Why Ukraine should not rely on UN peacekeepers

20:30, 11 June 2016
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Opinion

Weak effectiveness of the UN Security Council hinders deployment of a UN peacekeeping mission in Donbas.

One voice of Moscow against the rest of mandates at the UN Security Council – and the function of the United Nations boils down to the expression of "concern."

Sanctions are a long-playing thing, while people are dying here and now

For the past two years, I’ve been watching Ukraine trying to break through the concrete wall of international diplomacy at the UN Headquarters in New York. Undoubtedly, there is some progress. The whole world is now well aware that Russia has taken Crimea away from Ukraine illegally and that Moscow supports directly with weapons and troops the pro-Russian militants who fight against the Ukrainian government forces in eastern Ukraine.

Of course, the UN has played a significant role in the introduction of sanctions against Russia. But sanctions are a long-playing thing, while people are dying here and now.

There will be no UN peacekeeping operation in Donbas - it is completely clear now, although six months ago, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry still fostered this hope. In general, something is wrong with these UN peacekeeping operations. It became apparent at the last meeting of the UN Security Council, which addressed the problems of peacekeeping forces around the world. It was the longest meeting in recent years, lasting for almost twelve hours. And the ambassadors really had something to discuss. Once again, Ambassador of Ukraine to the United Nations Volodymyr Yelchenko has caught lying Russia’s Representative Vitaly Churkin. But after all, everyone has already gotten used to it. Far more important things emerged during the meeting:

"The United Nations is determined to work collectively to support Governments to protect their people, and to persuade parties to conflict to abide by their obligations. But, even the most effective peacekeeping can never protect every civilian from harm,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressing the UN Security Council.

Among the major difficulties of the "blue helmets" is poor communication within the contingent, limited powers and a weak efficiency of the very UN Security Council.

The idleness of the Security Council during the genocide in Rwanda and the ineffectiveness of the peacekeeping mission during the ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia in the mid-nineties have forced the UN to radically change the approach to peacekeeping missions. A lot has been done, but despite some successful missions in Africa and the Middle East, indecision and lack of initiative of higher command still remains a major problem.

Among other problems is the opposition of host countries, poor coordination within the mission and lack of discipline among peacekeepers, a striking confirmation of the latter being sexual scandals in Sudan, Liberia and Congo.

Currently, one vote of Moscow alone puts a brake on all peace initiatives of the UN

But not everything is so gloomy – against the backdrop of the UNSC’s  inaction many UN member states back a Franco-Mexican initiative to cancel the right to veto in the Security Council when it comes to mass casualties in conflict areas. Then the UN Security will be able to pass decisions by simple majority. Under these conditions, the deployment of "blue helmets" in Donbas is actually a question solved.

But before this initiative is implemented, much time will pass.

Today, the European Union is discussing possible deployment of an armed police mission in eastern Ukraine. But given the ambiguous reputation of OSCE monitors and the inert position of Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry in promoting this issue, these prospects are also hung in the air.

To conclude, indeed, it’s a fact that currently, one vote of Moscow alone puts a brake on all peaceful initiatives of the United Nations. But some things are still encouraging: under the UN pressure, Nadia Savchenko has been released, the world did not recognize and will never recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea, and the Kremlin has failed to convince the UN Security Council that it is not involved in the war in Donbas.

Therefore, if we recall the words of Ban Ki-moon that the UN cannot protect everyone, Ukraine and the Ukrainians will have to rely solely on their own strength.

Andriy Vasyliev

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