Since late March the possibility of sending an OSCE armed police mission to Donbas (Eastern Ukraine) has been actively discussed. According to Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, who first brought forward such a proposal, it is a key element in ensuring the security of local elections in the region. On 14 April Russian President Vladimir Putin supported the proposal during the Direct Line annual broadcast.
Ten days later, Poroshenko announced in an interview to national channels that Russia has agreed to the deployment of an OSCE armed police mission. It has been carefully noted at the Kremlin that the question of bringing in OSCE police force is one for the organisation itself and the leadership of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.
At the OSCE, the introduction of an armed police mission is something considered possible only with the consent of every single country member of the organisation. “The OSCE mission has a clearly worded mandate… Any other ideas must first be discussed by the mission members, 57 countries,” emphasised Alexander Hug, head of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) in Donbas.
The DPR has a very negative attitude towards the idea of introducing OSCE armed police forces. “If they get the urge to show up here armed, I will regard it as an intervention,” announced head of the republic Aleksandr Zakharchenko. In the opinion of Natalia Nikanorova, head of the DPR Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “involving the peace keepers will result in the emergence of a mediator between us and Ukraine, and this cancels out the main goal of the Minsk process, which is to establish direct dialogue between the two sides in the conflict.
In order to come to an opinion on how this situation might turn out, Europe Insight asked experts to evaluate the probability of an OSCE armed police mission being introduced into the Donbas (on a scale of 0 to 5, where 0 means that it is absolutely impossible and 5 that the mission will definitely be deployed). We also asked the experts to give an assessment of how the introduction of OSCE police forces will affect the probability of an armed solution for the conflict (on a scale of -5 to 5, where -5 means that the armed option is out of the question and 5 is that it is unavoidable).
Maria Zolkina, expert from the Ilka Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation
Likelihood of the mission being introduced: 4
Without ensuring that security is guaranteed it is impossible to speak of any project for the political implementation of the Minsk Agreements. We are now in a situation where it is necessary to transition to the political aspects of Minsk-2, and along with this we understand that the Ukrainian side must take the first step and demonstrate over time its readiness to fulfil its political commitments. But the conditions needed in order to work on the political points of Minsk-2 are lacking in the security plan. As we see, the “regime of silence” is not being observed in the way in which it needs to be. According to its mandate, the SMM cannot guarantee either full documentation of violations or security in the region. In this situation the position of the Ukrainian side is seen as sufficiently constructive: until there are security guarantees, we cannot speak of the fulfilment of the political points.
Likelihood of an armed solution: -1/ -2
To date, there are only two sides in the conflict: Russian troops and their local “satellites” and, on the other side, Ukraine. I do not think that the RF, if the international community makes use of such a tool as an OSCE armed mission, would dare to openly aggravate the conflict. Otherwise, it would not be able to achieve the goals it is pursuing in the short term. This is, at minimum, easing the sanctions imposed because of the situation in Donbas, and eventually lifting them completely. The Crimea sanctions will, of course, remain in place.
Igor Izhnin, International Security and Partnership Centre expert
Likelihood of the mission being introduced: 2
Firstly, the mandate is not yet clear. In order for a mission to be approved, a mandate must be developed. And there have not yet been any developments published in this regard. Secondly, the consent of all country members of the OSCE is required. In my opinion, it will be considerably difficult to obtain such consent because the state members of the OSCE and the organisation itself will have to take a certain amount of responsibility and commitment to find a resolution to the conflict. This entails great risks. Are they willing to risk their citizens in a hot spot… And, lastly, there is the position of the separatists themselves. Will an OSCE police mission really be able to work in Ukraine’s east if they are directly threatened by separatist military formations.
Likelihood of an armed solution: -3
This mission will be dealing with disengagement. In any case, this depends on what is written in the mandate. Getting the sides to disengage presents huge political and military problems in and of itself. In order to continue trying to resolve the conflict through military means, it will be necessary to liquidate this mission and force it to leave one way or another. This is possible by setting up some provocations or exchanges of fire, or by attacking the mission. And the mission will decide on its own to role back its activities because of the danger to personnel. This is possible, but it will entail major political consequences and “persecution” of the side which initiates such acts.
Nikolay Nazarov, Head at the Research Center for Regional Security
Likelihood of the mission being introduced: 2
Why not 0? This is because the different sides, including the Russian Federation, have announced that it is a possibility. On the other hand, however, understanding the logic of the Russian leadership, I don’t think they will go through with it. This is rhetoric, but in the end the OSCE mission will not be let in.
Likelihood of an armed solution: -2
I think that the introduction of the mission is a condition that could contribute to the situation’s improvement and lower the degree of radicalism.
Mikhail Pashkov, Co-director of Foreign Relations & International Security Programmes at the Razumkov Centre.
Likelihood of the mission being introduced: 3+ / 4
Firstly, an OSCE decision is needed. Russia will be included, and this is still something being bargained over. Secondly, preparation and organisation of the mission is quite lengthy and will be accompanied by various negotiations, bargaining, agreements and so on. Thirdly, the militants have already made their position clear. There is also the questions about where the mission should be located. It is one thing if it will be a mission with a mandate on the whole of the territory of the ATO (Anti-Terrorist Operation). It is another thing if this mission will only be located only at the demarcation line. Then it will be a mission not of settling but of freezing the conflict. And these are different things.
Likelihood of an armed solution: -4
I reject the possibility of an armed solution to the conflict if the mission ends up participation. The mission will not be tangled up in armed conflict. In the most extreme case, it will defend itself. If the mission is introduced, the likelihood of an armed solution to the conflict will be minimised. It is possible that there will be some kind of local provocations or exchanges of fire; this cannot be totally excluded.
I reject the possibility of an armed solution to the conflict if the mission participates. The mission will not be tangled up in armed conflict. In the most extreme case, it will defend itself. If the mission is introduced, the likelihood that the conflict will be resolved through force is minimised. It is possible that there will be some kind of local provocations and exchanges of fire; this cannot be totally excluded.
Viktor Taran, Head of the Eidos Center for Political Studies and Analysis (CPSA)
Likelihood of the mission being introduced: 1
It is necessary to read the terms of the OSCE police missions. The police missions have a special status: they are created prior to the outbreak of a conflict and primarily fulfil a preventive function. What the president [Petro Poroshenko] said is that they are to monitor and contribute to the ceasefire, but this is not their function. Their function is to keep them disengaged. It makes me personally sad that the internationalists who prepared the text for the president did not explain this fully.
Likelihood of an armed solution: 0
The introduction of a mission does not in any way affect the likelihood of an armed solution for the conflict because the OSCE mission only performs the function of a “secondary”, an observer. It does not fulfil a single function related to eliminating the probability of conflict.
We overestimate the role of the OSCE. Firstly, we must not forget that the OSCE’s key donor is Russia. Russia influences its decision-making. Secondly, decisions are taken on a consensus basis at the OSCE. A decision lacking the approval of Russia and its satellites will not be adopted. Conversely, a decision that is not fully approved will not satisfy the Ukrainian side. We and our partners will block it.
Yulia Tyshenko, Ukrainian Centre for Independent Political Research expert
Likelihood of the mission being introduced: 5
This is a political decision and in order to implement it, it is necessary to work. As far as I know, the question has not only to do with Ukraine but also with Germany. This is a question of how financing will be organised. If there is not enough money for the current SMM, how will there be any for the new one? These are organisational questions, and if they can be solved, then it is possible that the mission will be introduced.
Likelihood of an armed solution: –
The introduction of a political mission will freeze the conflict. But like right now, it will not happen – because it is not now frozen.
Anton Finko, Kiev Centre for Political Studies and Conflictology expert
Likelihood of the mission being introduced: 2.5
Letting in an OSCE mission is rather problematic and is possible only if a line of demarcation is introduced, i.e., the regimes in Donetsk and Luhansk can only agree with such an option if it is completely supported by the Russian side. And it would require a colossal contingent on the demarcation line – 20-25,000 people. But this option is possible if the sides come to a compromise. Any other option for bringing it in, for example, bringing it to the state line, or any other approaches are impossible in principle. They cannot be achieved through negotiation.
Likelihood of an armed solution: –
If a police mission is introduced on the demarcation line, then this will lower the number of exchanges of fire and will be conducive to the de-escalation of the situation.