Steinmeier v. Zelensky: Consequences for Ukraine

Author : Natalia Lebed

Source : 112 Ukraine

The most interesting thing about the "Steinmeier formula" is that the Steinmeier formula does not exist
20:13, 3 October 2019

Church hierarchs do not often speak out on topical political issues. Patriarch Svyatoslav, head of Ukraine’s Greek Catholics Church, made an exception to this rule. And although the spiritual leader of the Greek Catholics did not use the phrase "Steinmeier formula," it is clear what his words mean. “Without a doubt, the war cannot end in peace at all costs. We have paid enough for our freedom.

The "capitulation" of Ukraine’s President Zelensky, as well as Kuchma, the direct signatory of the "Steinmeier formula", will be discussed for a long time. Besides the global political context, there is a narrower format: how will the “formula” affect the presidency of Volodymyr Zelensky? Another Maidan, which began to unfold in the center of Kyiv on the evening of October 1, disappeared until the next morning.

Has the sixth president learned the lessons of 2014?

Related: France welcomes agreement of Steinmeier formula

What did they sign?

The most interesting thing about the "Steinmeier formula" is that the Steinmeier formula does not exist. It is like a Schrödinger cat.

“Steinmeier’s formula is just the position of the former foreign minister of Germany,” political analyst Kyrylo Sazonov states. Everything is true, but what did the former minister suggest? Simplify the Minsk agreements and turn them in a direction favorable to Russia. Earlier, Ukraine insisted on the phased implementation of Minsk deal: first, the implementation of the security bloc and only then the elections might be held.

Now, Ukraine has agreed that a special procedure for local government will be in force at the time of the election. For now - temporarily. But if they are carried out in accordance with all standards, this established procedure will operate continuously. The Ukrainian Pravda outlet, citing Vadym Prystaiko, the current head of MFA, published an “interpretation” of the “Steinmeier formula”, which also confirms that the law on the special status of Donbas will enter into force immediately after the local elections are recognized to have taken place in compliance with Ukrainian legislation.

But all these are long-known things. What happened on October 1? It is unknown, at least for the Ukrainian side. Russians (and, in particular, the Russian media) seem to be better informed.

"All parties signed a letter to the OSCE with a message that each side supports the formula and its implementation," the Russian TASS agency informed. An hour and a half later, the Ukrainian president convened an emergency briefing on the issue.

Related: There is no "B" plan for Minsk agreements, Steinmeier formula is compromise, - Lavrov

But the briefing did not bring clarity. Answering the direct question of whether Kuchma signed the formula, Zelensky said: "We answered the letter of Mr. Sajdik (Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office to the Trilateral Contact Group on Minsk agreement, - ed.) that we are agreeing on the text of the Steinmeier formula. The Steinmeier formula should be implemented in the new law on special status, which does not exist yet."

On the morning of October 2, the Russian newspaper Kommersant published a copy of the agreements. Later, the press secretary of Kuchma, Daria Olifer, also announced it.

But it is known that Pushylin and Pasichnyk, the leaders of the “DPR / LPR” separatists, have already stated that Ukraine would not receive any control over the borders. And they will determine the date of the elections beyond the control of the Ukrainian authorities independently. "We urge Mr. Zelensky not to dictate terms to us. When he says that the elections in Donbas will be held only after Ukraine gains control of the border, he does not understand that it is not up to him to decide when we will have the elections, but to us," says in joint circulation.

How about the new Maidan?

The public opinion is still in a half-drowsy state, the majority of experts notes. Therefore, the Maidan, identical to the term "revolution", will not happen. There would be local performances, spontaneous emissions of steam, as one of the political scientists says.

Firstly, because everything that happens around Donbas is of little concern to people that live outside it. “Today’s support for the authorities exceeds 50%. And for those people who provide this support, the events surrounding Steinmeier’s formula do not play any role, because it does not directly affect their lives. For this category of society, a sharp increase in the dollar might be a turning point in attitude to Zelensky. So far this has not happened and a negative attitude towards the authorities has not yet formed," Bogdan Petrenko, deputy director of Ukrainian Institute of Research of Extremism, says.

Related: Participants of protest against Steinmeier formula head to President's Office

He also names the second reason: the authorities have not yet “sinned” enough to force the people to go on strike. "The protests are not relevant right now. At least because the final surrender has not yet taken place. There is a request for protest, but it is not aggregated," Petrenko says.

 "The important point is to drag the process onto itself. It is difficult to say how much now the National Corps (the far-right force that came to a protest against “Steinmeier formula” – ed.) is dependent on MIA head Avakov. If he draws a protest, the latter will become manageable,” Petrenko assures.

By “taming” the revolution (or by coordinating its performers), the government will never go to the use of force against protesters. Therefore, as Petrenko convinces us, any parallels with 2013 are inappropriate. “No matter how the current government is accused of having no political experience, it has experience and learns from Yanukovych’s mistakes. And taking into account Zelensky’s current support, the power option is unlikely. In 2013, there was a negative attitude towards Yanukovych himself. And the beating of the young protesters was not the reason, but the reason for the escalation of protest. People have accumulated so much negativity that the slightest outburst of anger was enough," Petrenko recalls.

The fourth point is that such a movement will not be supported by the West. Vadym Karasiov, the director of the Institute of Global Strategies insists on this. "Protests are just protests, but this not Maidan. Why? Because the foreign policy context plays a huge role here. Look, the United States washed its hands and moved away from the process. As well as Europe. In the end, the scheme proposed to us should be called the "Putin formula" but it’s called the “Steinmeier formula,” which is already indicative,” he says.

“All our Maidans were successful when they enjoyed the support of our geopolitical partners. Even if there was no tacit support,” the expert states.

Political scientist Kyrylo Sazonov does not agree with this. He believes that we cannot rule out the attempts to overthrow the government. "Protests are possible if the government goes according to the Russian formula," he says.

Related: Three factions promise to protest on Maidan if Zelensky does not explain Steinmeier formula in Parliament

What's next?

An additional catalyst for the discontent of the masses, according to Sazonov, could be the adoption of the law on elections in the occupied territories of Donbas. And also a referendum on the special status of Donbas, although Sazonov considers it a less realistic scenario. “The current Verkhovna Rada might vote for anything. Although there is no law on elections in the occupied areas of Donbas at all, and if it appears, it will only mean that Ukraine accepts the Russian conditions. A referendum is unlikely," Sazonov is convinced.

At the same time, as Vadym Karasiov notes, “the hands of the authorities are tied: if they don’t fulfill the Minsk agreements, anti-Russian sanctions will be just lifted. And Europe will quit this game altogether. Now it’s on our side, at least nominally, otherwise, we’ll be left alone with the war."

What will happen next to Ukraine? When fulfilling the Minsk agreements, it proclaims an amnesty for the militants, holds elections and legitimizes the new government of the occupied Donbas, begins the process of reintegration of the occupied territories along with the rise of their destroyed economy? This, in fact, is a separate topic for a lot of research. But, according to representatives of the Ukrainian establishment, all such concessions will not bring the main goal closer - peace in Donbas.

So, in particular, Roman Bezmertny, the former representative of Ukraine at the talks in Minsk, says that signing of the "Steinmeier formula" is "the path to war, not peace." “The worst thing is that Ukraine followed the Kremlin’s scenario. It’s not about fulfilling the security bloc, but about the elections, that is, the legitimization of today's authorities in the occupied territory. So far, these agreements are not of a legal nature and cannot be interpreted as a crime. Therefore I urge President Zelensky to refuse approval of this document so as not to repeat the fate of Yanukovych," Bezsmetny wrote on his Facebook.

He added that if elections in the occupied Donbas are held, "we will get another Transnistria." "The peculiarity of the situation is that you can’t freeze this conflict, because the supply of weapons from neighboring Russia is regular. You can predict the aggravation of the situation inside Ukraine, but no one knows how this conflict can end."

“The signing of a formula of Russian origin - Putin’s formula, de facto means weakening or even lifting sanctions against Russia,” said ex-president Poroshenko.

And the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Pavel Klimkin is convinced that the "Steinmeier formula" does not make any sense without a roadmap for its implementation and the fulfillment of security conditions. “That is, there are more questions than before. The society requires answers to them,” he notes.

October 2, Ukrainska Pravda, referring to its sources, wrote that President Zelensky refused to speak with representatives of parliamentary factions on the topic of Steinmeier’s formula.

Head of the Servant of the People faction Davyd Arakhamia took the rap for the president on the sidelines of the parliament. He noted that the signing of the “Steinmeier formula” is “just a technical step in order to switch to the “Normandy format.” We are not in the “Norman format,” we are in the “Minsk format.” The society will have many opportunities to protest, speak, work in committees. Now we still do not have the law (on elections in occupied Donbas)," said Arakhamia.

And he hinted about some secret part of the agreement. “I want to assure that there is not even a hint of any surrender and violation of Ukraine’s interests. Unfortunately, there is a closed part of the negotiations. Remember how it was with the exchange of prisoners. It's the same. Now I can guarantee that everything is fine. We all have a pro-Ukrainian position," Arahamia assured.

Related: Work on Normandy Format summit to start after signing of Steinmeier formula, - Peskov

We would like to believe him, but if the "Steinmeier formula" has already been signed, the implementation of the Verkhovna Rada is on the agenda.

And finally - one more thing. As Bohdan Petrenko rightly notes, no one has cared about the public opinion of Donbas residents. Therefore, "Ukrainian parties will not be allowed to participate in the elections, and if they do, they will lose these elections." Perhaps the territories occupied by Russia are already mentally lost for Ukraine. And now this creates an additional problem for us.

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