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Portnikov: Only Ukraine is at risk

August 18, 2018 meeting between Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel. Photo: Bundesregierung/Kugler
August 18, 2018 meeting between Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel. Photo: Bundesregierung/Kugler
Translated by: A. N.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel once again discuss a possible meeting of leaders of the Normandy Four countries.

The exact date of such a meeting was not announced, but the Kremlin took advantage of the telephone conversation between Putin and Merkel to emphasize again: it is necessary to legislatively secure a special status with broad autonomy for the Donbas within Ukraine.

Of course, I would like to understand what these words mean in practice. For Putin to agree to come to the summit, would he be satisfied by Ukraine’s withdrawal of its troops from the frontline and the signing the “Steinmeier formula” by its representatives? Or will Moscow insist on an immediate adoption by the Ukrainian side of the legislative changes regarding the special status for the Donbas – and only after that the Kremlin will agree to a meeting?

From the point of view of the logic of destabilizing the situation in Ukraine, of course, the most reasonable is to make Volodymyr Zelenskyy rush the legislative adoption of the special status of Donbas. The Ukrainian president, for reasons unknown to anyone (although most likely the reason is simply deceit and self-deception), sees the meeting with Putin as a real chance to establish peace in the Donbas. In this case, he will begin to urgently prepare a bill that the Kremlin needs, then force the poor Ukrainian parliament to vote. Already the very acts of preparing the law and voting for it will strengthen popular protests and weaken the position of the head of state. Then November will end and there will be no summit, but there will be a destabilization in Ukraine.

But, of course, Putin can go the other way. He can meet with Zelenskyy and force him to agree to secure the special status of Donbas legislatively at the summit itself, assisted in that by the able mediation of Merkel and Macron. Then the destabilization in Ukraine will begin not before, but after the meeting of the four leaders. Zelenskyy will return home in full confidence that he has agreed on everything with Putin, that the end of the war is within reach, that he only needs to quickly pass the law on the Donbas special status, hold elections, and he can forget about the problem. He will begin to fuss, in a hurry to develop the law and make the parliament to vote for it … You know what will come next: growth of the popular protest movement and destabilization.

Could it be otherwise? No, it can not. It can not be simply because Putin’s goal is destabilizing the situation in our country. And he is trying to choose the best path to this destabilization. If just the preparation for the Normandy Four without conducting the summit itself advances his goal, then there will be the preparation. If the summit is needed to destabilize and subsequently expand the zone of the Russian occupation in Ukraine, then Putin will go to Paris. He does not risk anything: he still has time, Zelenskyy and Macron still do not understand his goals, while Merkel does not want to understand them, since she was left without adequate partners in the Normandy Four and in the White House and alone she is simply not capable of confronting the Russian president. But Merkel does not risk anything, since she will be rewarded for her forced restraint by getting Putin’s Nord Stream-2 and an improvement of relations with German big business.

Only Ukraine is at risk.

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Translated by: A. N.
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