French-German diplomacy ?

Note kindly translated by Anne-Marie de Grazia

President François Hollande and Chancellor Angela Merkel, on this Friday February 6th, have been attempting in Moscow what is being described as a « last chance mediation » in the Ukrainian crisis. Quite evidently, the situation on the terrain is calling for diplomatic action. But such has been the case for several weeks already. The bombings of the civilian populations of the cities of Donetsk, Lugansk and of the surroundings towns by the Kiev forces constitute – and are still constituting – an ongoing scandal. We are dealing with deliberate war crimes. The fact that the Kiev forces are deliberately targeting civilians is presently established1. Still, these were not the facts which triggered the commendable mediation efforts of France and Germany, but it was indeed the defeat of the Kiev forces at Debaltsevo.


Military situation on February 4th in the evening

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With this defeat, the possibility is looming that NATO, or the United States, will engage themselves a little bit more than at present, in furnishing weapons and materiel to the Kiev forces. One may conclude from this whatever one wishes. Nevertheless this defeat, which was in the cards, can make possible the imposition of a durable cease-fire.

The French-German proposals

Mrs Merkel and Mr Hollande went to meet President Putin on Friday February 6th with several proposals. Without entering into details, the latter include a de facto  neutralization of Ukraine which could not join NATO and a reinforced accord for having the cease-fire respected. Further on, François Hollande has evoked the necessity to guarantee the integrity of Ukraine and the recognition of an extended federal status to the insurgents of the Donbass.

These proposals constitute a progress in regard to what had been announced up to now. But major problems subsist. First of all, if Germany and France, which are member states of NATO, are able to block Ukraine’s adhesion to this organisation, these countries do not have the means – in the legal sense – to oppose themselves to a defence accord between the United States and Ukraine. However, if the question of Ukraine’s adhesion to NATO raises a problem, it is indeed because of the weight of the United Sates in this organisation. There is no reason therefore for the Russian leaders to feel particularly reassured by whatever engagement might be entered by France and Germany on this point. A second problem is the will of Kiev to hold on to the cease-fire. Since September, this is the point upon which all previous attempts have derailed. By what miracle could France and Germany guarantee that Kiev will respect its word? Of course, if forces of interposition, if “blue helmets,” were on the spot, this would change the situation. But blue helmets can only be deployed with the agreement of the Security Counsel of the UN, that is, with the accord of the United States.

The French-German dilemma.

In fact, France and Germany would like to settle the Ukraine question without the United States. But the latter are already massively present in Ukraine, be it in the form of government counsellors, or of military counsellors. The United States are stakeholders in Ukraine and must therefore be included in the political solution. France and Germany will not be able to bring the least weight to bear upon Washington unless the two countries state clearly that, except for the United States retreating from Ukraine and engaging themselves politically on this point, Ukraine would not receive a single Euro from the European Union.

The country is ruined and bankrupt, hopes to develop shale gas industry there have dwindled. It is clear that only a substantial help from the European Union can allow it to remain afloat. This help must be thrown into the balance in order to compel the United States to give up on an intervention, either direct or indirect, in Ukraine. This is the only condition under which France and Germany will have the trust of Russia.

Is it too late?

In fact, all parties would win from a political agreement. The insurgents would finally have diplomatic recognition. Russia could disengage itself from an affair which is turning out costly for it. The European Union could take up again its trade with Russia. The United States themselves would be free to concentrate on other problems and could resume the dialog with Russia on the nuclear arms question. It would become possible, insofar as a real cease-fire could be put in place, to dress wounds and start with reconstruction. The refugees, many of whom have fled to Russia, could then return to their homes. But one shouldn’t harbour too many illusions. The violence of the Kiev forces against the populations of the Donbass have left deep marks. A federal solution, which would have been possible in March 2014, is unthinkable today. At best, one will be able to achieve a status of autonomy, such as exists for instance in the region of Kurdistan, in Iraq.

But as long as the forces of war will not have been recognized as such, and subjected to strong pressures, be it in Kiev or in Washington, this political accord will remain an illusory goal. At bottom, the incertitude rests in Washington, not in Moscow. We must assure ourselves of the real intentions of the United States and, eventually, take clearly our distances with policies which do not make sense as far as the interests of the European peoples are concerned. The consequences of these nefarious policies are already evident in Libya. Such should be the diplomatic line of Paris and Berlin.

Will France and Germany have the courage to spell out these things clearly? One may hope so, but one may also doubt it.


Moscow talks seem to have been inconclusive, even if negotiations will be pursued in the coming days. The fact that there is still no DIRECT talks between Kiev and the Insurgents is a major roadblock. It is to be acknowledged as such. Either Kiev agree to sit at the same table than the insurgents and seriously discuss conditions for a durable cease-fire or the will go on. If France and Germany are serious and their efforts to bring peace back to Eastern Ukraine they have to (1) put the maximum possible pressure on Kiev and (2) to include formally USA in these negotiations. With Ukraine now turning more and more into an US puppet there is no sense to negotiate without the US government.

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Jacques Sapir

Ses travaux de chercheur se sont orientés dans trois dimensions, l’étude de l’économie russe et de la transition, l’analyse des crises financières et des recherches théoriques sur les institutions économiques et les interactions entre les comportements individuels. Il a poursuivi ses recherches à partir de 2000 sur les interactions entre les régimes de change, la structuration des systèmes financiers et les instabilités macroéconomiques. Depuis 2007 il s'est impliqué dans l’analyse de la crise financière actuelle, et en particulier dans la crise de la zone Euro.

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