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Heading The Kremlin off at the humanitarian pass?

August 11, 2014

Following on from yesterday’s entry, The Kremlin still trumpets its ill-fated diplomatic attempt to invade Ukraine and create a frozen conflict under the auspices of a “humanitarian mission”.

In response to The Kremlin attempts to thinly veil such attempts under a Red Cross banner, the ICRC issued the following statement:

“Our priority is to assist the displaced and resident people in Donbass, and to provide medical services to the wounded in all affected areas.  The current situation calls for a bigger effort to help the civilian population, and we are deploying additional teams in Marioupol and Starobilsk.

We are exploring the possibility of distributing additional aid in the conflict zones; this implies the involvement, endorsement, and support of all concerned parties.  Any ICRC action will be taken in strict adherence to our fundamental working principles of neutrality, impartiality, and independence.  Furthermore, the ICRC teams also need safe access to perform their work.

Quite right.  The ICRC is a fearlessly independent and neutral body – for good reason.

As is also clear from the statement, the ICRC is already working in eastern Ukraine.  The UN too:

However, that is not to say both the ICRC and UN are incapable or unwilling to do more – they are simply not willing to do so with Kremlin troops seemingly under their banners.  As outlined in yesterday’s entry, any unilateral Kremlin troop involvement would be seen as both for Kremlin political gain and also likely to make the issues on the ground worse and not better.  Both principles – amongst others – that would scupper any internationally sanctioned R2P deployment.

The wearisome Kremlin drum beat of a Russian “humanitarian mission” fools nobody with even the slightest modicum of intelligence. That however, is not to say that drum beat will in any way lessen or stop.  Thus, despite existing ICRC and UN humanitarian work on the ground in eastern Ukraine already, the Ukrainian President and German Chancellor – both of whom have lost faith in a mendacious Kremlin leadership, seem to have sought a method of removing any such unilateral Kremlin decision having even the slightest foundation.

A reasonable tactic with obvious benefits to the local population, as well as creating diplomatic and political difficulties for The Kremlin should it pursue its own unilateral mission – a unilateral mission that would be nothing more than an invasion, followed by a the creation of a  frozen conflict.

The international missions will have Ukrainian military protection.  There will be no foreign military on Ukrainian soil.  No accusations of NATO troops using the international humanitarian mission for nefarious purpose is then convincingly invited from The Kremlin – despite that being The Kremlin tactic for its own mission.

All very logical.

Nobody is keen on inviting Kremlin “peacekeepers” as a unilateral force these days.

Thus the current attempt to undermine any notion of there being an overwhelming requirement for The Kremlin to act unilaterally for the sake of “humanitarian needs” within Ukrainian territory would seem to have been achieved on the international stage.

However, that does not remove the initial reasoning behind The Kremlin’s noisy raising of a unilateral “humanitarian mission” with anybody who will listen.   Donetsk is still cut off from the rest of the “People’s Republic” held territory – and that territory is still shrinking.  Supply to the fighters in Donetsk is severed and without having successfully employed a “humanitarian mission” as a ruse to rejoin and repair the supply routes, it remains so.

Therefore the threat of a brazenly overt reunification of these “People’s Republic” areas – be it via a short term “incursion” or long term invasion of the region by The Kremlin remains a real possibility – regardless of any international reaction that results.  (That said, an invasion and war began months ago in the opinions of many both within and without Ukraine.)

What now within Donetsk?

Perhaps both?

It also still remains to be seen just how the remaining 40 kilometers or so of Ukrainian-Russian border uncontrolled by Ukraine will be closed.  That will have a significant effect of the situation – humanitarian and otherwise.  In the meantime the Ukrainian Army can continue to retake small towns, villages and fields in order to keep up the perception of momentum, whilst the altogether more difficult task of dealing with the major urban areas of the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk remain a significant humanitarian and military problem for another day.

Has The Kremlin been headed off at the humanitarian pass?  Perhaps – but its goals for Ukraine remain unchanged.

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