The Chief Editor of European Union Foreign Affairs Journal, Hans-Jürgen Zahorka, will publish in a few days, in the next issue of EUFAJ (2/2016) this short comment on the question of OSCE peacekeepers in eastern Ukraine. They are – and will be – discussed in OSCE circles, in particular regarding the Minsk II Agreement on Ukraine, and the local elections in Eastern Ukraine. See the whole artcle (and others) in the week after the 9.5.2016 under http://www.eufaj.eu. The author had also contributed to a booklet: Ofelya Sargsyan/Hans-Jürgen Zahorka, OSCE – Idea, Histoty, Challenges (with documents), with a short overview about the possible future of OSCE (see also http://www.libertas-institut.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/flyer-OSCE.pdf)
Should there be peacekeepers stationed in eastern Ukraine? With what kind of mandate, and how long? This question is examined also now in the framework of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), although not (yet?) officially. Russian peacekeepers alone are excluded, EU peacekeepers probably as well, and NATO peacekeepers too. Peacekeepers should be accepted by all the parties of a conflict. Whether this would be the case of OSCE armed personnel might be written in the clouds, but it is good that this possibility has been and will be discussed.
This led to a statement by a spokesperson of Germany’s Federal Foreign Office on alleged plans for armed OSCE mission to eastern Ukraine, on 27 April 2016. Germany is holder of the 2016 OSCE Chairmanship, and issued the following statement in Berlin in response to reports on alleged plans for an armed OSCE mission to eastern Ukraine: „The OSCE monitoring mission currently in place in eastern Ukraine is a civilian, unarmed mission. This was decided by the 57 participating States of the OSCE, and neither Germany nor France are involved in any agreement about changing the civilian nature of the mission – neither within the OSCE nor in the Normandy Format („N4“ – France, Ukraine, Russia, Germany).
It is true that we have, in our capacity as Chair of the OSCE and following consultations within the Normandy format, asked the Secretariat to develop options for improving security at the planned local elections. It is too early to say what the findings will be.
Without wishing to pre‑empt any decision, we can say that we find it difficult at this time to imagine what an armed OSCE mission might look like, that had the objective of effectively ensuring the security of the elections in the separatist areas and enhancing the security of OSCE observers. The OSCE currently has no precedent for an armed mission. On the contrary, being civilian in nature is a particularly important feature of OSCE monitoring missions, which require the consent of conflict parties to operate. When you take the idea of an armed mission to its logical conclusion, it raises a whole range of difficult legal, political, practical and military issues. We plan to arrange another meeting in the Normandy format in the foreseeable future, which will include the foreign ministers. A meeting of this kind would be the right opportunity to raise all the issues relating to the OCSE monitoring missions for discussion among the Normandy partners.“
In the background was a condemnation of threats against OSCE monitors in Ukraine: OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also on 27 April 2016 had expressed concern following the recent increase in ceasefire violations in Eastern Ukraine and the growing number of incidents involving OSCE monitors. Referring to recent threats against the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine, Steinmeier had declared: “The SMM is a civilian, unarmed mission. It is instrumental for supporting the implementation of the ceasefire. The safety and security of SMM monitors must be assured by the sides. Those responsible for threatening or using force against the monitors must be held accountable.”
Maybe the „loud thinking“ about an armed OSCE mission should deter those who are against the OSCE as such („… they want to intervene in our internal affairs“, as declared often by the eastern Ukraine separatists). Indeed OSCE should think about their first armed peacekeepers, and this if only for the duration of local elections. Then OSCE would have found another, additional role – a role which would make sense if peacekeepers in Europe are needed. As mentioned, Russian peacekeepers alone are unthinkable, NATO ones as well, and the EU is not yet so far to deploy an armed force to keep the peace, if they would not be rejected as well, although Ukraine is an Eastern Partnership member state. So rests the OSCE, and in a peacekeeping mission lies a sensible and adequate task. At least it should be demanded, and who is against, this will speak for itself.
It can now be expected that at the next meeting in the Normandy format, with foreign ministers and/or presidents or prime ministers from Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany, on the 11 May 2016 in Berlin also the issue will be discussed if and if yes, how the security of the local elections should be guaranteed. The date of the elections is not determined yet, but the issues around these elections have to be solved under the Minsk II Agreement. So Ukraine will be on the agenda, including the preparation and security of the elections. As SMM is not armed and a civilian force, and an upgrade of SMM is not likely at all, there may be only a solution in deploying an armed OSCE force to eastern Ukraine. After 11. May we may know more. For if there is a common position within the Normandy format, this will be also the case in the OSCE.