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Steinmeier formula vs. Zelensky formula: Diplomacy or pipe dream?

Author : Olexiy Buriachenko

Normandy Four should receive "Zelensky formula" from Ukraine, as the new president is as a leader with record support among all European countries
09:31, 11 September 2019

president.gov.ua

The Steinmeier Formula has long been on the "diplomatic agenda" of the Normandy Format participants. It was proposed by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier as a roadmap, a step-by-step plan for resolving Donbas conflict.

This plan/formula provides for the simultaneous implementation of both the security part and the political part of the Minsk agreements, that is, setting peace and restoring Ukraine’s control over its territories, granting a special status to Donbas and holding elections at once (this is to reflect the content as briefly as possible).

Kyiv ignored the Steinmeier formula and called it imperfect and dangerous, insisting that the control over the border should take place first, and only then elections and a special order of local self-government in certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions should take place.

Related: Zelensky: Agreement on withdrawal of troops in Donbas has been reached

Time passed, the previous government did not have votes in the parliament for the implementation of the Minsk agreements, because 300 votes were needed to amend the Constitution of Ukraine. Therefore, questions about the Minsk-2 algorithm, roadmap, or execution order were objectively postponed.

Today, Zelensky has an almost constitutional majority in the Verkhovna Rada, a new composition of the Verkhovna Rada is being formed and the long-awaited exchange of prisoners of war has taken place. What next?

Now, let us recall the communication between Putin and Macron on September 8 and try to predict further consequences.

Yes, Putin needs to show the dynamics of the Minsk process, and preferably, it should follow the algorithm of Steinmeier’s formula that will allow ending Donbas conflict and quickly put it in a completely different format without Russian participation.

Related: Ukraine should continue participating in Minsk negotiations, - US diplomat

Macron, as the "new leader of a united Europe," needs a political and economic rapprochement with the Russian Federation, on which he has repeatedly publicly focused recently.

Probably, all respected media outlets have already written about the confrontation between Macron and Trump over spheres of influence, so far the weak position of the UK, due to the protracted Brexit, and absolutely inert Germany.

Given the above, it is clear that the positions of Putin and Macron are now as close and constructive as possible. And yes, the political and image issue of the maximum “whitening” of the Russian Federation for Macron is a tactical priority today.

In order to do this, it is necessary to implement the plan/formula as soon as possible.

It should also be noted that recently (03.09.2019), Ukraine’s new Minister of Foreign Affairs Vadym Prystayko said that the Normandy Four summit should be held before the end of 2019. Taking into account the latest moods of official and unofficial France, the meeting might happen even in the near future (remember the position of French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on September 9, 2019).

Related: 227 Ukrainians are still imprisoned in Donbas region by invaders, - Security Service of Ukraine

What should be done? Times are changing, and political vectors in the world are changing as well. Ukraine needs to constantly “sniff the wind” and resolutely respond to new diplomatic and political challenges.

A real and profitable way out of the current situation for Ukraine might be accenting and involving the US and UK into Normandy Four format, thereby turning it into Budapest format, because then the balance of geopolitical interests will change significantly.

US and UK are not so positive about the "gas relations" between the Russian Federation and France, and in this configuration, Germany will be able to "hog the blanket" of the leadership of a united Europe again.

In any case, it is necessary to revise the long-obsolete Minsk-2 to Minsk-3, or London-1, and the new Zelensky’s team has all the arguments for this! The new president, the new parliament, the new government, and the completely inoperative Minsk Formula.

It is necessary to develop a new effective Minsk format to meet the interests of all parties, and in contrast to the "Steinmeier formula," Normandy Four should receive "Zelensky formula" from Ukraine, as the new president is as a leader with record support among all European countries!

Related: NATO supported Russia-Ukraine prisoners exchange, urged Moscow to observe Minsk deal

What should be clear in this "new format:" the return of people and territories. But how exactly and on what conditions would it happen – it is an open question, giving the maximum breadth of opportunities for Zelensky’s team.

I have to underline one thing: any proposed plan/formula will be a 100% precedent for international law, which means that it requires the most balanced and strategic approach with the involvement of the maximum number of authoritative parties to implicitly take into account the positions of a sustainable world peace policy (ensuring and establishing peace), respect for borders (territorial integrity) and the possibility of self-determination of nations.

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