Portnikov: Next Normandy Four summit won’t be soon

Putin and Zelenskyy at the December 2019 meeting of the Normandy format leaders in Paris, France

Putin and Zelenskyy at the December 2019 meeting of the Normandy format leaders in Paris, France 

Op-ed, Russian Aggression

Foreign Minister of Ukraine Vadym Prystaiko expresses doubts about the possibility of holding a summit of the Normandy Four in April. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko claims that the Normandy format summit is in jeopardy. Almost everyone agrees that no preparations are being made for a meeting of leaders.

The only surprising thing in these comments is that there were people–and these are among diplomats!–who believed that the Normandy summit in April could even take place. This kind of false belief could have been caused only by a misunderstanding of the reasons why the previous Normandy Four summit had taken place.

Normandy format summits are held not when the president of Ukraine, the president of France, or the chancellor of Germany want them. After all, these leaders, by definition, are ready for negotiations on a peaceful settlement. These summits are held when the President of Russia agrees to one.

Putin agreed to fly to Paris only because he counted on significant concessions from the Ukrainian side. Simply put, he agreed to the summit because he expected to accept the capitulation of Zelenskyy.

The Russian president expected the capitulation simply because the Ukrainian negotiators, who–trying to arrange a meeting between Zelenskyy and Putin at all costs–agreed to almost any Russian proposal, so they could fulfill the desire of the Ukrainian president and ensure his meeting with the Russian president.

At the same time, Zelenskyy himself was sure that if he met with Putin, the problem of war would be solved. But he did not intend to capitulate to the Russian president.

As a result, the Normandy format summit in Paris turned out to be a real catastrophe that left Putin raging and Zelenskyy disappointed. Now Putin is sure that he was deceived in preparation for the summit. Zelenskyy is certain that he was misunderstood. Naturally, the war in the Donbas continues.

In the best case for Zelenskyy, Putin could have left the Paris summit thinking that the Ukrainian president had not yet been “squeezed” enough and that his capitulation was still possible, because then the efforts to organize the next summit would continue. But, judging by the fact that Putin demonstratively refused to meet with Zelenskyy in Jerusalem last week, the Russian president is leaning toward interpreting his experience of the prior summit as a deception by Zelenskyy and not a case of insufficient pressure on the inexperienced Ukrainian president. Putin simply does not understand Zelenskyy’s motives, just as Zelenskyy does not understand Putin’s motives. And, therefore, Putin does not see any expediency in further contacts with the Ukrainian president.

Now, instead of working on holding the next Normandy summit, the Kremlin will work on destabilizing Ukraine and accelerating the collapse of Zelenskyy. This is just as was the case after the previous summits of the Normandy Four, which were also unsuccessful for Putin, when the Kremlin worked on the collapse of Poroshenko.

Given Zelenskyy’s inexperience and his sincere misunderstanding of the situation, this time the Kremlin may possibly achieve such a collapse and destabilization much faster.


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Translated by: A. N.


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