Sometimes it looks a bit like a diplomatic version of “does he take sugar?”
In Geneva and Brussels, Western diplomats face off against their Russian counterparts, discussing, among other things, Ukraine’s ability as a sovereign, independent state, to shape its own destiny.
But Ukraine is not there.
No matter how many times senior US officials repeat the mantra “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine” – and they repeat it at every opportunity – it’s hard for Ukrainians to avoid wondering just what is being discussed behind their backs.
With an estimated 100,000 Russian troops massed on the country’s northern and eastern borders, you might think this would be cause for serious alarm.
Orthodox Christmas was celebrated here last Friday, and if you stroll through Kyiv’s busy Christmas markets you’re not exactly assailed by a sense of heightened alert and anxiety.
“People are used to heavy times,” says Petro Burkovsky from one of Kyiv’s oldest independent think tanks, the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation. “In the 20th Century, we had many occasions when people lived in daily horror. It’s part of their historical memory.”