The media loves to make any sort of peace process look like a personal matter between two sides with hurt feelings, when nothing could be further from the truth. These deals are not a matter of emotions or being nice but achieving political objectives. Very often conflicts remain stagnant because there is no possible point of compromise between both forces– there is simply two diametrically opposed objectives to be satisfied by some sort of deal.. The negotiations regarding the horrific situation in Ukraine that have taken place are a perfect example of “peace process” that makes zero progress because it has virtually no wiggle room to work with. So will the Normandy Four Paris Summit actually be able to achieve anything? The answer to this lies in the positions of those involved.
The EU has probably the most flexibility position-wise in this negotiation if it can shed the US yoke. Washington has had a very strong grip over European politics, strong enough to get them to support anti-Russian sanctions that have been hell for EU economies. But right now, we are starting to see a measurable decline in US global hegemony: Trump pushing for Fortress America, Macron openly discussing a post-NATO European military future, and non-superpower Russia making major foreign policy victories despite US efforts. This means that Europe could possibly (finally) take steps to resolving certain issues like the Ukraine that are not approved from across the pond.
For Europe the conflict in the Donbass is a bit of ugliness from a bygone era that would best swept under the rug and forgotten. Although some EU faces appeared at the Maidan protests, the majority of foreign support and financing came from the US/State Department, i.e. the French and the Germans really never asked for an anti-Russian Maidan uprising and don’t seemed thrilled with having to deal with its consequences. It is a mess that they do not want to clean up.
From Berlin and Paris the war in the Donbass looks like one clan of pale aborigines fighting against nuclear-armed resource-rich pale aborigines, so guess who’s side it makes the most sense to take? Appeasing Russia at the cost of losing more Slavic migrant workers to clean toilets in London or work as prostitutes in Amsterdam is a low-cost high-benefit position. As we have seen core Western “values” are very flexible when they need to be and Ukraine simply offers Europe nothing but problems whereas Russian appeasement is very good for peace and business.
If Europe has the freedom to act in its own self-interest it will wash its hands of the Donbass and throw Kiev under the bus.
The United States
When it comes to Washington, it is really a question of which Washington is pulling the strings. Trump for example, sees China as America’s key threat that Russia could be used to leverage against. Foreign Policy’s website (which often reflects Beltway thinking out loud) even has a piece about how Ukraine should just “let the Donbass go”. Libertarian/Paleo-Conservatives like Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan have been quite outspoken as to the pointlessness of risking nuclear war over a region of the world that means nothing for Americans and everything for Russians.
However, there are plenty of PNAC faithful Cold Warriors still pushing for sanctions and looking for Russian influence in every shadow for whom the Donbass is a critical issue and somehow critical to the future of Democracy and Freedom. As Brzeziński put it “It cannot be stressed enough that without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire…” and not only is he right about this, but the warhawks know he is right. So they are never going to back down on pushing for maximum Russophobia and chaos in the Ukraine.
Today’s Ukrainian mess is a roadblock to Russian greatness and the total inability of Moscow to save Russian culture in Ukraine is humiliating and damaging to the stability of Putin’s government as a whole. Russia did get Crimea and a portion of the breakaway Republics but ultimately as it stands now the US won the battle of Maidan and has taken more than ~85% of the country. This is a humiliating loss for Russia/Putin and everyone in Russia knows this, which means it is the biggest win for hardcore Russophobes so far in the 21st century.
It must also be noted that Trump has given up on making relations with Russia a key issue, as he promised during his campaign, in order to keep his Presidency afloat. No one in Washington, given the current paranoid climate will be willing to take Russia’s “side” on this issue. But often inaction is the strongest form of action and Trump may just sit back and let the Europeans do the work, i.e. do whatever it takes to make this situation go away.
As stated above Russia cannot be “Made Great Again” without at least some of the “Holy Lands” to the south from whence it came. Moscow very purposely a few years back erected a massive statue of Grand Prince Vladimir of Kievan-Rus who brought Orthodox Christianity to the nation. This was a very bold public ideological doubling down that Kiev/Ukraine are an inalienable part of (and the cradle of) Russian civilization. That massive statue is a symbols of Russia’s long term mission down south.
Now that Russia has en masse issued passports (i.e. citizenship) to residents of the breakaway Republics in the Donbass, they have created the same “beachhead” that was used during the 2008 war in Georgia. When Saakashvili attacked locals with dual Russian citizenship Moscow felt obliged to safeguard their own citizens militarily, which de facto retook large portions of lost territory with a minimal amount of blood and machinery being lost.
Furthermore, if we look at the participants of the Summit we see, Kiev, Paris, Berlin and Moscow at the table. There are no representatives (officially) either from America or the Donbass itself meaning that Europe and Kiev already acknowledge Moscow as the real power in the region with whom they need to make a deal. Kiev could make the excuse that they excluded representatives from the Republics “don’t deal with terrorists” but they have already made deals with them in the past, giving them legitimacy, which was an inexcusable mistake from the standpoint of International Relations. As soon as you acknowledge another party as having some legitimacy it is very hard to ever take it back.
In short, Russia’s position is going to be the most unyielding of all. They simply cannot back down and surrender the Donbass to be slaughtered by Kiev. If they were to allow this then Putin will have annulled everything he has achieved over the last 20 years and it could even become the death blow to end all of Russian civilization. Surrender is not an option.
The Russians took Crimea via referendum risking WWIII without even blinking as it was critical for survival for their civilizational survival in the short term. The Donbass and all pro-Russian areas of Ukraine (and some of the former USSR) are critical for the long term and we shouldn’t be so naive to think they won’t risk another WWIII moment to restore their greatness. As they say “Russia can only be great, or not be at all”.
Since it has no political will of its own and is a vassal state, any opinions or words by Kiev only reflect others’ opinions. Kiev is an actor in this process in name only so anything stated about the EU or American position(s) above applies to them.
Zelensky just needs to keep his position in power and his head attached to his shoulders and that should be considered a winning position for him personally.
So what does this mean?
If the views of Washington Warhawks go against Russian Patriots then the stalemate will surely continue as neither can back down. This is an “either or” situation where there can be only one truly satisfied party. This is the most likely result of the Summit will be that absolutely nothing of any real value changes. The standoff will continue indefinitely and thousands more lives will be lost.
However, if Washington is willfully silent or the EU can actually act on its own, then there may begin a process of breaking Ukraine into chunks, which is what should have happened in 2014 as the Russians can live without Western Ukraine and Western Ukraine cannot live with the Russians. A roughly 50/50 break up of this fake nation is really the only option to end the madness that all sides (except for Kiev) can agree upon.
The Russians absolutely cannot back down, The EU would like to, and Trump’s Washington just simply doesn’t care about snow monkeys who have no oil.