No Trilateral Meeting of Normandy Quartet Leaders But Only Bilaterals in China: Kremlin

August 30, 2016
The four leaders of the "Normandy Quartet" founded in 2014 at the 70th anniversary of the landing of troops on the beach at Normandy in World War II, to foster peace talks on the war in Ukraine (L-R): President Vladimir Putin, French President Francois Hollande, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko; German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo via Focus.UA

LIVE UPDATES: Three of the four leaders of the “Normandy Quartet” — French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin — will not have a trilateral meeting in Beijing, but only bilateral meetings, the Kremlin announced.

Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.

The previous issue is here.

Recent Analysis and Translations:

– What Has Ramzan Kadyrov Been Up To? Quietly Cultivating Regional and Kremlin Officials, Now He Meets with Putin
– RBC Publishes Report Sourced in FSB and Military on Wagner Private Military Contractor with 2,500 Fighters in Syria
– Russian Parliamentary Elections Round-Up: Open Russia’s Baronova Registered; Shevchenko Disqualified
– The Kremlin is Working Hard to Make Donald Trump President


No Trilateral Meeting of Normandy Quartet Leaders But Only Bilaterals in China: Kremlin

There will be no meeting of the leaders of France, Germany and Russia in China — a trilateral meeting of three of the four Normandy Quartet leaders, according to a Kremlin spokesman today.

Translation: Meeting of #Putin , #Merkel and #Hollande on Ukraine will not take place.

The Normandy Quartet was formed by the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine during the 70th anniversary of the landing at Normandy in 2014, in order to foster peace talks on the war in Ukraine.

When clashes were reported to take place at the border of Russian-occupied Crimea and mainland Ukraine earlier this month, President Vladimir Putin vowed to cancel the “Normandy” format meeting in Beijing. Then there were hints by Russian officials that the meeting might take place anyway.

Today Yury Ushakov, an aide to Putin, said two bilateral meetings will take place instead: on September 4, Putin will meet with French President Francois Hollande, and then on September 5, Putin will meet separately with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, TASS reported.

The topic of both meetings will be Ukraine, said TASS.

Putin has thus succeeded in placing the Minsk agreement in doubt, and splitting the West, as France leans more than Germany toward ending sanctions against Russia over the annexation of Crimea. 

It is still not certain if a meeting between Putin and President Barack Obama  will take place.

Speaking of the prospects for such a bilateral meeting, Ushakov said he “could not rule out” such a possibility as such meetings “often occur” on the margins of such world summits, LifeNews reported.

A meeting with Putin in China could well be Obama’s last opportunity to have such a summit in his presidency, as Putin has already announced he will not attend the UN General Assembly in September and would hardly be likely to visit the US for any other reason. 

Translation: The Kremlin has spoke about a meeting between Putin and Obama in China.

Earlier, Peskov “confirmed the possibility” of a meeting between the two leaders, said LifeNews.

It’s not clear if Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for the presidential administration is really saying anything different than Ushakov.

It’s more likely that the US is seeking the meeting with Russia than visa versa. 

Ushakov said that while a meeting with Obama was not currently in Putin’s schedule, the leaders could still meet in the hallway.

“This has happened often during international events,” said Ushakov, noting that during the last G20 meeting in Turkey, Putin and Obama spoke in the corridor.

For his part, Obama would be unlikely to personally make a trip to Moscow, rather than send Secretary of State John Kerry or other officials, as this would be a “gift” indicating that some major agreement had been reached on Syria or Ukraine — an unlikely prospect in the next three months. 

If the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement really is dead (and its death has been announced prematurely by leftist commentators repeatedly — and the German official would not be the last word), it would be another area where Obama would appear weak.
Russia’s blatant manipulation of the US elections, with obvious siding with candidate Donald Trump and and the ties to Russia of Trump’s aides, not to mention the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee, foundations and think-tanks, mean that Obama would be especially wary of a setting where Putin may prevail yet again.

Putin has everything to gain by stalling the meeting and even dissing Obama deliberately; Obama, if he wants to leave office with some kind of legacy on Russia that is less than humiliating may want to use the opportunity of Beijing for a summit in which he extracts at least some optical advance.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick