PARIS– French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel see Russian President Vladimir Putin as a legitimate and reliable negotiating partner in resolving the conflict he started in Ukraine at Monday’s Normandy format meeting in Paris. Despite denying any involvement in the war initiated by Kremlin-backed mercenaries, many of whom were Russian citizens, Putin insists on being a party to the negotiations to end a conflict which he also insists his country has nothing to do with.
“I’m confident that Mr. Putin, who still claims his country is not a party to this conflict, is beyond a shadow of a doubt a legitimate, good-faith negotiator who can play an essential role in bringing peace,” a spokesman for Macron said.
“Even though we know he’s actually responsible for starting the war, any student of foreign relations knows that indulging delusional revanchist dictators in their version of events is the first stepping stone toward a lasting peace,” said a spokeswoman from the German Foreign Ministry.
The talks were dubbed the “Normandy” format after leaders from Ukraine, France, Germany, and Russia met on the sidelines of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings during World War II. Some historians have sought to compare and contrast that monumental conflict with the current situation.
“What we see happening in Ukraine’s Donbas is very different from the Second World War,” said Georgetown International Relations Professor Arnold Sickert.
“Hitler began the war by staging a false flag attack on German targets that he blamed on the Polish. Britain and France didn’t buy this pathetic ruse, and thus they declared war on 3 September 1939. But if they had been like today’s European leaders, they might have tacitly acknowledged Hitler’s claims and demanded that both sides of the conflict come to the negotiating table and hammer out a peace deal, with most of the onus being on Poland. It’s only good modern diplomacy.”
When asked about whether Putin should be allowed to be a party to the negotiations while simultaneously denying any involvement in the war, Sickert emphasized that “the only way you stop a war is by endlessly catering to the regime that started in until it hopefully gets bored and leaves whatever country it invaded.”
Still, there are few hopes that this most recent Normandy meeting will present any major steps toward ending the conflict that has killed over 13,000 people since 2014. Just days before the scheduled talks, pro-Russian separatist forces launched a number of attacks on Ukrainian military positions, showing that they have no shortage of arms or ammunition despite claims they are not controlled by Moscow.
A few commentators have suggested that the practice of acquiescing to Putin’s narratives on the conflict and treating him as a reliable negotiator might actually be the cause of the ongoing conflict. Western leaders, highly-educated diplomats, and think tank academics have dismissed such opinions as “not serious,” however.