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Vitaly Portnikov: Ukraine is slowly disappearing from the geopolitical chessboard

Vitaly Portnikov: Ukraine is slowly disappearing from the geopolitical chessboard
Translated by: Christine Chraibi
After a recent meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky, Vadym Prystayko, the new Deputy Chief of the Presidential Administration stated that he had one troubling and very important piece of news. Pristayko said that Ukraine “asked to be informed about the results of the recent telephone conversation between Vladimir Putin, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel”.

In the recent past, Ukraine has never had to express such a demand. Any telephone conversations between the President of Russia, the French President and the Federal Chancellor of Germany were discussed directly with the President of Ukraine before such calls were initiated. Moreover, never did Ukraine’s President have to make public announcements about not being informed of such talks. After talking with Vladimir Putin, Merkel and Macron – and before that, Merkel and Hollande – usually contacted the President of Ukraine, or he contacted them. The change of presidents in France in 2017 did not affect the format of such diplomatic relations. It was considered perfectly normal to inform the President of Ukraine if the leaders of France and Germany communicated with Putin without the actual presence of the Ukrainian President.

So, what do we see now? There have been no contacts between these European leaders and Volodymyr  Zelensky regarding their talks with Putin. We see the Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration publicly announcing that the President of Ukraine would like to know the content of the conversation, although this should be done directly between the presidents, and not their advisers.

Actually, it is not so serious yet. If it is a matter of establishing the right channels of communication between Volodymyr Zelensky and the Western leaders, I believe that Prystayko and other diplomats will be able to manage it sooner or later. Moreover, it is not even so worrisome to think that Merkel and Macron’s reluctance to inform Zelensky of their intention to talk to Putin is due to their distrust of the new President of Ukraine. Zelensky still has the opportunity to win their confidence through well-designed political actions and the dismissal of the most odious oligarchs in his administration.

The most troubling fact is that our Western partners are now ready to talk about Ukraine without Ukraine, and to dictate conditions that might help them re-establish good relations with Russia. If this is the case, then the telephone conversation between Merkel, Macron and Putin is only a prelude to the ultimate disappearance of Ukraine from the international chessboard of politics and power, and the possible Trump and Putin meeting on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Osaka in June, 2019 will only confirm this fact.

We cannot really put all the blame on former comic Zelensky for this omission, as he has yet to master the art of geopolitical diplomacy. But, it can be argued that the West has taken full advantage of the political transition in Ukraine and “war fatigue” that has spread among the civil population and many Zelensky supporters in order to resolve this war on their own, and with Russia at their side. And, what is most troubling is that they are proceeding to do so without much interest in what Ukraine might have to say in the matter.

When they deem it necessary, they will probably notify, or even call us here, in Ukraine…

Translated by: Christine Chraibi
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