The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany are scheduled to meet today in Paris. Most analysts, myself included, are skeptical that anything substantive will come out of the meeting – namely because of the political pickle Zelensky finds himself in with respect to the ultra-right forces in Ukraine who have complained about Zelensky’s moderate steps toward even fulfilling the Steinmeier Formula and reviving the Normandy Four talks. US-UK-backed media outlets, including Hromadske, have run warnings to Zelensky not to make any concessions to Russia.
Interestingly, Thomas E. Graham, a former aide to George W. Bush and one of the few realists in his administration, wrote an article in October for Foreign Affairs magazine in which he outlined a proposal for how to resolve the Ukraine crisis. The article has been criticized for being unrealistic and for ostensibly making too many concessions to Russia (i.e. any concessions in a diplomatic process that, by definition, is supposed to include give-and-take). The article is behind a paywall but its main points are summarized by Professor Serhiy Kudelia on his Facebook page:
“Thomas Graham, former senior director on Russia at the National Security Council under George W. Bush, offers advice on how to achieve breakthrough during Normandy talks in Paris published in the leading US foreign policy journal: ‘The recent election in Ukraine of a new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, whose supporters now dominate the parliament, has created an opening for a comprehensive resolution of the crisis. Two tradeoffs are essential. First, to allay Russian concerns, the United States should tell Ukraine that NATO membership is off the table, while deepening bilateral security cooperation with Kiev. Second, Kiev should recognize Russia’s incorporation of Crimea in exchange for Moscow’s acceptance of the full reintegration of the Donbas into Ukraine without any special status. In a comprehensive agreement, Ukrainians would also receive compensation for lost property in Crimea and Ukraine would be afforded access to offshore resources and guaranteed passage through the Kerch Strait to ports on the Sea of Azov. The United States and the EU would incrementally ease their sanctions on Russia as these arrangements took effect. At the same time, they would offer Ukraine a substantial assistance package aimed at facilitating reform in the belief that a strong, prosperous Ukraine is both the best deterrent against future Russian aggression and a necessary foundation for more constructive Russian-Ukrainian relations. Such an approach would be met initially with great skepticism in Kiev, Moscow, and elsewhere in Europe. But Zelensky has staked his presidency on resolving the Donbas conflict, and Putin would welcome the chance to redirect resources and attention to countering spreading socioeconomic unrest in Russia.'”
What’s even more interesting is that on November 25th, Graham was in Moscow meeting with Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov. The description of the meeting on the foreign ministry’s web page was short and vague, stating simply:
Opinions were exchanged on current issues of bilateral relations. They also touched on some international and regional issues.
Now Washington is not formally a part of the Normandy talks but no doubt the U.S. wants to exert influence. I’m wondering if the Trump administration sent Graham to Moscow as some kind of back channel on the Ukraine issue. Of course, that would mean that the Trump administration is actually showing some competence. It will be interesting to see what happens.
In a recent CNN Town Hall, Nancy Pelosi was asked a question by a member of the audience about why she had opposed impeachment proceedings in the past, specifically against George W. Bush in 2006 for misleading the country into the Iraq war, but supports it now against Trump in connection with his phone call with the president of Ukraine. Below is video of her response. It needs no comment from me.