the outcome is rather obvious:
- Zelenskii achieved nothing
- Merkel achieved nothing
- Macron achieved a little
- Putin prevailed
Really, it’s that simple.
Also, this was totally predictable. Zelenskii had no chance from the get go: the Ukronazis successfully completely paralyzed him; that is, assuming that he ever wanted to get anything done (I think that he probably did). The truth is that ANY meaningful outcome would have been interpreted by the Ukronazis (a minority in the Ukraine, but a very well armed and ruthless one) as a “betrayal” which would trigger a coup to overthrow Zelenskii (this is not my personal opinion, that is what the Nazi nutcases themselves promised on numerous occasions).
Merkel is old, sick and, frankly, looks like going on fumes. Besides, she has already caved in to her industry and business leaders who demanded NorthStream 2 and an end to sanctions (I will discuss that below). Of the four leaders present, Merkel was really only present pro forma anyway. The truth is that Germany is finally waking up from its US-induced coma and coming to terms with reality.