Borysfen Intel

“Blue Helmets” in Ukraine: Reality or Illusions?

February 24, 2015
<p>“Blue Helmets” in Ukraine: Reality or Illusions?</p>

To date, the most important (in fact fatal) issue for Ukraine is all parties of the conflict in the East of Ukraine to comply with “Minsk Agreements-2” for a ceasefire in some areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. According to a number of leading experts, even if the parties to the conflict do stop hostilities, we'll still need to look for ways to provide a more stable armistice.

Thus, the latest (second) Minsk Agreements will only be effective if Putin eases the confrontation with Ukraine and the West. But so far no sign of it can be observed. On the contrary, the events of the latest days after Minsk-2 indicate that his ambitions are not limited to Ukraine alone, he is going to restore Russia's influence in Eastern Europe. That is why it is so strategically important for Ukraine to strengthen the resistance to the Russian Federation's pressure in political, diplomatic, economic (including energy), information and other spheres. And to counteract the Russian military aggression in order to prevent blocking of Ukraine's European integration and the spread of Russia's military and subversive-terrorist acts, first of all, to other regions of Ukraine.

At first glance, it is believed that the guaranteed instrument for fulfillment of the above-mentioned tasks could be both, consistent activities of international (European) organizations and balanced position of the international community to preserve the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. However, in this context, positions and the abilities of the United Nations (UN), European Union (EU), Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) regarding our state have certain “features”, namely:

UN — has condemned the Russian military aggression against Ukraine, appealed to the leadership of the Russian Federation to cease delivery of militants, weapons and military equipment, supported the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within the borders of 1991 and did not recognize Russia's annexation of the Crimea and Sevastopol (UN GA Resolution 68/262 from 27.03.2014). Besides, in March 2014 the Office of the United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights deployed on the territory of Ukraine a Monitoring Mission to control the situation and human rights.

At the same time, having the right of veto (as a permanent member of the UN Security Council), the Russian Federation openly and provocatively blocked the adoption by the UN Security Council of the following: Resolution in support of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine (March 2014); Statement about the illegitimacy of the local elections in the self-proclaimed of Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics (November 2014); Statement on the situation in the East of Ukraine (January 2015) as a result of civilian casualties due to shelling of Mariupol by illegal armed groups, etc.

The actual failure of the UN Security Council in the protection of state sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine as a result of Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine, casts doubt on the effectiveness of the existing UN mechanisms for prevention of armed conflicts and crisis response. With this in mind, in the power and expert-analytical circles of UN member-countries (primarily the United States, Poland and Baltic countries) have intensified the debate about the need to reform the UN Security Council in order to strengthen its capacity to prevent armed conflicts. There have been proposed the following main directions of the reform:

  • • to cancel or temporarily restrict the UN Security Council permanent members' right to veto in dealing with such critical issues as violation of international Law, manifestations of genocide, ethnic cleansing and the like;
  • • to include into the permanent UN Security Council the countries with the greatest economic potentials (in particular, Germany, Japan, India, Brazil) or based on the geographical principle (one country from each region). According to independent experts, this situation will change the balance of power in the UN Security Council and will weaken the position of permanent member countries while taking decisions where their interests can be seen;
  • • to establish cooperation between the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court in relation to the prosecution of those responsible for violations of international Law, war crimes, genocide and so on;
  • • to develop new mechanisms for guaranteeing international security and deterring aggressors. Such mechanisms should include a set of well-developed means of pressure (in the political, economic, energy, financial, military and other spheres) on the country or a group of countries, encroaching on independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of other countries (both, in the open and hidden forms);

OSCE — condemned Russia's military aggression against Ukraine and did not recognize the annexation of the Crimea and Sevastopol (OSCE PA Resolution of 01.07.2014), accused the Russian Federation of violation of the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, sent to the territory of Ukraine military and civilian personnel (March 2014), marked the beginning of activities of the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) of the OSCE in Ukraine (total number of representatives of at least 500 people) and the functioning of the Special Control and Coordination Center in the East of Ukraine, takes mediation part in the settlement of the conflict within the framework of Minsk Agreements of 5 and 19 September 2014 and of 12 February 2015.

At the moment, the OSCE Mission in Ukraine is actually the only international organization that controls the implementation of Minsk Arrangements (including Minsk Agreements-2) on ceasefire in the East of Ukraine.

However, having a noticeable influence in the OSCE Permanent Council, as well as due to lack of adequate security for members of the Mission in the East of Ukraine, the Russian Federation periodically blocks initiatives within the OSCE, concerning:

  • • de-escalation of the conflict (with respect to the decision to extend the mandate of the OSCE observation mission onto the line of the Ukrainian-Russian border in districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions);
  • • implementation of the Minsk Agreements (primarily for the withdrawal of Russian troops and military equipment from the temporarily uncontrolled territories of Ukraine, Ukraine's resumption of control along the Ukrainian-Russian border in the East of Ukraine and establishment of safety zones);
  • • a decision on the inclusion into the OSCE Mission of national military components of potential donor countries (especially the UAV and staff), which can significantly influence the control of the development of the situation in the conflict zone.

Such destructive steps of the Russian Federation do not allow the OSCE to fully meet the challenges of monitoring the situation in the Ukrainian-Russian border and to fulfill the role of mediator in resolving the crisis in the East of Ukraine. At the same time, despite all the OSCE's drawbacks and faults, in the context of the search for ways of peaceful settlement of the situation in the East of Ukraine, this organization is important for our country, taking into consideration its unique mandate;

European Union. The situation around Ukraine quite significantly affected the activities of the EU in the past, and this year.

In fact, the European Union was actively involved in the resolution of the internal political conflict in Ukraine during the “Revolution of Dignity”. In the future, it did not recognize the annexation by the Russian Federation of the Crimea and Sevastopol, condemned Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine in the Donbas, made demands to the Russian authorities to stop supplying militants with weapons and military equipment, as well as to withdraw the Russian Federation's Armed Forces' units from the territory of the Ukrainian state.

The European Union sees Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine as a violation of the existing architecture of European and global security, as well as a challenge to its geopolitical interests. That is why the European Union has quite critically revised its policy towards Russia and together with the United States imposed sanctions against it in the political, economic, financial, defense and humanitarian spheres. Apart from the implementation of pressure on Russia, the EU started to take measures to support Ukraine.

In particular, within the framework of the EU program “Eastern Partnership”, of special importance became the signed in June last year, Association and Free Trade Area Agreements with Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. At the same time, the European Union has increased its support for Ukraine also in other spheres, including in resolving the conflict between Russia and Ukraine in the gas sphere, giving financial assistance to Ukraine in the amount of 1.6 billion Euros, lowering duty on exports of Ukrainian goods to the EU. The EU also contributes to the reform of Ukrainian law enforcement agencies (in December 2014, a consultative and advisory mission of EU began its work on reforming the civil security sector in Ukraine-EUAM Ukraine). Is also being developed the so-called “Marshall's Plan for Ukraine,” according to which for our state have been allocated at least 30 billion Euros until 2020.

Besides, in response to Russia's growing aggressiveness, the EU leaders have stepped up measures to strengthen the security of Europe in the military and energy spheres. Thus, within the framework of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) of the EU decisions were taken to deepen cooperation between the EU and NATO on countering military threats to the European region;

NATO. The Alliance strongly condemned the Russian Federation's armed aggression against Ukraine, fully supported the introduction of international political and economic sanctions against Russia, and demanded that the RF does not support illegal armed groups in Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine. It also demanded to withdraw the RF Armed Forces' units from the Ukrainian territory, whose presence in these areas is confirmed by documented data of NATO's space intelligence.

As for the possibility of giving Ukraine lethal (including high precision) weapons, the leadership of the Alliance is not ready to take such a decision, but will not object to the individual NATO member-countries' providing it on a bilateral basis.

In this context, in February 2015, US Senators sent a letter to President Barack Obama and the leadership of the Alliance with the demand to increase the volume of military aid to Ukraine, including through the supply of both, lethal and non-lethal weapons. (First of all, it concerns the mobile mine-protected armored vehicles, anti-tank guided missile launchers, portable anti-aircraft missiles /MANPADS/, radar stations of artillery instrumental reconnaissance /UAV/ etc.).

As part of practical arrangements, the Alliance initiated creation of four NATO Trust Funds, aimed at reforming the security sector of Ukraine in the spheres of logistics, management, cyber defense, medical support. Besides, it confirmed the decision of the Bucharest NATO Summit of 2008 on the openness of the Alliance for Georgia and Ukraine.

Due to Russia's aggressive foreign policy and rising level of threats from it, in 2014 began a new process of transforming NATO to bring the activities of the Alliance in accordance with the terms of the new international confrontation.

In particular, in May 2014 (after the annexation of the Crimea and the beginning of Russia's military aggression in the South-East of Ukraine), the Alliance adopted a special action plan to strengthen the defense capabilities of NATO in the East, and during the NATO Summit (in September 2014) in Wales there was adopted a comprehensive plan for reforming NATO. These plans provide for increased activities of operational and combat training of NATO forces in the Eastern direction; strengthening of NATO Forces' military presence in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic States, including continued deployment of the USA/NATO Anti-Missile Defense elements.

Measures are being taken to improve the responsiveness to military threats to the security of the Alliance, namely: creation within the NATO Response Force of a Joint Operations Unit of Ultra-Rapid Reaction Force; deployment of a Battalion Tactical Group as part of units of member countries (on a rotating basis) in Poland and the Baltic States; increase in the number of fighters as part of NATO's mission to protect the airspace of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia (the so-called NATO Air Police); deployment of mobile anti-missile systems in Poland and Romania; deployment of the network of advanced logistics points of NATO troops in Germany, Italy and Norway.

The EU and NATO's policy towards Ukraine and Russia in the context of the events of 2014 and this year, is now supported by the majority of European and other countries. The most active position on this issue is occupied by Germany, France, UK, USA, Canada, Poland and Lithuania. However, a number of European countries, including Italy, Hungary, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Greece, as well as some political business circles of the EU show a more reserved attitude towards the means of political and economic pressure on Russia, because of their economic (primarily energy) dependence on it.

Besides, quite a threatening factor for Ukraine is the increased activity of Hungarian, Romanian and Ruthenian nationalist movements and organizations (including extremist ones), for the most part used (funded and directed) by Russia to provoke tensions in western and south-western regions of Ukraine.

Summarizing the above-mentioned, we can make preliminary interim conclusions and forecasts, namely:

The work of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe has shown that the activities of the Special OSCE Monitoring Mission in Ukraine and the Special Control and Coordination Center in the East of Ukraine are not able to cope with the tasks assigned to them to monitor how all parties to the conflict in the East of Ukraine fulfill demands of Minsk Agreements of 5 and 19 September 2014, and new Minsk Agreements of February 12 this year. The reasons are both objective (limited funding of the Mission, lack of technical support by means of objective control) and subjective (limited manning of the Mission, Russia's predominant influence/pressure on the work of the Mission, militants' shelling of the Mission and attacks on its members, and so on).

Today we can state that Minsk Agreements are under the threat because of the constant violation of (or rather — non-fulfilling) by the Russian Federation and the controlled by it illegal armed groups of the occupation regime in the Donbas of requirements for a ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons. In order to keep these Minsk Agreements, efforts from outside are needed. In this (stalemate) situation logical would be the question of estimation of the feasibility of a tool of organizing and conducting peacekeeping operations in Ukraine with the assistance of International Peacekeeping Forces under the auspices of the United Nations or of the EU, and possibly under the auspices of the NATO (some experts consider it a guaranteed tool for our state).

As a consequence — February 18 National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine approved the appeal to the UN and the European Union to deploy a Mission in Ukraine to maintain peace and security. According to the Ukrainian side, the peacekeeping force could be deployed both, along the line of the collision, and along the uncontrolled part of the Russian-Ukrainian border (about 400 km), which would monitor and prevent its violation, and thus guarantee the means to stop provocations and general aggression against Ukraine.

That is, it turns out that in the current circumstances in the East of Ukraine International Peacekeeping Force would have to possess a mandate to perform quite a wide range of tasks: monitoring the situation in the conflict zone and on the Ukrainian-Russian border; control over the observance of the ceasefire and the abduction of troops and heavy weapons from the line of the collision; establishing and maintaining a guaranteed border crossing regime; provision of humanitarian assistance to the population, as well as contributing to the maintenance of law and order in the conflict zone and at the border; guaranteeing the security and support for democracy in the conflict zone; providing assistance in the processes of anti-crisis management and post-conflict stabilization. With such a wide range of highly specific tasks no peacekeeping force will be able to cope, and therefore it will be necessary, either to limit the range of these problems, or to conduct the peacekeeping operation in the East of Ukraine in several stages, which will increase the time period of its implementation and expenditure-cost parameters.

One also has to understand clearly — of what content and of what direction should be a peacekeeping operation in the East of Ukraine: the operation of peace enforcement or peacekeeping operation? Most experts believe that, first there should be conducted a peacekeeping operation to enforce peace with the following task: to de-escalate the situation, to prevent attacks and bombardments, to decouple forces of the parties to the conflict to a certain line of demarcation, and the like. For this we need a Peacekeeping Force. It can be either the UN' or the EU's or even mixed.

After stabilization of the situation, it is important to carry out the EU Police Mission in the East of Ukraine to keep peace. It should be borne in mind that the European Union has never conducted joint ground military peacemaking operations. The security component appeared in the sphere of responsibility of the European Community only recently and now the EU powers here are quite limited. However, some experts believe that the European Union still has to consider the establishment of the military mission in Donbas, if Minsk Agreements are not fulfilled and the fighting continues.

Click to enlargeAs for the possible participants of the peacekeeping operation, they may be countries — not members of NATO: Austria, Finland, Sweden and even China. It is important that the Peacekeeping Force should not include contingents from the Russian Federation.

Meanwhile, the Russia states that Ukraine's plans to apply to the UN and the EU for peacekeepers have questioned the intentions of the Ukrainian authorities to fulfill Minsk Agreements. As you know, the issue of deployment of UN peacekeepers in Ukraine will need to get the support of the members of the UN Security Council. Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council and has veto power, then there is need to identify mechanisms to circumvent Russian veto in the UN to send peacekeepers to Ukraine (note: as an option, Russia could be recognized the party to the conflict).

The greatest experience of peacekeeping operations, of course, is that of the United Nations'. However, the activity of the United Nations over recent years demonstrates the low efficiency of the Organization to address international conflicts in cases of fundamental differences of interests of the leading states of the world. Clear evidence of this is the failure of the UN to stop the annexation of the Crimea and the Russian military aggression against Ukraine in the Donbas. Despite the active discussion of the Ukrainian question (20 meetings), the UN Security Council was unable to adopt a clear resolution on the actions of Russia against Ukraine and confined itself to general statements. And at the same time, on February 17 this year, at the initiative of the Russian side, the UN Security Council approved a resolution in support of the Minsk Agreements and called on the parties to the conflict in the Donbas to fulfill them. What has happened? Why does Russia need it?

At first glance, the answer lies on the surface, that is:

The Russian Federation does not want to release Ukraine from under the Minsk Agreements, because in fact this mechanism recognizes (legitimizes) the so-called self-proclaimed Luhansk and Donetsk People's Republics;

The Russian Federation is not seeking to change the existing “Norman” negotiation format to another — namely, to “Geneva” (US, EU, Russia and Ukraine) one, as it will be difficult to resist the joint positions of the US and the EU;

The Russian Federation does not want to let to the East of Ukraine the UN and the European Union's Peacekeeping Force (at the request of the Speaker of the State Duma Naryshkin, Minsk Agreements do not provide for the invitation of UN peacekeepers, and one of the parties to the negotiations is the OSCE).

However, the initiative of the Russian side on the UN Security Council's Resolution in support of the Minsk Agreements — it seems to be about anything, but the fact of its support in the UN unleashes the Kremlin's hands. Since Putin's regime is characterized as irresponsible and cynical, it is likely that the Russian side, and the supported by it illegal armed groups in Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine once again will grossly violate the Minsk Agreements-2. In fact, the Kremlin would like to see in Ukraine the presence of Russian peacekeepers to enter under the guise of them his occupation troops. Like it was in Trans-Dniester, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

It should be also understood that no peacekeeping mission in the conflict zone guarantees the end of hostilities. Besides, the presence of the peacekeeping contingent in the conflict zone would mean its “freezing”, not resolving. In this case, the central government is losing control over the territory under separatists, and thus the sovereignty. That is, in this situation the “blue helmets” are not just one of the tools for “freezing” the conflict in the long term. In fact, it is a step towards economic and political cutting off of the territories not controlled by the central government. This is what happened in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Trans-Dniester. At the moment though not formally recognized by the international commonwealth, they de facto are independent states.

Besides, having invited Peacekeepers, Ukraine will assume certain obligations and, therefore, will lose the ability to conduct any military operations to regain control over the territories controlled by separatists and Russian forces. Otherwise Ukraine in the eyes of the international community will look like an initiator of escalation. But the separatists and Moscow retain the possibility to resume hostilities at any time convenient for them, and move further to the west and south.

But all this is tactics.

Strategic tasks to defend the statehood of Ukraine are as follows:

  • preserving and strengthening of the international political and economic sanctions against the Russian Federation while carrying out reforms in Ukraine;
  • the United States and other NATO countries and the EU's giving Ukraine “defensive weapons”;
  • acceleration of the reform of the Armed Forces and the Military-Industrial Complex of Ukraine up to NATO standards;
  • creation and introduction of an integrated system of state information security and information counteraction in Ukraine.

Note: The Independent Analytical Center for Geopolitical Studies “BORYSFEN INTEL” does not believe that these are final assessments, conclusions and forecasts on this issue and invites to the discussion, including on columns of our website.

Page URL: http://bintel.com.ua/en/article/print/golubye-kaski/