The foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine, Germany, and France met in Berlin to try to establish the terms necessary to go ahead with a planned meeting of their countries’ leaders in Kazakhstan. It didn’t go well, as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports:
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier…said the meeting had been a “very open exchange” but did not produce the results needed for the countries to go ahead with a meeting of leaders this week in Kazakhstan. […]In a joint statement, the four ministers also called on the contact group of Ukraine, Russia, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to meet to try and make progress on implementing a much-violated Ukraine peace deal drawn up in September, including creating the “relevant conditions for an effective cease-fire.”If this is done, it would “pave the way to the preparation of a successful summit meeting” in Kazakhstan, they wrote.
The fact that they failed to come to good enough terms even to talk in Kazakhstan says a lot about Russia’s willingness to let the situation in Ukraine deteriorate. European leaders, especially in France, Germany, and Italy, have been sending pretty loud signals that they want an excuse, any excuse, to drop the sanctions on Russia when they expire in March and June.If Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov had given them something to hang their hat on, some vaguely credible sign that the Minsk ceasefire would start to be observed, it’s unlikely the talks would have ended in failure. But as has been the case since Russia first invaded Ukraine, giving Putin “off-ramps” that he can take to wind down the crisis turns out not to be worth the effort. He just keeps driving on by.