Cost/benefits of international monitors

April 24, 2014

Regular readers will recall that just over a week ago I was invited to chat with Christian Caryl of Foreign Policy here in Odessa.

Of the notes he took and the quotes he read back to me, much attention was placed on my statement to him that Ukraine should be swarming with international observers, as whilst they cannot prevent what occurs, they can report it, evidence it, and are also seen to be on the ground – which tends to put certain parameters on the actions of some that may otherwise be more unconstrained.  Not all – but some.

I stated swarming Ukraine with observers was by far the cheapest of the options available to the international community when considering on-going Kremlin shenanigans, looking forward to the presidential elections, and hopefully for some considerable time thereafter documenting and evidencing the aftermath – until some form of stability and normality returns across the territory of Ukraine.

Yes that may mean international monitors in Ukraine for several years, but it is still by far the cheapest option for the regional and international communities if they seek neutral assessments and evidence gathering of what will be an on-going territorial, and democratic struggle far beyond any presidential elections or unity referendum.

The costs of not carrying out such a policy may very well be far greater than doing so.  No election and no unity referendum is going to put an immediate end to on-going matters.

Thus it is nice to observe my observation has not been missed by some of the people who make decisions.

It seems somebody within the bowels of US policy making is – amongst many others within the regional institutions/organisations I would hope – having some of the same thoughts as I did when being politely probed by Mr Caryl:

The United States is contributing support and monitors to the OSCE’s election observation mission and other monitoring groups. U.S. funded programs will provide at least 250 long-term observers and over 1,700 short-term observers. 

The US is at least the following my own thoughts up until and including the presidential elections.

The question the paragraph poses, is the longevity of the LTOs that are not election LTOs post elections.

Will their tenure continue after the presidential elections?  If so, for how long?  Will their terms of reference after the elections to remain constant, or are they to be reorientated in some way?  Will those terms of reference evolve as the situation changes during their tenure, or are they rigid in their scope?  Do OSCE and other international/regional organsiations consider their documented and mandated mission parameters “living documents” with “margins of appreciation”/flexibility to some degree?

Clearly it will be a huge error to remove all LTOs from Ukraine after the presidential elections.  The external and internal threats and provocations will not be eliminated.  The elections and any unity referendum are not a panacea that can cure any of the Ukrainian ills that have brought OSCE and other monitors to Ukraine in the first place.

How long can the international community be cajoled into keeping an appropriate number of LTOs in and across Ukraine?  The financial cost in the regional/international scheme of thing is peanuts – the cost of not doing so may be enormous – politically, economically and socially.

Nobody likes open-ended missions or the mission creep that can sometimes be associated with “living documents”/mandates and their flexibility – and yet currently there appears to be no end in sight to the external and internal territorial and democratic threats faced by Ukraine or the ways they will manifest themselves.

What, if any, duration do the international and regional institutions realistically place on LTOs in Ukraine (aside from what is declared in initial mandates)?  Another 3 months.  6 months?  1 year? 2?

At what point does the cost/benefit ratio make LTOs too costly when the threats remain constant?


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