Does Normandy Four Group Need Another Member?
Natalia MEDEN | 03.05.2015 | OPINION

Does Normandy Four Group Need Another Member?

The US Ukraine policy boils down to some basic elements. In words Washington supports the Minsk agreement reached by Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine. It regularly accuses Moscow of being in violation of the agreement. At the same time it renders military aid to Ukraine and does its best to get European allies involved into the process. The State Department has recently confirmed the words spoken by John Tefft, U.S. Ambassador to Russia, who said that the participation of U.S. President Barack Obama in future rounds of “Normandy Four” negotiations on Donbass is possible.According to him, the United States President may join the so-called "Normandy Four" heads of state, who deal with settlement of the armed conflict in the Eastern Ukraine, if he receives such an invitation.What makes the United States willing to join?

On April 17, 290 US airborne troops of the 173rd brigade based in Vincenza, Italy landed in Lviv region at the Yavorov training range to train Ukrainian servicemen to conduct combat actions (Operation Fearless Guardian). The announcement came on US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt's twitter account.

The 173rd brigade and armed units of Ukraine’s national guard will hold joint training exercises under the agreement with the US State Department, according to a Facebook post by Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.There will be three rounds of training of 300 Ukraine’s national guard troops, and each of the period will last for 8 weeks. Every national guard serviceman is to have a personal instructor. Then the joint exercises will take place to involve the national guard units - the battalions of punishers called Azov, Kulchitsky, Yaguar, Omega and other formations from Kiev, Kharkiv, Zaporizhia, Odessa, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk and Vinnitsa.

The presence of US paratroops in Ukraine to train government forces is in violation of the Minsk agreement on the Kiev side, Russia’s Foreign Minister says. Sergei Lavrov made the remarks during a phone conversation with US Secretary of State John Kerry on April 22, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry. "Lavrov drew Kerry's attention to the fact that the arrival of US soldiers … indicates that Kiev has violated its commitments to withdraw all foreign units, military hardware and mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine," the Ministry added.

The Ukraine’s parliament (Verkhovna Rada) has already approved the presence of 1000 foreign servicemen till November. British instructors had come before Americans (mid-March) to train the Ukrainian military in Nikolayev. Europeans don’t rush to follow the example. President Poroshenko visited Paris in late April. France made no promises. So far Angela Merkel has refused to render military aid to Ukraine. It does not make the United States happy. Formally the US does not send lethal arms to Ukraine, but the internal political pressure is strong. General Phillip Breedlove, Commander, US European Command and the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, told US lawmakers the lethal arms issue was on the agenda. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter also supports the idea of lethal arms supplies to Ukraine.

East European NATO members will acquire the obsolete French equipment to be sent to Ukraine. Poland lets Paris know it plans a large-scale military deal, but it won’t come through if France delivers Mistral amphibious ships to Russia. The same scheme may be used in case of Germany - the fourth world arms exporter, according to SIPRI (the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute). Ukraine cannot buy the best, but Germany may sell it to another country, for instance, Lithuania. Then Lithuania will sell its obsolete stuff to Ukraine.

There are different opinions on the issue inside Germany. Some believe that the United States tries to escalate the Ukrainian conflict. Others say the Minsk agreement should be forgotten and arms supplies to Ukraine started.

The desire of the White House to join or, to be more exact, “to dilute” the format of talks is explained by the fact that Washington is not satisfied with results achieved by Germany and France. The US does its best to weaken the tandem. It has become known recently that the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND- German Federal Intelligence Service) was instructed by US National Security Agency to spy on European defense companies, as well as French politicians. Those who make this information surface do not cement the relationship of trust between France and Germany. Bernd Schmidbauer, former Germansecret service coordinator, says Germany should cooperate with Americans, otherwise it will become a blind kitten. Indeed, if the Germans think they are like bling kittens, then they should do what Americans tell them.

It’s hard to say how long the Normandy Four format will last without being joined by the United States. As soon as the contact group, comprising Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine, comes to agreement, Washington immediately starts to chant the mantra about the unity of the United States and Europe. Josh Earnest, the White House Press Secretary,said on May 1 that the unity was crucially important to continue exerting pressure on Russia.

Tags: Germany  Novorossiya  Russia  Ukraine  US 

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