“It was the actions of some member states, Germany and France, and a diplomatic mistake by Ukraine to accept the Normandy formula, and then the Minsk formula, that has got us nowhere,” says former Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski. “Through a series of missteps we have ended up with the EU excluded from an issue of vital importance for us.”

After months of sabre-rattling from Vladimir Putin over Ukraine, Russian officials have been on a diplomatic tour of Europe this week, meeting the US in Geneva and Nato in Brussels. Amid this diplomatic whirl, Europe’s biggest diplomatic club has been absent. The EU has no formal role in the talks, although its officials are drawing up possible sanctions to levy against Russia if the Kremlin decides to invade Ukraine, the Guardian reports.

The EU’s exclusion from talks on war and peace in its own backyard hurts. “Between Putin and Biden, Europe is sidelined,” ran a Le Monde headline last week. The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell,struck an insouciant note. “I don’t care,” he said when the BBC asked whether the US should have gone ahead with the Geneva talks. The Russians, he said, had “deliberately excluded the EU from any participation” but he had been assured by the US that “nothing will be agreed without our strong co-operation, coordination and participation”.

Officials have downplayed the exclusion of the EU. “European allies are at the table, because European allies are in Nato,” said the Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg. After Nato-Russia talks, Stoltenberg plans to brief EU defence ministers meeting in the port city of Brest in north-western France on Wednesday evening. The two organisations have 21 member countries in common and pages of pledges to improve cooperation.

Not everyone buys this reassuring story about Europe’s absence from the top table. “It gives me huge concern,” Radosław Sikorski, a Polish former foreign minister, who now sits in the European parliament, told the Guardian. “The EU is a neighbour of both Ukraine and Russia, these are countries with whom we have intense relationships. And what happens between them affects several member states. Of course we should be there and I am astonished that we are not.”

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