The results of Monday’s summit of the Normandy Quartet indicate that Ukraine’s President Vladimir Zelensky still lacks the potential to make radical decisions to settle the Donbass conflict, Ukrainian political analyst Andrei Zolotaryov told TASS on Tuesday.
"I cannot see the potential that would let Zelensky hack through the Gordian knot, to make radical decisions. He fears that the radicals may stage a coup and throw the country off balance. The way I see it, Zelensky will push ahead with a policy of freezing the status quo — neither war nor peace," he said.
The results of the Normandy Quartet’s talks can be described as "agreement to look for an agreement," Zolotaryov remarked.
"Just as it had been forecast, noticeable progress was achieved only on the tracks where the obstacles were the fewest, such as the exchange of held persons and also gas transit, which is somewhat more complicated. At least there is the understanding that there will be a result regarding these issues," he said.
On other major aspects of the Ukrainian crisis settlement no considerable breakthroughs were achieved, Zolotaryov claimed. "A special status for Donbass and the implementation of the Steinmeier formula remained on the back burner. They might have been discussed, of course, but they are not firm imperatives, because there are big doubts this formula will be embedded into Ukrainian legislation," he explained.
In fact, Zolotaryov pointed out, Ukraine and Russia remained at the starting points regarding all key issues. They merely agreed to go ahead with discussing them.
"Russia insists on full and unconditional implementation of the Minsk Accords, while Zelensky’s team argues that a number of provisions are impossible to enforce, while not denying that they have no alternatives. This is really so, because the Minsk Accords are a legacy of [Pyotr] Poroshenko, who now describes their implementation as capitulation, while Zelensky, afraid of blowing up the internal political situation, is gradually sliding towards Poroshenko’s stance."
Alongside the internal political factors that impede Zelensky’s efforts to achieve peace Zolotaryov mentioned the external one — the US influence.
"There is such influence. Suffice it to recall US Department of State envoy Philip Reeker’s visit to Ukraine ahead of the summit [Philip Reeker — US acting assistant secretary of European and Eurasian Affairs], who most likely made some adjustments," Zolotaryov noted. In his opinion the US political elite sees Ukraine first and foremost as a tool of pressure on Russia.
The leaders’ statements following the summit about a "thaw" and steps to "unfreeze the dialogue" between the two countries, Zolotaryov says, were nothing but "ritual phrases" that had to be pronounced in this particular situation.
"Such big world leaders can't gather without a reason. They were obliged to say something about the start of a dialogue," he stated. Zolotaryov believes that the agreement on prisoner swap is highly welcome, whereas there are no prospects for fundamental changes in the situation and for the return of Donbass to Ukraine for the time being.