January 26th, US Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, Kurt Volker [right pic], met with Kremlin aid Vladislav Surkov [left] in Dubai. At the meeting, Volker put forward a plan for a United Nations, peacekeeping mission, in eastern Ukraine.
In an effort to finally end the conflict, Ukraine, US and western countries want to see a full UN, peacekeeping deployment. This would entail them not only being positioned on the frontline, but also along the 409km of the Ukrainian border, which Russian led forces in Ukraine, currently control.
September 2017, President Putin presented a plan for a limited, UN deployed. This would only see them on the front line and accompanying OSCE monitors whilst on patrol. Importantly, this would still leave Russia in full control of much of Ukraine’s eastern border and importantly, allow it to keep sending troops and military supplies into the country.
Reacting to Volker’s plan, Surkov is quoted as saying “U.S. suggestions on deploying a UN mission in war-ravaged eastern Ukraine, look quite feasible and Russia will study them carefully.” Volker has yet to comment on the meeting.
Having seen zero peace talk progress these last 4 years, a willingness by Russia to study any plan which may eventually lead to peace, is most welcome. However, jaw, jaw, sometimes only prolongs a bloody war. Quoted in Russian media, Surkov is reported to have said “The main thing is a rather detailed [US] plan for a phased deployment of the [UN] mission, in coordination with the implementation of the political points of the Minsk agreements.”
With discussions involving, Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France, 2014 saw the first peace talks, known as Minsk 1 agreements made. With continued heavy fighting and Russian led forces still advancing into Ukraine, these agreements soon fell by the way side. 2015, saw the son of Minsk 1 born, with new Minsk 2 agreements made. Visit the Economist website for a fuller explanation about the Minsk peace talks.
With continued fighting and Russian military forces still operating inside Ukraine, currently it’s virtually impossible to implement the 2015 agreements. Therefore, if Surkov is correct, the linking of a UN mission to the Minsk 2 agreements, may not bode well. Should a UN deployment be dependent on X, Y and Z agreements happening first, then the peacekeeping debate may be used by Putin as yet another stalling, talking shop.
However, the actual devil in the detail, maybe far better than it first looks and we await ambassador Volker’s report. Certainly, with this 4 year conflict going nowhere, Putin may readily accept a plan which allows him to cut and run and importantly save face back home.
For more info on meeting, please visit Radio Free Europe website.