Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 12.11.2017
Putin is running out of options with his invasion of Europe in Ukraine. In fact he has only one good option left, which is to withdraw Russian troops from Crimea and Donbas. It is extremely unlikely he will act with such wisdom, and almost certain he will continue to make disastrous decisions. Putin has been making disastrous decisions ever since he forced Yanukovych out of the Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement, pushed for the violent crackdown on the Maidan protests, and invaded Ukraine on 20 February 2014. An opportunity to continue making mistakes or to choose the right course of action will come up for Putin soon: a proposal for UN peacekeeping may be coming before the UN Security Council. If Russia allows it to proceed then peace will return to Europe. If Russia vetoes it then Putin’s War will continue. The one thing Putin will not get – and which he desperately wants – is a frozen conflict.
Ukraine’s foreign minister, Pavlo Klimkin, said on November 11 that Ukraine has been working with the US, Germany, France, and Britain on a draft resolution on UN peacekeeping and that it is ready to be put before the UN Security Council. A US State Department source has hinted that a force of 20,000 UN peacekeepers is envisioned for eastern Ukraine. This would make it a 1956 United Nations Emergency Force type of peacekeeping mission, with the host nation (in this case, Ukraine) agreeing to deployment anywhere on its territory, and foreign troops (in this case, Russia) leaving that territory. Withdrawal of foreign troops is something the Russian Federation agreed to anyways with the Minsk Agreements.
Rational policy would be for Russia to allow such a UN peacekeeping mission to proceed. All Russia has to do to make this happen is to abstain in a vote in the UN Security Council. Putin could then withdraw Russian troops and be rid of his Donbas headache. Britain and France saved face in their withdrawal from Suez in 1956 by acceding to the authority of the UNEF, and Russia could do that too, now, in eastern Ukraine.
Unfortunately for the peace of Europe, Putin does not possess such rationality. His sociopathy makes him see personal attacks everywhere and he is incapable of perceiving the interest that Russians as well as Ukrainians have in restoring peace. Putin may believe he can pull off a fake peacekeeping mission, where Russian invasion troops wear blue helmets (stealing the trademark of the UN) and paint “MC” on their equipment. Russian invader-occupiers currently pretend to be “peacekeepers” in Trans-Dniester in Moldova and in Tskhinvali Region in Georgia. Putin is so convinced in his cleverness that he almost certainly believes he can do the same thing in Donbas in Ukraine and get away with it. Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council, Oleksandr Turchynov, said on November 11 that Russia is deploying troops to the borders of Ukraine, which it plans to repaint as “peacekeepers.” No one in Ukraine will believe such a lie, and Western allies of Ukraine won’t either. Ukraine has passed a law on the reintegration of Donbas, as it was supposed to do under the Minsk Agreements. This law names Russia as the aggressor.
Which leaves the Ukraine-inspired UN Security Council resolution on peacekeeping, said to be ready to be submitted. Putin put forward a counter-proposal that would place UN peacekeepers only at the current battlefront where Russian invasion troops face Ukrainian defenders. Putin demands that UN peacekeepers would have as their mission only the protection of OSCE Special Monitoring Mission personnel. Putin’s proposal gained no traction and reinforced Russia’s isolation. Ukraine had effective diplomacy and its proposal won the day. Rather than see Ukrainian diplomacy succeed, Putin is likely to veto UN peacekeeping for eastern Ukraine in the UN Security Council. Through the mouth of Viktor Bondarev, Head of the Russian Federation Council committee on defence and security, Putin has already hinted as much. Bondarev said that UN peacekeepers are “direct threat to Donbas.” It is anyone’s guess why Bondarev is concerned about a region of another country and a war that Russia adamantly insists it has nothing to do with.
When Russia vetoes UN peacekeeping for eastern Ukraine, Putin’s War will be exposed as the invasion of Europe it truly is. Fake Russian peacekeeping will accomplish nothing if it is attempted, and and it will fool no one – it will be seen as a surge of Russian regular troops as occurred at the Battle of Ilovaisk and the Battle of Luhansk Airport and the Battle of Debaltseve and the Battle of Donetsk Airport. If friends of Ukraine are not able to stop Putin’s War with UN peacekeeping they will be more likely to supply Ukrainians with armaments to stop the Russians themselves.