Blog AnalysisRussia Caucasus UkraineStabilization - Peace

A force for peace in eastern Ukraine, ardently desired. Really doable?

A peacekeeping force deployed in Ukraine, alongside or alongside OSCE observers?

(B2) This is a recurring request from the Ukrainian government, and in particular from its president. In each of his trips and meetings, Petro Poroshenko insists on his desire to see a UN peacekeeping mission deployed in the Donbass. This should still be the case when he meets this Monday the head of European diplomacy, Federica Mogherini, who is visiting kyiv. The press service of the Ukrainian president announced that “ During the meeting, issues relating to security in Donbass and prospects for deployment of a UN peacekeeping mission to support the implementation of the Minsk agreements will be discussed ».

The cat and mouse game

In this area, Moscow and kyiv are playing a bit of cat and mouse. At the start of the crisis, kyiv was not very keen on a peacekeeping force, believing it could retake lost territories by force. Then changed his mind. In February 2015, Poroshenko announced an initiative to obtain a peacekeeping force asking the European Union to deploy forces on the border. One way according to analyzes to delay the Minsk process (Read: I want European police on the border with Russia, says Poroshenko. Chick?). At European level, no one has really taken up the challenge. To say that the proposal was freshly received at the ministerial meeting, held in Riga at the time, is quite optimistic (read: Poroshenko's proposal for an EU peace mission in Ukraine: gently shelved).

Putin agrees if the peace force sanctifies the border

Moscow turned a deaf ear, then, in turn, changed its mind. On September 5, Vladimir Putin pulled off a surprise. Speaking at the BRICS summit in China, he said there would be "no nothing bad » to deploy peace forces in Ukraine… On the contrary, it can be “ beneficial » to a resolution of the conflict, as indicated RFI. But he puts a condition: that this force will only have the role of ensuring the security of OSCE observers. That is to say, deploys on the front line, and not the areas held by the rebels in power in kyiv. Basically, the peace force thus protected the front line, in a line of demarcation.

Support from Germany and Sweden…

We cannot say that this initiative aroused wild enthusiasm from either a political or military point of view, even among the countries supporting Ukraine. Of course, Germany quickly indicated its support for this idea. The former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sigmar Gabriel, visiting kyiv in early January, clearly indicated that a “ armed and strong UN peacekeeping mission » to obtain a ceasefire throughout the torn Ukraine would be a “ reasonable solution » as reported by the Deutsche Welle.

Words, words

Even though Poroshenko regularly proclaims " receive more and more support from our partners », this support still remains theoretical. The problem with these positions is that they remain declamatory. They occur, generally during a trip to kyiv. Back in their country, the proclamations often lose their luster a little. Or the countries put such conditions on it that their commitment is artificial. The Swedish Minister of Defense, Peter Hultqvist, expressed vibrant support, listening to certain Ukrainian omens. But when we look closer. This position is filled with “If”. “If we see the right conditions and if we see that this mission can help … then we are open to that, […] We are not there yet, but it is something positive. » It puts in particular one main condition: that Russia and the West agree, indicates the Deutsche Welle. In other words: let’s move around…

Rasmussen's lobbying

The former NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, now an international consultant and chief lobbyist for the Ukrainian president (1), does not budge. It commissioned a report in September 2017, written by researcher Richard Lowan, and published at the end of January (download here) advocating a peacekeeping force in the Donbass, around four ideas:

  1. This peacekeeping force will need a solid mandate
  2. It would include 20 people. Non-NATO European countries such as Sweden, Finland or Austria could play an important role.
  3. A police force and a civilian force of 2000 to 4000 men will also be needed, with the EU potentially playing a key role in building the forces.
  4. A special representative should be appointed to lead and coordinate the process.

Numbers that make you dizzy

The numbers give the spin. Certainly, they are realistic for force effectiveness. But they are fanciful about political practicality. How could Finland, Sweden and Austria, even with the reinforcement of Latin American countries (as proposed), provide 20.000 men to go to Ukraine? All without the support of any NATO country. How could the EU set up a force of 2000 to 4000 police officers? That is to say a volume greater than the mission in Kosovo, for a much larger territory, and a little more dangerous. We can dream…

A proposal not really studied by the Europeans

In fact, since 2015, despite appearances and political agitation, nothing has changed at the European level. The issue was not raised within the EU military committee. General Kostarakos remarked this, bitterly, in front of deputies (read: Has the European Union given up its 'hard power' tools? (Kostarakos)). Furthermore, according to our information, no planning option has been put in place, nor even directives for any first planning option, have been given to the crisis management structures by the High Representative. Within the ranks of the European Union, there appears to have been no further exploration of this issue at any stage. A question of realism?

Who wants to go die for Luhansk?

Everyone knows that this deployment depends on Russian… and European will. Moscow has shown in the Syrian conflict that its right of veto in the United Nations Security Council is not theoretical. And even if this veto could be overcome, it would be at the cost of conditions and contortions that could make the deployment of little use. On a practical level, few European states want to send troops there, to play punch ball in a mission that could well get bogged down, without having the means to impose peace.

Comment: we can hope for the establishment of a peacekeeping force to silence the guns in Eastern Ukraine. But this would not be peacekeeping in this case, but peace enforcement. Unless Moscow agrees to silence the weapons, order its troops to withdraw, its cronies to lay down their weapons. We would then have to give it certain important guarantees to hope that this force can succeed in this mission. Is it playable today. Not sure…

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(1) Nb: no one is offended to see the former NATO Secretary General in the position of a lobbyist (where the same people scream with outrage when it comes to ex-members of the European Commission ). It is true that during his mandate, he had already led an active campaign in favor of Ukraine's membership in the Euro-Atlantic organization, and was always in favor of a “tough” policy towards live in Moscow.

Download the analysis note of the european parliament

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).