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Unnecessary overlap or cracks in the pavement? – UA Borders

March 16, 2015

Yesterday saw the public announcement and signing of an agreement between the Government of Ukraine and the USA relating to a $24.4 million programme dealing with corruption – making public what was already more or less known regarding cooperation between the US Department of Justice and the FBI together with the Ukrainian Prosecutor Generals Office and Ministry of the Interior.

When stating “more or less known”, on 26th February, a retired senior SBU officer informed this blog of the SBU and FBI allegedly working together at the SBU HQ in Kharkiv – the sarcastic blog response being that it would at least give the Russian infiltrators within SBU Kharkiv something more to think about (amongst other things).   Whether or not what the retired SBU officer stated was true of Kharkiv specifically who knows – no corroboration was sought.  At the time regarding the cooperation more generally occuring, it was somewhat unclear whether this information was indeed “more”, or in fact “less”, known – though clearly it was not a secret.  Thus no mention was made here at the time.  Discretion and all that.

As there is now an official public agreement acting as a foundation for such cooperation, finding an FBI agent wandering around any Ukrainian SBU or PGO building is not going to be particularly newsworthy – or perhaps unusual as time marches on.

However, it is not the world of secret services and “spookery” that is the subject of this entry.

Also within the announcement was mention of the Ukrainian border guards/service.

“The signed agreement is also designed to bolster cooperation with Ukrainian border guards. The allocated funding will be funneled into improving their mobility and technical capabilities, including war on terrorism, and will help Ukraine reinforce its borders.”

Having spent the evening of Friday 13th in the delightful company of Mr Francesco Bastagli, his wife, colleagues, and members of the UNHR, this part of the US-Ukraine agreement catches the eye in particular.

The UNHR is obviously engaged with issue of IDPs and human trafficking, amongst other human rights issues in Odessa (and Ukraine).  Mr Bastagli is the Head of the EU Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine.  Both naturally have an interest in the integrity and functioning of the Ukrainian borders – indeed in its broadest sense, that is what EUBAM is all about.

Questions now arise as to compatibility and/or cooperation between the EU border mission programmes and those that will be embarked upon between Ukraine and the US.

The EUBAM mission in Odessa is clearly aimed at Ukraine and Moldova and will continue to be a necessity for many years to come  (notwithstanding Moldova now being Visa-free with the EU, and perhaps at the Riga summit in May an indication will be given as to when Ukraine will duly follow).  The issues within both the EU Common Security and Defence Policy and therefore of the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy remain – and through the Association Agreement Article 7, Ukraine has obliged itself to:

Foreign and security policy
1. The Parties shall intensify their dialogue and cooperation and promote gradual convergence in the area of foreign and security policy, including the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), and shall address in particular issues of conflict prevention and crisis management, regional stability, disarmament, non-proliferation, arms control and arms export control as well as enhanced mutually-beneficial dialogue in the field of space. Cooperation will be based on common values and mutual interests, and shall aim at increasing policy convergence and effectiveness, and promoting joint policy planning. To this end, the Parties shall make use of bilateral, international and regional fora.
2. Ukraine, the EU and the Member States reaffirm their commitment to the principles of respect for independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of borders, as established in the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act of 1975 of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, and to promoting these principles in bilateral and multilateral relations.
3. The Parties shall address in a timely and coherent manner the challenges to these principles at all appropriate levels of the political dialogue provided for in this Agreement, including at ministerial level.

From an EU and Ukrainian perspective it would therefore be wise to have a continued presence for some years to come – particularly as the CSDP seems to mean different things to different EU Member States, and thus a redefining (or perhaps simply a defining) of what the CSDP consensually means to all, would help Ukraine actually meet its obligations.

It may be that the US assistance to the Ukrainian border service will primarily concentrate on the east of the nation for obvious reasons, whilst the threat assessment of the EU remains far broader as far as Ukraine is concerned, when thinking of it as both a source and transit route for irregular and illicit activity.  However a national border service is just that – national.  There cannot be one policy for the east and another for western borders driven by two different funders, advisors and monitors – differing tactics or perceived levels of assertiveness at certain borders perhaps – but ultimately a uniformity is required for Ukraine to meet its regional/international obligations.

Thus there will necessarily need to be some form of interaction between the US, EU border missions and Ukraine – particularly as there is already a long standing system between the EU missions and Ukraine.

A need arises, perhaps, for the current “communications department” within the EU missions to outsource tasks such as the irksome business of “tidying up” the unclassified reports, generated in poorly written English, submitted by border posts.  That, or expanding the numbers within the department to cope with existing responsibilities, whilst also finding the time to create new, functioning channels that include the US, to insure some form of approximation and facilitation in the exchange of information that may be rather more sensitive and/or voluminous.

To currently rely upon a dysfunctional and stressed Ukrainian system to disseminate information in a timely or confidential fashion would perhaps be rather unwise.

Questions relating to who funds what arise.  Do jointly funded projects emerge, or will precious funding be wasted duplicating either projects and/or processes?  Will divergent and incompatible processes emerge?

Is there a lead agency, or will there be two agencies working in parallel when dealing with the Ukrainian government?  What will the level of interaction be, and at what level will that interaction occur?

It will be interesting to see just what the US involvement in the Ukrainian border service will be, and how it will accommodate, or be accommodated by, the long existing EU border missions in Ukraine.

Seamless multilateral teamwork, or a fractious muddle through somehow?  Unnecessary overlap, cracks in the pavement, or a precise dovetailing ahead?

Does it matter as long as the borders of Ukraine become more secure?

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