If signing the political EU Association and Deep and Comprehensive Trade Agreements were deemed by President Poroshenko as the most important decision since independence, it was also an easy one for him to take – it was the mandate upon which he was elected after all.
However, a far more problematic set of circumstances loom large. They can be answered individually in seperate decisions – or all at once with a singular response.
Having extended a ceasefire by the Ukrainian military until 2200 hours on Monday 30th – should it last its full duration – as of the time of writing a further extension seems unlikely.
As expected, those opposing the Ukrainian forces have used what will be 10 days of little more than retaliatory engagement from the Ukrainian military to both enhance and firm up their positions. But it was expected.
Viktor Medvedchuk continues playing the mediation game with all other participants pretending that he is representing anybody other than the man he actually is representing – President Putin. The goals as previously written in the link.
All OSCE observers have now been released after robust EU threats that on Monday sanctions will be imposed on Russia should they not be. Whether the other EU actions required to avoid further sanctions will be met, or whether The Kremlin will try its luck at meeting only a few of those requirements in the hope of such avoidance remains to be seen.
Whatever the case, President Poroshenko has tried to time the ceasefire ending with that of the implementation – or not – of further US and EU sanctions. However a further extension with only partial Kremlin compliance with EU requests and the Viktor Medvechuk sideshow simply is extremely unlikely.
The Kremlin now sees mileage in sending more OSCE observers into Ukraine amongst the increase to 500 suggested by OSCE. About 40 Russian monitors to be amongst that number – and the more monitors the better for OSCE – but they did not and will not stop the resumption of the ATO when the ceasefire ends and no substantial progress has been made toward achieving the presidential plan. Monitors after all monitor – they do not get actively involved.
Rumour abounds that peacekeepers will be requested and/or to be sent unilaterally by The Kremlin – though peacekeepers are only ever sent at the invitation of the hosting government. It is beyond unlikely that Ukraine would request Russia unilaterally send peacekeepers.
Any unilateral and uninvited peacekeeping force would be seen by Ukraine and the vast majority of the international community as an invasion and thus not the way to avoid sanctions.
A multinational peacekeeping force may actually bring peace – and that is not in Kremlin interests.
There is also a marked difference between peacekeepers and peacemakers.
The concept of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) simply does not fit the Ukrainian situation no matter how hard it is tried.
Without going into too much detail, R2P works on the concept of levels of responsibility.
Naturally, the responsibility to protect the ethnic Russians and Russian speakers within the territory of Ukraine, first and foremost is the responsibility of Ukraine. That is why The Kremlin goes to great lengths to show Ukraine is failing in that task, despite huge numbers of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers having no issues throughout Ukraine.
The next level of responsibility would be that Ukraine forms international partnerships to protect the rights and wellbeing of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers in Ukraine. It is no accident nor sign of failing to protect, that Ukraine has asked OSCE to send monitors. This was a deliberate tactic to refute the Russian pretext for the final level of R2P intervention.
The last level of R2P is of course direct intervention within a sovereign State by an external actor – but who decides if a State has failed in its duty to protect? Who decides whether to intervene, and who is sent to intervene?
This is where it all can get a little messy.
R2P is about prevention, reaction and (unfortunately) rebuilding after the fact.
The traditional view would be that only the UN Security Council can authorise such a R2P military intervention. Any unilateral or regional intervention would therefore be illegal under international law.
However the inability of the UN Security Council to agree on much has raised questions about whether any unilateral or regional intervention without UN Security Council authorisation would actually be illegal.
R2P has within it a “legitimacy criteria” – and it is against this criteria the global public and many nations are likely to judge any interventions – with or without UN Security Council mandate. Perhaps a conflict between justification, legitimacy and legality would exist as a result – or perhaps not – following any unilateral intervention in certain cases. In the case of Ukraine however, any unilateral Kremlin intervention would clearly be seen as an act of war.
Anyway, it is against the R2P “legitimacy criteria” that any intervention need be assessed.
That legitimacy criteria being:
1. Show “just cause” – The scale, gravity and systematic human rights violations against ethnic Russians and Russian speakers. Large scale loss of life? Planned genocide? Ethnic cleansing?
Making this case, The Kremlin would currently fail to convince the UNSC.
2. Have the “right intention” for its intervention. In short the pretext for intervention is purely a human rights driven cause. There is no pretext or intent for a land grab, control of raw materials, political control etc.
Clearly The Kremlin would fail to convince once more. At the very least, political control is what The Kremlin seeks to achieve with regard Ukraine.
3. “Last resort” – There is no other option to direct intervention to protect those whose human rights are being grossly and systematically violated.
The Kremlin has yet to display any systematic or widespread human rights violations against ethnic Russians and Russian speakers let alone justify any “last resort” criteria.
4. “Proportional means” – Will military intervention in Ukraine be proportional to the human rights violations claimed to occur? Is military intervention proportional at all?
5. “Reasonable prospects” – Would military intervention have reasonable prospects of preventing further rights abuses?
Obviously if only the Russian military came rolling into Ukraine under the auspices of R2P it would make matters worse not better. The vast majority of Ukraine would see it as a conventional invasion. War would not only be the result, but it would be the expected response to any such incursion by the majority of the nation.
There is the issue of Ukraine regaining full and lasting control of its borders once more – and in doing so being better able to repel fighters and weaponry entering the country through Russia unhindered. This is without doubt a major requirement for Ukraine – and a requirement that need be accomplished swiftly with or without Kremlin assistance.
In short there are many difficult decisions facing the Ukrainian leadership in eastern Ukraine if each issue is addressed individually – complicated further by any attempt to accommodate Kremlin demands, none of which are in the interests of Ukraine as viewed from Kyiv or the vast majority of the country.
The single decision to end the ceasefire and recommence the ATO may be seen to address all of these issues in whole, or in part – whether more OSCE monitors arrive or not and regardless of US/European sanctions.
The securing of Ukrainian borders is an absolute necessity and if being done by force is the only way, then it need be done – it is the immediate priority.
If Ukraine (and the Europeans) want to avoid another de facto Transnistria, then the efforts of those fighting against the Ukrainian military over the past 10 days need be undone and overrun.
Should the above two paragraphs turn into reality, the shoehorned return of Viktor Medvedchuk to the Ukrainian political scene as President Putin’s voice ends in any meaningful sense as far as the immediate situation is concerned. That sideshow remains a sideshow.
Will The Kremlin do enough to satisfy the US/Europeans regarding delaying further sanctions? Will there be anything occur that would warrant yet further extensions of the ceasefire?
There are but a few questions that require answering prior to 2200 hours tomorrow from numerous actors.
As things stand at the time of writing – expect the ceasefire to end and the ATO to recommence – regardless of further sanctions being imposed or not from without.