The Munich Security Conference held on 14t to 16th of February was characterised by its very tight atmosphere caused by absolutely different perceptions how to end the war in the Eastern part of Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Zelensky called on world leaders “to repair the system of regional security in Europe by ending Russia’s war in the east of Ukraine”. On the other hand, a Minsk Agreements’ roadmap was further developed by leading experts in security issues and co-authored by the Munich Security Conference. Unfortunately, parties which position themselves as pro-Ukrainian used it as a pretext to link its authors to Russia’s interests.
The plan was endorsed by 46 distinguished current and former senior officials, military officers and experts, out of whom 9 are closely connected with the Nuclear Threat Initiative.
”Twelve Steps Toward Greater Security in Ukraine and the Euro-Atlantic Region” document was presented at the conference as a proposed roadmap for settling the conflict in the east of Ukraine through full implementation of Minsk Agreements.
These are its main points:
1. Restore the Joint Center for Control and Coordination, a cross-front line military liaison body that includes officers from the Ukrainian and Russian militaries.
2. Establish a Normandy Format, military-to-military crisis management dialogue.
3. Improve unrestricted access and freedom of movement.
4. Address the problem of missing persons.
5. Plan for and implement humanitarian de-mining initiatives.
6. Advance reconstruction in the Donbas.
7. Explore free trade areas.
8. Support a roadmap on sanctions, under which progress on the Minsk Agreement could lead to adjustments of sanctions.
9. Address hazards from radioactive materials in the Donbas.
10. Direct a new dialogue among Euro-Atlantic states about building mutual security.
11. Support and define areas of selective engagement between the EU and Russia.
12. Launch a new national dialogue about identity.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has rejected the plan.
After the fierce reaction of Ukrainian political and media circles, the Road Map was even temporarily removed from the webpage of the conference. The plan and the notion stating that it had been co-authored and supported by the Munich Security Conference had been deleted.
The Ukrainian side explains their rejection with the document lacking ”address to Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine and the occupation of Ukrainian territories”. At that, Chairman of the Munich Security Conference, Wolfgang Ischinger tried to calm down the critics by telling, “I did privately sign this document, just like Carl Bild did. But there is no reason to be so indignant. We put forward many different offers and I hope that from time to time we make reasonable ones. But all this should not be taken so terribly seriously”, according to the UNIAN agency. Ukrainian European Pravda portal told that USA had rejected the 12 step plan. The US Atlantic Council think-tank led the campaign of criticism and called the plan ”an echo of Kremlin’s proposals”. The EU Observer, however, entitles its article ”The Last Best Chance for Donbas and Peace in Europe?”.
Ukraine declared their refusal to implement the 12 step plan. President Zelenskiy stated during his interview at the Munich Security Conference that ”without a powerful army, there is no Ukraine”. He also sees the future of Ukraine ”to be the country that it used to be before the war – a transit country”.
The previous Prime Minister of Ukraine Arseniy Yatsenyuk called the plan to be ”a chimera”, and criticised especially the proposal to ”launch a new national dialogue about identity”.
On February 17th the Deputy Head of the Russian Foreign Ministry Alexander Grushko stated that a new Normandy Format meeting will be held on the basis of progress in implementing the current agreements. “The agreement was absolutely clear that the new meeting should summarise what was discussed at the previous meeting. This concerns the disengagement of forces, a ceasefire, mine clearance, exchange of prisoners, the introduction of the Steinmeier formula in Ukrainian law and some other things.” Grushko also specified that the condition for holding the new Normandy meeting is “progress on a set of agreements: both on the security track and on the political track”. He pointed out to the rejection by Kiev of any direct contacts with Donetsk and Luhansk in the negotiation process as one of the key obstacles to full implementation of Minsk Agreements.