Berlin, Paris and Moscow walk into a bar. And talk about Ukraine behind its back.
That’s what happened on March 30, when the leaders of these countries — Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin — had a teleconference to talk about the war in Ukraine without Ukraine. The troika has reportedly even discussed a peace plan.
The Normandy Format peace talks were supposed to be the only way to end the war in the Donbas that killed over 13,000 people since Russia started it in 2014.
Now, it turns out that the main European powers, on whom Ukraine has relied, are happy to make decisions on its behalf. They do know that Russia wants to carve up Ukraine and destroy it as an entity, right? Admittedly, Macron, Merkel and Putin talked about other things too. But then why touch the subject of Ukraine at all? Did they gossip about Japan or Britain? Unlikely.
Such things happened before, when, during President Petro Poroshenko’s tenure, France and Germany held negotiations separately with Ukraine and Russia. But such meetings usually mean the negotiation process is in crisis. France and Germany made fools of themselves and stepped on Ukraine’s toes. But it doesn’t appear that they achieved anything.
What’s the point of peace talks that don’t include the victim that’s been illegally invaded and brutalized? That’s no way to achieve a result that won’t play into Russia’s hands. Russia wants to see Ukraine relegated to a status of a non-state that can’t speak for itself. By talking about peace in Ukraine without Ukraine, France and Germany are making the gremlin in the Kremlin very happy.
Putin is trying to kill the Normandy Format and maintain the war in Ukraine indefinitely, to wield it as a geopolitical tool. Moscow is jubilant — that was clear when Putin’s spokesman leaked the news about the meeting.
Ukraine needs to react to such a betrayal. The Foreign Ministry and President Volodymyr Zelensky need to show what they stand for — to send concrete signals that there can’t be decisions made about Ukraine without Ukraine present at the table. And the West needs to finally connect the very obvious dots and embrace the uncomfortable conclusion that the Kremlin dictator can’t be appeased.