Ukraine disintegrated into civil war partly over disagreement about whether to join the European Union’s economic integration program, the Eastern Partnership, or to join Eurasia’s new Customs Union (CU). Today, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia will hold CU talks in Minsk, and Ukraine’s President Poroshenko is expected to attend. The CU meeting will be the first formal meeting between Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko since the Ukrainian civil war began. Representatives of the EU will be included in the summit.
Although no agenda for the Minsk summit has been set, talks are expected to include diplomatic efforts to resolve the Ukrainian conflict. Poroshenko has indicated that he plans to ask that rebels be withdrawn from eastern Ukraine, while Putin will likely demand greater autonomy for the restive eastern provinces and protection of human rights there. The EU may pressure Poroshenko to make some kind of speedy resolution of the crisis before economic catastrophe spreads to Europe.
Angela Merkel, who traveled to Ukraine over the weekend, lacks confidence that the Minsk summit will yield meaningful results.
My talks in Kiev were aimed in part at preparing this meeting, which surely won’t produce the one big breakthrough in Minsk — just to curb expectations,
However, she has also just indicated that the EU is now willing to accept a decision by Ukraine to join Putin’s Customs Union if Ukraine chooses to do so. That’s an important shift. Meanwhile, Poroshenko dissolved parliament and called early elections for late October.
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