This week was extremely busy with important meetings and negotiations at the highest level with the participation of the leadership of Ukraine. Perhaps, in the entire history of our country, there has never been such a busy schedule of visits to Kyiv by leaders of leading states not only of the EU, but also of the world.
Judge for yourself: on Tuesday the leaders of Great Britain and Poland visited the capital of Ukraine. On Wednesday, Zelensky held talks with the Prime Minister of the Netherlands in Kyiv, and on Thursday, the most fruitful visit of the President of Turkey to our country in terms of signed documents and agreements took place.
In general, as a result of Erdogan's one-day visit to Kyiv, timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the start of bilateral relations, eight official documents were signed. The main one, of course, was the Free Trade Zone Agreement between the two countries.
But FTA conclusion, from my point of view, is not the main positive result for Ukraine. In this regard, the opinions of economists differ from the position of the Cabinet of Ministers, which estimates the possible growth of Ukraine's GDP after the abolition of import duties on 95% of Ukrainian goods in the amount of up to 2.6% of GDP annually.
Given that Turkey is a direct competitor of Ukraine in many sectors of the economy, in particular in the agricultural sector and industry, the creation of a free trade zone may have the opposite effect. Especially given the devaluation of the Turkish lira by 50% over the past year, which significantly reduces the cost of Turkish goods in foreign markets.
In my opinion, the main positive result, undoubtedly, is the signing of an agreement on the construction of a plant for the production of Bayraktar strike drones in Ukraine, which will be equipped with Ukrainian engines. Which is very important for supporting the flagship of the Ukrainian manufacturer of military engines Motor Sich, which found itself in an extremely difficult situation after the loss of the Russian market eight years ago, as well as the recent “zeroing” of a deal to buy a controlling stake by a dubious Chinese investor.
I’m not talking about the effectiveness of Turkish drones in the context of local conflicts, which has already been demonstrated not only in Nagorno-Karabakh in the fall of 2020, but also the Armed Forces of Ukraine quite recently in the Donbas. Of course, their production and supply to the armament of the Ukrainian army can significantly change the balance of forces on the line of contact towards Ukraine and help avoid civilian casualties, given the accuracy of their missile strikes.
The very next day, information appeared in the media that a meeting between Zelensky and Putin in Turkey was possible in the near future. This time it was no longer a dubious "leak" with a link to an anonymous source in the corridors of power, which in most cases turns out to be an ordinary fake.
This was personally stated by Erdogan himself, after his communication with Putin following his visit to Kyiv: “There was a positive response to our invitation to visit Turkey after the return of Mr. Putin from China. Now we will set the date. Then, I hope, we will hold this meeting between Putin and Zelensky.”
At the same time, the Turkish president stressed that Zelensky agreed to a meeting with Putin: “I attach great importance to the meeting with Mr. Putin on this issue, because at the meeting with Zelensky I saw that we already have an agreement on these issues.”
Of course, such a statement can be regarded as sensational, although a lot has been said about such an initiative lately. However, it was difficult to believe in the likelihood of its implementation for many reasons. Especially the day after the signing of the agreement on the production of Bayraktars in Ukraine.
It is noteworthy that literally immediately Erdogan's statement about a possible meeting between Zelensky and Putin in Turkey through the mediation of the Turkish president was also commented on by Putin's press secretary Peskov.
So, according to him, Russian President Vladimir Putin is ready to meet with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky. But for this, he needs an understanding of what will happen as a result of the meeting: “We believe that it should have taken place a long time ago. And it needs to be done regularly. But in order for this to happen, it is necessary that at least something from the previous agreements be implemented,” Peskov said.
Thus, we can conclude that there are no specific agreements on the meeting of the presidents of Ukraine and Russia in Turkey yet. The Kremlin has so far only indicated that it is considering such a possibility. And everything will depend on whether Kyiv will agree to the main demand of the Kremlin at this stage - the beginning of a direct dialogue between Ukraine and representatives of the occupation administrations. Albeit with the mediation and participation of Putin.
Peskov also stated this in plain text at his briefing: “We hear statements that come from Ankara. One can welcome any efforts to resolve the situation in Ukraine. We have also heard statements that our Turkish colleagues are ready to invite representatives of Donbass. This is a very important element, and we paid attention to it. It would be interesting to know in this context whether the Ukrainian opponents paid attention to this and how they feel about it.”
As we remember, it is the beginning of a direct dialogue between Kyiv and representatives of the occupation administrations that is the Kremlin’s condition for starting negotiations on a new meeting at the level of the leaders of the Normandy Four countries at this stage.
Putin's aide Dmitry Kozak stated this in plain text following a recent meeting in Paris at the level of advisers to the leaders of the Normandie countries last week. As you know, it depends on Kyiv’s willingness to take this step now whether a new meeting between Yermak and Kozak will take place with the mediation of advisers to Macron and Scholz in Berlin in the near future. Initially, it was announced that it could take place two weeks after the meeting in Paris. But, despite the fact that more than a week has already passed, there is no new date for the meeting yet.
However, it is already known that on February 8, French President Emmanuel Macron will fly to Kyiv after he visits Moscow on the 7th. And today, the Office of the President of Ukraine confirmed the meeting between Volodymyr Zelensky and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Kyiv on February 14.
In this context, it is important to note that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will meet with US President Joe Biden in Washington on February 7. Among other things, politicians will also discuss the settlement of the conflict in Donbas, about which there are also official statements by the press service of the German Chancellor.
Thus, German Chancellor Scholz will bring to Kyiv the already agreed position of the United States and Germany on further steps to implement the Minsk agreements.
It is with these upcoming visits by the leaders of the Normandy Four countries, as well as negotiations in the US-Germany-France-RF format on Ukraine, that it is worth considering this entire information campaign with more and more terrible “Kremlin plans” for the occupation of Ukraine, which appear almost every day in the American and European media. The latest and wildest example appeared in the German tabloid "Bild".
When it was already night in Kyiv, the US news agency Bloomberg released fake news that a new Russian invasion of Ukraine had already begun. Then, half an hour later, the news was removed and they apologized. Allegedly mixed up the title.
The main goal of all these horror stories, which appear either in the yellow press, or with reference to unconfirmed anonymous sources, which are then refuted by the official authorities, is to exert psychological pressure on the Ukrainian leadership, which so far has shown enviable persistence and is not going to implement the Kremlin's scenario on implementation of the Minsk agreements. Which is almost Putin's main demand for at least a reduction in confrontation with the West and neutrality in the global confrontation between the collective West and China for world leadership.
Thus, from the already announced new rounds of talks between the leaders of the Normandy Format countries and the United States, we see that the negotiation process has significantly intensified in recent years and the denouement is ahead of us. What it will be now depends personally on Zelensky and his perseverance in defending the national interests of Ukraine. No matter how pathetic it may sound.
Then a logical question arises: why does the Kremlin signal its readiness for negotiations between Zelensky and Putin through the mediation of Erdogan?
Especially after he signed an agreement in yKev on the construction of a plant for the production of Bayraktars on the territory of Ukraine? After all, last year, when Zelensky agreed to buy a new batch of Turkish combat drones, the Kremlin in retaliation forbade its citizens to go to Turkey for a summer vacation under the pretext of coronavirus restrictions? After all, it looks, at first glance, absolutely illogical!
But only at first glance, if you understand and take into account the love of the head of the Kremlin for the Byzantine and multi-move combinations.
The main goal of such statements, given the already announced visits of French President Macron, first to Moscow and then to Kyiv, is to force him to increase pressure on Zelensky. So that he stops bucking and goes into direct negotiations with Pushilin and Plotnitsky, thereby recognizing their legitimacy, and then fulfilling the rest of the so-called “political part” of the Minsk agreements, including amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine on the special status of ORDLO.
Which, according to the recent recognition of the head of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Danilov, will mean the destruction of the country.
After all, presidential elections will be held in France in April. And Macron now needs to demonstrate success in the international arena. Especially after last year's slap from US President Joe Biden, when Australia abandoned an already concluded multi-billion dollar contract with France for the construction of submarines in order to conclude a new military-political alliance with the US and Britain to curb China's ambitions in the region.
If he manages to achieve success in resolving the conflict in Donbas, which he inherited from his predecessor in the Normandy format, then this may play a decisive role for his re-election. In addition, it will also provide him with funding for his campaign from the side of big business, which is suffering losses due to European sanctions against Russia due to its military aggression against Ukraine, and which cannot wait for them to be lifted and return to the policy "business as usual".
Such a curtsey towards Ankara about the possibility of creating a new negotiating platform to replace the Normandy and even holding direct negotiations between Zelensky and Putin, which the Kremlin has been refusing for two years after the last summit in Paris in December 2019, has the goal to hit a nerve of Macron.
After all, everyone knows how difficult the personal relationship between Macron and Erdogan is and what harsh and undiplomatic statements they have made to each other over the past few years. What is the Turkish president’s remark that Macron needs to check if he is mentally healthy, in response to the French president’s statements in defense of a secular state and promises to fight radical Islam. Let me remind you that this incident took place less than two years ago after the murder of the French teacher Samuel Paty, who showed the class caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad as part of a discussion about freedom of speech. In response, Macron even recalled the French ambassador from Ankara for consultations.
So, in fact, by making such a nod to Erdogan and declaring its readiness to come to talks with Zelensky in Turkey, the Kremlin is trying to skillfully use the contradictions between Paris and Ankara, including the complex interpersonal relations of the two leaders.
On the one hand, it is absolutely unimportant for the Kremlin in which city and through whose mediation to achieve its main goal - to force Ukraine to comply with the capitulatory Minsk agreements signed by Poroshenko after the tragedy in Debaltseve. Which once and for all will not only close the issue of guarantees of Ukraine’s non-entry into NATO, but will also allow inflicting a crushing blow on the remnants of Ukrainian statehood, which the Kremlin considers a misunderstanding and a consequence of the main geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century – the collapse of the USSR.
On the other hand, if everything goes well and it is with the help of Macron and the West as a whole that Putin manages to force Ukraine to comply with the political part of the Minsk agreements, then this will be a very subtle response to his “bosom friend” Erdogan. And for Bayraktars for Ukraine and its strengthening in the military sphere in general, and for the humiliation in Nagorno-Karabakh when Putin refused to respond to Armenia's request for military assistance as a member of the CSTO. Thus, significantly compromised his own and Russian image as a guarantor of security for the fraternal Armenian people.
Indeed, for Erdogan today it is extremely important to raise his status in the international arena against the backdrop of extremely cool relations with the West in the past few years. The same applies to the fall in support among the population within the country as a result of the devaluation of the lira and the rise in consumer prices over the past year.
Thus, summing up, I note that direct negotiations between Putin and Zelensky in Turkey will most likely not take place. As well as the transfer of meetings of the trilateral group to Istanbul from Minsk, which more than suits Kyiv. And all this is just a bluff. At best, for the Kremlin, this is just a fallback option, provided that Erdogan manages to persuade Zelensky to enter into direct negotiations with the Kremlin’s puppets from ORDLO. And then, if Macron and Scholz fail to do this during their visits to Kyiv.
Moreover, several million Crimean Tatars live in Turkey, and therefore it will be extremely difficult for Putin to avoid discussing the issue of returning not only the occupied territories in Donbas, but also Crimea, the annexation of which Erdogan cannot recognize a priori. But this question, as he tirelessly repeats, is closed to him.