Between Washington and Moscow, Ukraine wants to have a say in its security


In Kiev, in Washington, in Brussels and now in Vienna, it is a consecrated formula that is repeated at will: “Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. “ A statement not so obvious in this week of intense diplomatic discussions, where Kiev is not always seated at the negotiating table.

Because the question Ukrainian is now mainly discussed between the American president, Joe Biden, and his counterpart Russian, Vladimir Poutine. The two leaders met on Monday January 10 in Geneva, just before a NATO-Russia meeting on January 12 in Brussels. At the heart of the talks, the question of the country’s possible accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Otan) that the Kremlin sees as a threat.

Moscow would like written guarantees that Ukraine will never join this Western military alliance, left over from the Cold War. The approximately 100,000 soldiers and military equipment that Moscow has massed on the Ukrainian border have prompted President Joe Biden, until then a follower of an isolationist policy, to discuss with the Kremlin.

“Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine”

Already in the spring, when the first sounds of Russian boots were heard at the border, then after the debacle in Afghanistan this summer, Kiev feared that its allies would abandon it. But today, the Ukrainian authorities are rather satisfied with discussions that include regular phone calls between Kiev and its allies.

→ ANALYSIS. Ukraine and NATO, the story of a rapprochement

“The fact that officials in Washington and Brussels themselves regularly repeat the formula ‘nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine’ shows that our diplomacy continues to tell them this discourse”, says Ukrainian political scientist Volodymyr Fessenko. Immediately after the discussion between Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden, the latter called the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kouleba.

Impossible dialogue between Kiev and Moscow

“This ‘shuttle diplomacy’ suits the Ukrainians well, because they know there is no other solution”, says Oleksandr Kraïev, an analyst specializing in relations between the United States and Kiev at the think tank Ukrainian Prism. And to add that “the agendas are too different for a direct Putin-Zelensky meeting, as the Ukrainian president would like”. Dmytro Kouleba welcomed the “strong international support” from which Ukraine benefits from its partners who “increasingly understand that the Euro-Atlantic area will only be safe when Ukraine is safe”.

→ EDITORIAL. Ukraine, a European subject

If discussions on the future of Ukraine are taking place between Washington and Moscow, it is also because dialogue remains impossible between the two former Soviet republics. “How to discuss when the other party does not even recognize that it is part of the conflict”, indignant Sergiy Garmash, member of a working group between Kiev, Moscow and the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), referring to the conflict in the east of the country.

For now, “this moment of truth” in relations between Westerners and Russians is only the beginning, experts agree. “At this stage, both parties formulate their negotiating menu and express their opinion on the position and proposals of the opposing party, says Volodymyr Fessenko. If it is possible to agree, it will only be on certain subjects, and not immediately. “