“WE SHALL TRANSCEND RUSSIA”
Among other speakers, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko delivered a 20-minute speech at the largest security forum; he said that the evil that is behind the war in the Donbas “is the same, and it resides in the Kremlin.” “To paraphrase the famous British statesman Benjamin Disraeli: we shall not defeat Russia, we shall transcend it. What does it mean? First, be firm on values. The only message to Moscow today has to be that the costs of its aggression will keep increasing until Russian troops leave the Donbas and Crimea,” the head of state said.
POSITION ON PEACEKEEPERS
From the Ukrainian perspective, this security conference featured a number of positive statements from politicians regarding support for the deployment of a peacekeeping mission in the Donbas. In particular, Poroshenko reminded the audience during his speech that he proposed to deploy a UN peacekeeping mission in the Donbas back in 2015, and now this initiative is supported by the whole world. His assertion was supported by statements from Sweden, Finland, and Belarus.
In particular, President of Finland Sauli Niinisto assured that his country would join the peacekeeping mission in the Donbas, the DW reports. According to him, the conflict in the Donbas is the biggest problem in Europe. “If it is possible to solve it, Finland must take part in this.”
“If we see the right conditions and if we see that this mission can help... then we are open to that,” Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist was quoted as saying by Reuters.
A similar statement was made by our neighbor Belarus as well. However, experts are not yet sure how acceptable this country’s participation in a peacekeeping operation in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine can be. “We can only confirm Belarus’s readiness to take part in any form in the possible deployment of a military contingent to this region, should it be acceptable to all parties involved in this conflict,” said Foreign Minister of Belarus Vladimir Makei.
THE RASMUSSEN PLAN
As expected, the Munich gathering also hosted a presentation of the peacekeeping mission plan prepared by UN expert at Columbia University in New York Richard Gowan and commissioned by former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s foundation; The Day covered the document in the article “Will ‘Blue Helmets’ Come to the Donbas?” on February 15, 2018. Let us recall that this project provides for a deployment of up to 20,000 peacekeepers in the Donbas, which should come from neutral countries trusted by Ukraine, Russia, and the West alike, like Sweden, Finland, Austria, Latin American nations, and Belarus, the latter because it is friendly to Russia.
THE KLIMKIN-LAVROV MEETING
While experts were discussing the idea of a peacekeeping mission in the Donbas, Foreign Minister of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin held a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, during which the issue of peacekeepers was raised as well. However, according to the chief of Ukrainian diplomacy, “nothing has been agreed upon yet.” And the next day, February 17, talks in the Normandy format, scheduled to be held on the margins of conference, did not take place.
The Day asked experts to comment on statements by representatives of Sweden, Finland, and Belarus on their possible participation in the UN peacekeeping operation in the Donbas, as well as to tell us what should happen to get things moving on that issue.
“WE NEED TO DO EVERYTHING TO CHANGE RUSSIA’S STANCE”
Volodymyr OHRYZKO, a former minister of foreign affairs of Ukraine:
“I think this is, as people say, a case of ‘jumping the gun.’
“In fact, I do not believe that such a mission can actually be deployed in the Donbas, unless we concede on our principal conditions, which are getting this mission to control the entire occupied territory, including the Ukrainian-Russian border. If we do concede and, as the Russians demand, allow peacekeepers in to guard the OSCE mission only, then it will be an admission of our own helplessness and inability to defend our national interests. If we insist on our conditions, Russia, under the current circumstances, will not concede anything major, because for Russia, a closure of the border means that nothing will remain from the Luhansk and Donetsk ‘people’s republics’ in a few months.
“With regard to the choice of countries, no Russian allies, such as Belarus, should be allowed there at all, because they are completely dependent on Russia and there is a danger that Russian Main Intelligence Directorate or Special Forces soldiers would be stationed there, disguised as Belarusian peacekeepers.
“Therefore, the real issue is not how many countries and which ones will participate in the mission, but in the stance which Russia has today and which needs to be changed through joint efforts and pressure. This is the key issue. The problem is that, given Russia’s current stance and its unwillingness to take reasonable steps, we are not moving forward.
“We and our Western partners need to do everything to change Russia’s stance. This is the only prerequisite for moving forward not only on the issue of the mission, but also on finding a solution to the conflict itself. If Russia’s stance remains unchanged, and the West keeps appealing to it with more calls for a change of stance, nothing will happen. Russia can only be forced to act, this is the only way to show who is in control.”