Four-party talks between chiefs of diplomacy of the US, Russia, the EU and Ukraine will start in Geneva at 11:45 a.m. Kyiv time on April 17. For the first time since the overthrow of the Yanukovych regime, representatives of Ukraine and Russia Andrii Deshchytsia and Sergei Lavrov will sit together at the negotiating table set up for four-party talks. US Secretary of State John Kerry and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton will mediate at the talks. It is planned that following the two-hour talks, Ashton and Kerry will give a joint press conference, while Deshchytsia and Lavrov will hold their press conferences separately.
Amanda PAUL, political expert, program director of the European Policy Center:
“Frankly speaking I do not think Kyiv should expect very much given that Russia is moving to dismantle Ukraine, and seems set to increase its efforts in the run-up to the presidential elections.
“The main aim of the conference was to deescalate and reduce tensions. In light of recent developments in eastern Ukraine this is now a very tall order and seems very unlikely. Much will depend on what happens in the next hours as Ukraine’s anti-terrorist operation continue to carry out its mission, how Russia responds and what will be consequences.
“There is a chance the meeting may not go ahead, given that Russia has threatened this. In any event I do not believe there is any chance that Russia will change its narrative and agenda for Ukraine. Moscow will continue to insist on federalized Ukraine, a referendum to this end – Ukraine’s neutralization through its federalization – which would disintegrate the country. Moscow will have no interest in talking about Crimea as it sees this issue as over and done with which is certainly not the way Ukraine sees it.
“The EU-US had issues such as constitutional reform, economic situation, elections on the agenda but given the dark ambiance under which the talks are likely to take place it may be very difficult if not impossible to reach any sort of compromise and the meeting may be little more than a talking shop. I believe the issues of more international monitors whether UN or EU should be discussed as there is an urgent need for them.
“For the EU there is clearly a desire to see a readiness for deescalation as the EU does not want to have to increase sanctions on Russia.”
Dr. Matthew ROJANSKY, Director, Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars:
“I expect there will be strong rhetorical support from the Western side for Ukraine’s sovereignty but very little in the way of concrete assistance or leverage applied against Russia, for a very simple reason: Russia is acting in a space where it has far more power and influence than the US or Europe have, and Russia is prepared to go to a level that we are not.
“It is good that at least senior leaders are speaking, but I do not expect much. Perhaps the US can secure a promise from Russia to bring any concerns again to the UN Security Council before acting unilaterally.
“I doubt it. Remember that Russia wins either way from escalation, chaos and disorder in Ukraine: Russia can have a good pretext for invading to protect “Russian speakers” as in Crimea, OR, and this is more likely, Russia uses the excuse to demand a deconstruction of the Ukrainian political state. A confederation would serve Moscow’s interests.
“Probably just a focus on immediate short term transparency. Allowing OSCE observers access to all places, and agreeing to bring any concerns to the UN before taking unilateral action.”
Nikolai PETROV, political analyst, Moscow:
“These talks will be held in 3+1 format (e.g., Ukraine, EU, US, and Russia), but the Russian political leaderships is confident of occupying a strong position. Russia has done much to demonstrate that Kyiv is unable to keep the entire domestic situation under control.
“Moscow expects these talks to result in Ukraine agreeing to a compromise in terms of nonaligned status, with Russia getting a degree of control over the political situation in Ukraine. Moscow wants to make arrangements with the West on its own terms and conditions, although this isn’t likely to happen.
“Failing this, Russia will demand unconditional control over the eastern regions of Ukraine. Given this difference between the stands taken by the West and Russia, any compromise looks far-fetched.
“If Russia and the West fail to come to terms, [Russia] will count on the presidential elections in May to be canceled [postponed] or recognized as rigged and not reflecting the will of the Ukrainian electorate.
“The process of partial independence in the eastern regions of Ukraine will continue. If these regions refuse to take part in the presidential elections this May, the existing domestic political situation will be preserved. For Ukraine, any delay exacerbates the situation. Due to economic reasons, this means further destabilization and perhaps a change of power in Kyiv.
“What sanctions have been so far implemented against Russia, and others that may be imposed in the third package, are readily predictable and aren’t likely to be regarded by Moscow as clear and present danger. The problem is that the kind of pressure the West can exert on Russia can’t be instantaneous. Annexation of the Crimea is a kind of installment when positive results – the growth of the regime’s legitimacy, popular leadership, etc. – are seen here and now. Payments, however, will take a very long while. Building up confrontation with the West is hazardous to Russia, but the current and future sanctions are not.”
Volodymyr HORBACH, political analyst at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation:
“If this meeting occurs at all, it will be a success for Ukraine, because we will be able to get the Russian side to the negotiating table. Russia, in fact, is waging undeclared war against Ukraine. The fact that Ukraine would not be alone with the aggressor at that table is also a success for Ukrainian diplomacy.
“I do not think that this meeting will be able to achieve any result or understanding that will be adhered to. The realistic maximum is agreeing the date and composition of the next meeting.
“Ukraine should not agree to any demands of the Russian side, especially if they are unfounded and aggressive. First of all, we need to present our own demands. I think it should be done exactly at the first meeting. Any compromise would be regarded by Russia as a victory and a display of Ukraine and its Western allies’ weakness. Should Ukraine agree to a compromise, Russia will not stop and will march on, breaking these terms and completing its stranglehold on Ukraine. Our precondition should be the termination of Russia’s undeclared war against Ukraine. Subsequent negotiations should be conducted already in peacetime.”