What is Implied by Weimar Format of Talks on Ukraine?

What is Implied by Weimar Format of Talks on Ukraine?

Experts noticed that in Kiev US Vice President Joe Biden limited his contacts to President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk practically ignoring the Ukrainian parliament. This way the United States let know who it recognizes as the real power in Ukraine and who serves as a decoration for the ruling regime. The visit took place at the time the contradictions between Ukraine’s top leaders exacerbated as the new parliamentary coalition was being formed. According to Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post, the Vice President let know that the United States was «becoming impatient with political haggling and delays in the formation of a new government». But it were not the statements made by the Vice President that attracted the attention of media during the visit, but the fact that Joe Biden backed out from appearing with President Petro Poroshenko at a memorial ceremony in 

Kiev’s Independence Square for security reasons as the Ukrainian leader was heckled by relatives of 100 protesters killed in Kiev’s Euromaidan revolution of January-February 2014. The instability of the Kiev regime worries Washington more than the situation in the combat area. One year after the Maidan the country is mired in economic crisis. Amid soaring inflation and capital flight the sum of $17 billion in loans promised to Ukraine by the International Monetary Fund «appears insufficient to close the external financing gap», Timothy Ash, head of emerging-market research at Standard Bank, said in an investor’s note on November 20. According to Andrew Roth of the New York Times, «Mr. Biden did not address lethal aid during his remarks on Friday, announcing only a further $20 million in aid for law enforcement and judicial reform». 

On the one hand, Poroshenko and Biden said the Minsk agreements were to be fully complied with. On the other hand, it was stated that the U.S. and Ukraine consider the three parties format to be the most acceptable form of regulating the conflict and implementing the key provisions of the peace plan. That is something new. One can only guess what exactly format is viewed as the most acceptable for the settlement of Ukraine’s crisis and who is supposed to be the third party to the negotiations besides the United States and Ukraine. Whatever is meant, one thing is evident – Washington wants to change the format of peace talks. In Germany they have also started to discuss the possibility of changes. For instance, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has recently made a proposal to return to the Weimar format with the participation of Germany, Poland and France. France and Poland have already expressed their willingness to join the process. No matter what changes are planned to reshape the negotiation pattern, it is clear that altering the format by adding or excluding parties is nothing else but an attempt to nullify the previous accords and restart the negotiation process practically from scratch. 

The Biden’s new proposals on the «new format» were put forward right after the Steinmeier’s visit to Kiev and Moscow but it remains unclear if the US Vice President and German Foreign Minister acted in concert or, perhaps, they meant different things talking to their partners. 

Whatever it was, Biden put the blame for breaching the Minsk agreement on Russia, proposed an obscure «new format’ of talks and then flew away from Kiev. Journalists were not given an opportunity to ask questions after the Biden-Poroshenko meeting. It proves that the conversation did not go down smoothly. 

It strikes an eye that the United States started to change rhetoric on Ukraine. Before the US advanced its goals at the talks along with the promises to grant new loans. Now it has changed – Kiev is told it won’t be given money anymore. Senator Benjamin Cardin, the Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, said at the Commission’s session devoted to the fight against corruption that the United States will help Ukraine but provide no money for fraud schemes. 

This is an intriguing scenario. What will Kiev do under the circumstances? 

On the one hand, Kiev depends on Washington and has little wiggle room. On the other hand, the Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk groups have cemented their positions and established firm control over the corruption flows during the nine months that have passed since the coup d’état. It’s not that easy to shake their positions. True, ultra-nationalist militants who control the streets could be used for the purpose, but the regime takes precautionary measures as confirmed by the recent decisions by the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine headed by Petro Poroshenko. Will the Ukraine’s government obediently follow the instructions of those who threaten to inspect the use of funds provided before instead of granting new credits along with arms supplies? 

The Vice President Biden’s inspection trip has failed to define the future prospects of Ukraine hit by crisis. It could not be otherwise. New questions appear. Perhaps the answers will be defined by persistence of Washington, Berlin and Kiev pushing the idea of deviating from the Minsk accords in favor of changing the format of talks on peaceful settlement of the Ukrainian crisis or something else they mull to add modifying the existing agenda.