From our correspondent
In Kiev, Washington, Brussels and now in Vienna, it’s a time-honored formula that we repeat over and over: “Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. “ An assertion not so obvious in this week of intense diplomatic discussions, when Kiev is not always seated at the negotiating table.
Because the Ukrainian question is now discussed mainly between the American president, Joe Biden, and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Poutine. The two leaders met on Monday January 10 in Geneva, just before a NATO-Russia meeting on January 12 in Brussels. At the heart of the talks, the question of a possible accession of the country to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) that the Kremlin sees as a threat. Moscow would like written guarantees that Ukraine will never join this Western military alliance, a residue of the Cold War. The 100,000 or so soldiers and military equipment that Moscow has massed on the Ukrainian border prompted President Joe Biden, until then a follower of an isolationist policy, to discuss with the Kremlin.
Already in the spring, when the first sounds of Russian boots were heard at the border, then after the debacle in Afghanistan this summer, Kiev feared that its allies would abandon it. But today, Ukrainian authorities are quite happy with discussions that include regular phone calls between Kiev and its allies.
“The fact that officials in Washington and in Brussels themselves regularly repeat the formula ‘nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine” shows that our diplomacy keeps giving them this discourse “, argues Ukrainian political scientist Volodymyr Fessenko. Just after the discussion between Vladimir Poutine and Joe Biden, the latter called the Ukrainian foreign minister, Dmytro Kouleba.
“This ‘shuttle diplomacy’ suits Ukrainians well, because they know there is no other solution,” estimates Oleksandr Kraïev, analyst specializing in relations between the United States and Kiev within the think tank Ukrainian Prism. And to add that “The agendas are too different for a direct Putin-Zelensky meeting, as the Ukrainian president would like”. Dmytro Kouleba welcomed the “Strong international support” which Ukraine benefits from its partners who “Increasingly understand that the Euro-Atlantic area will only be safe when Ukraine is secure.”
If discussions on the future of Ukraine are taking place between Washington and Moscow, it is also because dialogue remains impossible between the two former Soviet republics. “How to discuss when the other party does not even recognize that it is part of the conflict”, indignant Sergiy Garmash, member of a working group between Kiev, Moscow and the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), referring to the conflict in the east of the country.
For now, “This moment of truth” in Western-Russian relations is only the beginning, experts agree. “At this stage, the two parties formulate their negotiation menu and express their opinion on the position and the proposals of the opposing party, says Volodymyr Fessenko. If it is possible to agree, it will only be on certain subjects, and not immediately. “