Another round of bilateral Russian-American negotiations on the settlement of the situation in the Donbass is scheduled for mid-December.
The meeting of the US Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker and the Assistant to the Russian President Vladislav Surkov will take place in Serbia. The parties intend to discuss the issue of a UN security mission deployment in the DPR. Earlier, Moscow presented a draft resolution to the UN Security Council, but the document has caused a protest on the part of Ukraine. However, Washington offered Kiev to continue working within the framework of the Russian initiative.
About why the White House stands for a more active discussion with Russia on the Ukrainian conflict, but does not want to join the Normandy Format
Another round of talks between US Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker and the Russian Presidential Aide Vladislav Surkov will be held on November 13 in Belgrade. The sides will discuss issues related to the deployment of a UN mission in the Donbass, Volker stated on November 4, speaking at the US State Department.
According to the American representative, the following sequence of actions has developed in this direction: after the parties "exchanged ideas", Moscow proposed its own draft resolution on the deployment of the UN security forces in the Donbass, then Washington discussed this proposal with Kiev, Paris and Berlin in order to develop a most effective option. This issue has become the subject of negotiations between Surkov and Volker held in October.
"It was useful to do that because then I got a much better understanding of what some of the Russian concerns are and what some of the ones they’re not as concerned about. <...> It gave us a perspective on how to develop this idea further," TASS news agency quoted the American diplomat as saying.
Volker also explained that Washington had appealed to Kiev with a request not to propose any alternative to the Russian project of the UN resolution. Instead, the American side proposed to intensify the discussion with Russia "to see if we can actually reach some agreement, rather than getting into competing drafting exercises."
"The United States have got more engaged in this overall, discussions with the Russians directly about this," Volker said.
The purpose of the forthcoming talks is not the development of a final version of the agreements but the transfer of further discussion to a "more concrete level," the diplomat pointed out.
It should be reminded that the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov expressed the same opinion earlier, commenting on the previous meetings of Surkov and Volker. According to Peskov, the discussion was not aimed at achieving a particular result, its main function was "to compare notes."
The first round of negotiations between Vladislav Surkov and Kurt Volker took place on August 21 in Minsk. The second time they met on October 7 in Belgrade and on October 28 Kurt Volker had a conversation with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
"Great to be back in Kyiv for my 5th visit since July. Started off with a good meeting with President Poroshenko," Volker wrote on his Twitter.
The details of the two-hour talks had not been disclosed, however, as a people's deputy Mustafa Nayyem later said, the issue of "active control" over the Russian-Ukrainian border by the UN mission would be "critical" in the future resolution.
"On the question if the Russians can participate in this mission he directly replied: "I cannot imagine that," Nayyem quoted Kurt Volker as saying.
Peace through force
Let us recall that the question of which borders should be under control of the UN Security Mission is a stumbling block in the discussion on the UN draft resolution. Kiev demands to place a UN mission throughout the Donbass region, including the border area with Russia, controlled by the Republics.
"The deployment of the UN blue helmets throughout the Donbass would be a real breakthrough in the peace process, a powerful factor of de-escalation would certainly create conditions for progress on the political track of the peace settlement in the Donbass," Pyotr Poroshenko said on September 7.
However, Kiev does not admit the Republics' participation in the negotiations, does not even consider Donetsk and Lugansk as parties to the peace process. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, the consent of "illegal armed formations operating in the territory of certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions" to conduct a peacekeeping mission in the region is out of the question.
The Kiev side called Moscow's proposal to place a UN security mission along the contact line of the warring parties, as it was defined by the Minsk agreements, an "expected manipulation."
"This is a failed attempt to transfer the entire peace process into some kind of a virtual reality and to break everything that we have achieved during this time with the help of our partners," said the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Pavel Klimkin.
According to experts, taking this position, on the one hand, Kiev expects to "draw" Russia into the conflict, exposing it as one of the parties to the armed conflict. And, on the other hand, it hopes to cut off the Republics from the Russian border, across which a considerable amount of humanitarian supplies are delivered today. Kiev also insists on the complete exclusion of representatives of the DPR and the LPR from the negotiation process.
"Kiev would like to introduce as many peacekeepers as possible, preferably from NATO countries and, of course, having the control over the border envisaged," Alexander Guschin, an associate professor of the post-Soviet countries department of the RSUH, said in an interview with RT. "In fact, this will lead to the fact that the further process will bear not an equal and bilateral character, but that of coercion on Kiev's part.
The Ukrainian side hopes to take the Donbass under its control with the help of peacekeepers. Other options won't do for Kiev is as, in this case, the Kiev side will be simply delaying the solution of the issue. There will be no guarantees of peacekeepers' neutrality under this scenario, even now there are certain questions to the objectivity of OSCE observers."
According to the expert, any serious progress cannot be expected at least until the middle of the next year.
Ukraine as a "bargaining chip"
The idea of introduction of the UN forces to the Donbass was actively promoted by the Kiev side. However, the proposal to place a UN mission on the contact line between the warring parties, which was put forward by the Kremlin in early October, provoked a protest from Kiev.
Subsequently, in a conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Russian leader agreed that the UN security mission should accompany the OSCE staff throughout the Donbass region in the framework of their monitoring activities. This proposal was included in the draft resolution of the UN Security Council submitted by the Russian side. However, Kiev was not satisfied by this option either and began to develop its own draft resolution.
Washington did not approve the initiative of the Ukrainian authorities: on October 3 Kurt Volker urged Kiev not to send its draft resolution to the UN. Instead, the American diplomat suggested that the Ukrainian authorities begin the discussion within the framework of the document submitted by the Russian side.
Donald Trump was persuaded that Ukraine is a "bargaining chip" that can be "sold" to Russia for concessions in some other directions, said Alexei Martynov, the director of the International Institute for the Newest States.
"Trump has repeatedly said that he intends to "make good deals" in foreign policy and Washington considers Ukraine not as a subject but as an object of policy, as a bargaining chip. It is important to note that Russia's positions on the external contour are strong today: advances in SAR, the rapprochement with Turkey, and the establishment of an even closer partnership with Iran, and so on," the expert said.
We recall that Washington actively supported the coup of 2014 in Ukraine and also initiated the introduction of anti-Russian sanctions in connection with the developments in the Crimea and the Donbass. However, the United States abstains from participation in multilateral negotiations on the settlement of the conflict in the Donbass with the exception of participation in the Geneva format.
The Geneva talks that have been taking place since the beginning of 2014 with the participation of representatives of the United States, Ukraine, Russia and the European Union have not brought any serious progress on the way to de-escalation of tension.
At the same time, Kiev actively defended the preservation of this particular format. As Arseny Yatsenyuk stated in November 2014, who at that time held the post of prime minister of Ukraine, the Geneva format is the most "effective and real" opposed to direct negotiations with the "separatists." The Kiev authorities reluctantly joined the negotiations in Minsk and more than once tried to expand the Normandy Four, inviting the American side to participate in the negotiations.
Moscow did not object to such initiatives. As Vladimir Putin noted in October 2016, speaking at the Valdai Discussion Forum, Russia is ready to include new members in the Normandy format.
"The discussions are difficult. Yes, it is not very effective, I agree with this. But there is no other way. Do we need to attract anybody else? The Russian position is as follows: we do not mind attracting anyone, including our American partners," Putin said.
But the US administration chose not to participate in multilateral discussions. Instead, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland held several rounds of direct bilateral talks with the Assistant to the President Vladislav Surkov. Nuland even visited Moscow in 2016.
The new administration of the White House, in general, continued following the same tactics, but established in July 2017 a special post of the US representative for the settlement of the situation in the Donbass. Kurt Volker has been chosen to this post, previously he had held the position of US Ambassador to NATO.
"It should be noted that the status of Victoria Nuland in the structure of the State Department was higher than the current status of Volker," Alexander Gushchin said. "However, the intensity of contacts has significantly increased recently. Before coming to power, Trump had said he had no plans to deal with the post-Soviet space, but it turned out to be wrong. Rather than losing focus, the attention has, on the contrary, been even increased."
DONi News Agency