11 December 2019

I am following the debates around the Normandy Four summit and what I see is a continuous stream of criticism: some say that the summit turned out to be completely void and brining no concrete results, others – about the loss of Ukraine, about the wrong behaviour of Volodymyr Zelenskyy. In fact, one is probably blind if he or she does not see the concrete successes of the summit. Just six months ago, the “minimal successes” now criticized were generally unthinkable – the process of resolving the situation in the Donbass was at an impasse. Through joint efforts, the parties managed to overcome the impasse (created exactly by those who today are trying to hypocritically shout about "betrayal" and "surrender" and threaten with Maidan protests). Is this not a reason for a high assessment of the summit?

President Zelenskyy acted with dignity. Yes, he was worried. Yes, he improvised during the press conference, and not always successfully. However, he showed firmness in negotiations with more experienced partners and clearly outlined the interests and priorities of Ukraine. At the summit, he was by no means a weak negotiator. For him the summit became a kind of “baptism by fire” in international politics.

Important achievement: the main platform for negotiations between the leaders of Ukraine and the Russian Federation was unblocked. Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Vladimir Putin were able to start a dialogue unthinkable in the time of Petro Poroshenko. This is the main outcome of the summit and a turning point in the history of the conflict: the leaders began to communicate face to face. And there are some results of this communication: an agreement on the exchange of prisoners according to the “all for all” formula (for some it is “an insignificant result of the summit”, and for one and a half hundred families this is an event of the greatest importance). They agreed on the withdrawal of troops in three more areas of contact. A decision was also made about a full-scale ceasefire and the beginning of demining along the contact line – as early as before the New Year.

It was a meeting where each side became a winner, and each side chalked up yet another significant amount of positive outcomes for itself. There were no losers at the summit – Europe, Russia, and Ukraine won. The losers were only those who tried to undermine the situation in Ukraine and disrupt the peace process.

I am sure that from now on, step by step, overcoming the difficulties and resistance of those who profit from the war, the restoration of peace in Ukraine will begin. And this process will not be as fast as many of us would like it to be. But it will happen. And this is the main conclusion from the Paris meeting.

Critics are hard to please. They see flaws and shortfalls in any process. Nevertheless, a real-life analysis suggests that the Paris meeting is an undoubted success for both Ukraine and Zelenskyy. It is a success that requires immediate development.

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