Peacekeepers Wonĺt Bring Peace
Published: August 13, 2014 (Issue # 1824)
Ofácourse, thereĺs not going toábe aáwar. But there will be such aástruggle forápeace that it will leave nothing but rubble.ö This Soviet-era quip comes toámind when observing Russiaĺs feverish calls forápeacekeeping actions ináUkraine inárecent days.
Last week, TheáUN Security Council held anáemergency meeting ináNew York atáRussiaĺs request. There, Russian representative Vitaly Churkin spared no effort inádescribing theáhumanitarian catastrophe inásoutheastern Ukraine.
Besides theánearly 1,500 deaths, several hundred thousand refugees including children andáthe elderly have been left toáthe mercy ofáfate. This requires immediate intervention fromáthe global community, Churkin said. Kiev, atáleast according toáMoscow, has failed toáprovide safe passage foránon-combatants, andáso Russia should step ináto lead convoys ofáhumanitarian aid foráthose trapped ináthe conflict zone.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu recently visited theá15th Motorized Rifle Brigade, aámilitary unit specifically created forápeacekeeping operations. He praised theásoldiersĺ training, andánoted significantly: ôThe world has changed drastically. As you know fromápast incidents, including theáexperience ofáthis brigade, peacekeeping units can be called upon unexpectedly.ö
Atápractically theásame time, troubling announcements came out ofávarious Western nations. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said he had information that theárisk ofáa military intervention byáRussia ináUkraine had risen sharply. NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said ináa statement that Russia had amassed about 20,000 troops onáits border with Ukraine andácould use theápretext ofáhumanitarian aid or aápeacekeeping mission toásend them intoáits neighborĺs territory.
Kiev, however, has been ignoring this ploy andácontinuing military actions, regardless ofálosses. Although itĺs highly unlikely that Ukraine will achieve aásmooth military victory, theáseparatists have nothing good toálook forward toáin theácoming weeks.
Theálikely chaos ofáthe next few weeks could, though, provide theápretext needed foráRussia toásend inátroops under theáguise ofáprotecting humanitarian convoys. Military accompaniment foráa convoy will force Ukrainian troops intoáa temporary cease-fire, giving theáômilitantsö aábreather.
But who exactly is Moscow trying toáfool, calling aáRussian invasion ôpeacekeepingö?
Forámilitary action toábe considered peacekeeping, it must meet aáminimum ofátwo requirements.
First, both opposing sides must agree toáa cease-fire andáthe arrival ofáa peacekeeping force. Ináthis situation, anáagreement fromáKiev can be easily ruled out as impossible. Second, theápeacekeeping operation should have aámandate fromáan international organization (preferably theáUN). Keeping inámind that even allies like Belarusĺ leader Alexander Lukashenko disapprove ofáRussiaĺs Ukraine policy, it seems highly unlikely that Moscow will receive such aámandate even from, say, theáCIS.
So theáonly groups calling aáRussian military intrusion aáôpeacekeepingö operation will be theácountryĺs own Foreign Ministry andátelevision anchors. Why go through all this song andádance, then?
If such aáplan really exists, then theáonly explanation is that all these games are meant toáconvince theáRussian public ofáthe necessity ofáintervening. Ofácourse, they are ready toágive their all foráôOur Crimeaö andáôNovorossia.ö But surveys show that Russians are emphatically against aámilitary conflict; they donĺt want to invade Ukraine. But perhaps theáKremlin believes that they would support anáintervention if it were called ôpeacekeeping.ö
Alexander Golts is deputy editor ofáthe online newspaper Yezhednevny Zhurnal.