Considering a UN Peacekeeping Mission in the Donbas

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Main Image Credit Members of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine observe the movement of heavy weaponry in Eastern Ukraine, 4 March 2015. Courtesy of OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine/Wikimedia.

In December 2018, the RUSI Military Sciences research group organised its annual wargame to examine some of the challenges of establishing a peacekeeping mission in Eastern Ukraine

Senior political figures from both Russia and Ukraine have suggested the deployment of such a mission by the UN in recent years. In September 2017, the Kremlin suggested deploying peacekeepers along the line dividing Ukrainian and Russian-backed separatist forces. In contrast, Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov outlined his ‘small steps’ strategy for de-occupation of the region in spring 2018. This envisaged security responsibilities being gradually returned to the Ukrainian authorities with a small force of peacekeepers deployed to assist with border security and policing. 

These contrasting visions of the scope and roles of a potential peacekeeping mission are accompanied by an international political context in which one of the P5 is a party to the conflict – making agreement at the UN Security Council and hence the deployment of such a mission very unlikely in the immediate future. However, that two of the parties to the conflict have suggested such an option indicates that it should not be quickly dismissed. Arguably, there is a real risk that if there were to be a dramatic change in the political context, there has been insufficient thinking about the nature of the mission for peacekeeping to be implemented effectively. 

While there has been some excellent and valuable analysis conducted by both academics and NGOs, it was decided that the 2018 Martial Power Programme wargame would be used to consider some of the key decisions and challenges that designing such a mission would face. The wargame took the Minsk II agreement and the current OSCE deployment as the background against which to consider aspects such as the potentially mandated tasks, the mission structure and potential troop and police contributors. It also considered some of the risks and opportunities of a peacekeeping mission, with the overall aim of identifying further research opportunities. It was based on small group work conducted by invited experts with experience in military planning, peace-building and the region itself, and was conducted in three sessions: Tasks and Mandate, The Peacekeeping Force and Risks and Opportunities.


Ewan Lawson

Associate Fellow

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