Ukrainian interest. Berlin talks, struggle for Sentsov, and Summit in Singapore
The Normandy Four foreign ministers made an attempt to resume discussion of the situation in Donbas. Petro Poroshenko and Andriy Parubiy urged Ukraine's Western partners to refuse from participation in the implementation of the Nord Stream 2 energy project, while the president also took part in the launch of the TANAP line. The European Parliament stood up for Oleh Sentsov and other political prisoners in Russia, followed by the Polish Sejm. The Trump-Kim Summit was a sweet deal for both leaders, while Paul Manafort was finally thrown behind bars in the U.S.
The desire of the new Foreign Minister of Germany, Haiko Maas, to resuscitate the Normandy Four talks can be understood. The meeting of the foreign ministers in Berlin, according to Pavlo Klimkin, became an example of the first substantive discussion of the Donbas problems over the entire time the format was functioning. However, the meeting saw no real diplomatic breakthrough, and the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry assures that no one will set up a meeting of the four leaders just for the sake of it. It is naive to expect that Russia, which has felt the taste of contradictions between Western leaders, will now go for any concessions. Moscow is betting on further destabilizing the situation instead of trying to resolve the conflict.
Therefore, Ukraine needs to speak in a unified voice in the international arena. Parliament Speaker Andriy Paruby tried to convince French and British MPs of the aggressive-offensive and dangerous character of Nord Stream 2, while Petro Poroshenko spoke of the same by phone with the head of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. All this did not prevent Sweden from giving permission to lay Nord Stream 2 pipes in its territorial waters, confirming the reputation of a law-abiding state. Meanwhile, the launch of the TANAP gas pipeline took place, in the presence of presidents of Azerbaijan, Turkey, Ukraine and Serbia. The new source of gas could consistently, although not rapidly, change the situation in the European gas market, at the very least reducing the influence of Gazprom, which last week praised the suspension of the Stockholm arbitration award.
The struggle for the liberation of Ukrainian political prisoners continues. While the recent telephone agreement between Petro Poroshenko and Vladimir Putin, where an agreement was reached on mutual visits by ombudspersons of prisoners and captives, has not yet been substantively implemented, the European Parliament and the Polish Sejm overwhelmingly supported the call on Russia to release Oleh Sentsov and other Ukrainian political prisoners. The European Parliament also supported the decision to allocate a EUR 1 billion macro-financial assistance to Ukraine, but failed to pass a call to boycott the World Cup hosted by Russia. Putin, it seems, will not miss the opportunity to invite major world leaders to attend some games.
By the way, his American colleague is already talking about a possible meeting this summer with the Russian president. Donald Trump seems to be counting on putting more pressure on his Kremlin counterpart to ensure that preconditions are created for a successful Republican campaign at Congressional mid-terms this fall. This is evidenced by the enthusiasm with which Trump approached a short but spectacular summit in Singapore with Kim Jong-un, for which he easily exchanged a G7 dialogue. The 45th president of the United States could as well use the advice of the 43rd one: George W. Bush already had some experience of studying the "mysterious Russian soul" of Vladimir Putin.
And finally, the report by the U.S.-based Buzzfeed (with reference to anonymous sources) about Trump's position on Crimea and the level of corruption in Ukraine should be taken into account not as the ultimate truth, but as an element of internal political struggle in the United States. This struggle appears to escalate significantly after the court sent behind bars Paul Manafort, who directly contributed to Trump's election victory.
Yevgeny Magda, Institute of World Policy