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UN deadlock on Ukraine peacekeepers

Ukraine rejects Putin proposal for UN peacekeepers to protect OSCE observers on conflict contact line

Alexander Mercouris

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This article was first published by RussiaFeed

On 5th September 2017, during his press conference at the latest BRICS summit in China, President Putin of Russia unexpectedly announced a proposal for the UN Security Council to organise a lightly armed force of peacekeepers to provide protection to observers from the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) who are patrolling the contact line between the militia in the Donbass and the Ukrainian army.

Putin’s words at the press conference were as follow

Vladimir Putin: This is impossible to do via the General Assembly, because UN peacekeepers cannot function other than pursuant to Security Council resolutions. But that is not the point.

You are saying that someone wants to push something through. In fact, I do not see anything wrong with that. I have already said many times that I support the idea of arming the OSCE mission, but the OSCE itself refuses to arm its field personnel, since it has neither the relevant people nor the experience of such work.

In this context, I believe that the presence of UN peacekeepers, not even peacekeepers, but those who provide security for the OSCE mission, is quite appropriate and I do not see anything wrong with that; on the contrary, I believe that this would help resolve the situation in southeastern Ukraine. Of course, we can talk only about ensuring the security of the OSCE staff. This is my first point.

The second point is that, in this regard, these forces should be located on the demarcation line only and on no other territories.

Thirdly, this issue should be resolved only after disengaging the parties and removing the heavy equipment. This cannot be resolved without direct contact with representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic.

I believe that if all this is done, it would definitely benefit resolving the situation in southeastern Ukraine. We will consider this as instructions to the Foreign Ministry to submit a relevant resolution to the Security Council.

This proposal has not been fully analysed, but what Putin proposed here was not a truly a “peacekeeping force” but rather a small lightly armed contingent whose task would have been to carry out bodyguard protection duties for the unarmed OSCE observers in the conflict zone.

Here it is worth pointing out that the presence of the OSCE observers in the Donbass conflict zone goes back to the spring of 2014, when it was actually proposed by Putin.  Putin’s latest proposal therefore represented an attempt by the Russians to strengthen an OSCE mission which is present in the Donbass conflict zone at their original instigation.

Behind Putin’s proposal is Russian frustration that the OSCE mission has proved ineffective in ramping down the conflict, with many though by no means all its field reports more favourable to the Ukrainian side in a way that the Russians undoubtedly feel is biased.  Introducing a small number of lightly armed UN peacekeepers drawn from a variety of countries – including non-Western countries – to the conflict zone might not merely make the OSCE mission more effective but might also correct this imbalance.

Putin’s proposal has received strong support from elements within the German government, who are becoming increasingly concerned that as a result of the indefinite perpetuation of EU sanctions EU-Russian relations – and therefore German-Russian relations – are becoming deadlocked.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, currently the most popular politician in Germany and a former leader of the SPD, has spoken of Putin’s proposal in enthusiastic terms

What we need to do now is to carry out negotiations aimed at the implementation of such a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weaponry. Thanks to the Russian proposal we are able to do this now……

I advise all participants not to say that we won’t do this because not all of our demands are met, but to openly discuss with the Russian Federation the conditions of a UN mission,” Gabriel said.

The deployment, if successful in bringing about a lasting ceasefire, would pave the way for political settlement, Gabriel said, adding that “then, we will be able to begin lifting sanctions imposed on Russia.”

German Chancellor Merkel has been much more cautious.  However she has also signalled that Putin’s proposal has her backing, subject to Putin’s agreement – which she secured in a telephone conversation with Putin on 11th September 2017 – that the proposed UN peacekeepers should be able to go anywhere within the conflict zone that the OSCE observers go, and not just the contact line.  Here is how the Kremlin’s website describes this part of the conversation

Vladimir Putin spoke in detail on the Russian initiative to establish a UN mission to aid the protection of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (OSCE SMM). Taking into account the views communicated by Angela Merkel, the Russian leader expressed readiness to add to the functions of the above-mentioned UN mission proposed in the Russian draft resolution of the Security Council.

The protection of OSCE observers by the UN is envisioned not only on the contact line after the disengagement of the forces and equipment of both sides, but also in other places where the OSCE SMM conducts its inspection visits in accordance with the Minsk Package of Measures.

However for the same reasons that Putin made the proposal Ukraine opposes it.  Just as the Russians want to secure a ceasefire in the Donbass, so Ukraine adamantly opposes a ceasefire since that might increase pressure on Ukraine to fulfil the political provisions of the February 2015 Minsk Agreement, which are totally unacceptable to Ukraine.

Beyond this there are two points about Putin’s proposal which the Ukrainians must find especially infuriating.

The first is the demand in Putin’s proposal that the remit of the UN peacekeepers be agreed through direct negotiations between the Ukrainian government and the authorities of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.

Direct talks between the Ukrainian government and the authorities of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics were in fact envisaged by the February 2015 Minsk Agreement, which Ukraine has signed.  Such direct talks have however never happened.  The Ukrainian government adamantly opposes them since it correctly sees such talks as conferring legal recognition on the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics as parties to the conflict, thereby admitting that it is an internal Ukrainian conflict (as the Russians say) and not a case of aggression against Ukraine by Russia (as the Ukrainians say).

The Ukrainian stance has been well explained by Oleg Nemenensky, a senior researcher at Russia’s Institute of Strategic Studies.  In an interview with the Russian newspaper Izvestia partly republished by TASS he explained the reasons for Ukraine’s negative reaction to Putin’s proposal in this way

This means that the conflict in Ukraine is recognized as internal, which is inadmissible for the Kiev authorities, since it destroys the whole ideological of its policy. In addition, to introduce peacekeepers to the line of demarcation, it is necessary to recognize the Luhansk People’s Republic and the Donetsk People’s Republic as parties to the conflict. That contradicts the entire propaganda system built on the fact that the war is being waged with Russia,

The second reason for Ukrainian anger is that Putin’s proposal, by referring to “UN peacekeepers”, sought to preempt Western opposition to the proposal by using language previously proposed by Ukraine.

The Ukrainian government has been lobbying for years for a “UN peacekeeping force” to be deployed along the border between Russia and the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.  Russia has consistently rejected this proposal, pointing out correctly that it is the contrary to the provisions of the 2015 Minsk Agreement.

Behind Russian opposition to this Ukrainian proposal is the belief in Moscow – which is almost certainly correct – that its purpose is to ‘seal’ the border between Russia and the two People’s Republics, cutting off the militia’s supply lines to Russia so as to enable the Ukrainian army to carry out an operation similar to Operation Storm: the military offensive in 1995 by the Croatian army, which led to the destruction of the Serb republic of Krajina.

Recently the Ukrainians have been re floating their longstanding proposal, leading possibly to calculations in Moscow that if some of the language of the Ukrainian proposal were used it would defuse Western opposition to Putin’s proposal, which is in reality a completely different one.

With the Germans this appears to have worked up to a point.  However, perhaps contrary to Russian hopes, the Trump administration – or perhaps more accurately the hardliners currently in the ascendant within it – has sided with Ukraine.

The result is that the negotiations in the UN Security Council on Putin’s proposal appear to be deadlocked, with the Ukrainians making a counter-proposal that refers to Russia as the “aggressor”.  As Dmitry Peskov, President Putin’s spokesman, has pointed out, such language cannot be accepted by Russia, and is clearly intended to wreck the proposal

While commenting on the wording suggested by Kiev, he said it was unacceptable. “If they take such a position and claim that Russia is an aggressor, then it leaves little room to manoeuvre,” Peskov said. According to him, such position “disregards the actual situation” as Russia is not a party to the conflict but one of the guarantors of the Minsk Agreements, “which are the basis of the settlement process.”

The Kremlin spokesman pointed out that “Russia and President Putin have more than once expressed readiness to do everything possible to achieve a compromise, but any compromise has its degree of reasonableness and acceptability.” When asked if the Kremlin had studied the Kiev-drafted resolution, Peskov said that diplomats were working on that.

Given the stance Ukraine is taking, Putin’s proposal is now all but dead.  Its only prospect for implementation is if the two other states involved in the Minsk Agreement – Germany and France – put pressure on Ukraine to accept it.  As to that, though the Germans and the French have frequently expressed exasperation at Ukraine’s intransigence – especially in private – they have in practice always drawn back from putting on Ukraine the sort of pressure that might force it to compromise.  Unfortunately that looks unlikely to change.

If deadlock was always the likeliest outcome to the Russian proposal, why did Putin make it?

The Russians have been receiving conflicting signals from the Trump administration about the Ukrainian conflict, and it may be that the proposal was in part floated in order to flush the Trump administration out: to see whether or not it is genuinely interested in a negotiated settlement of the Ukrainian conflict.  If so then the Russians have their answer: for the moment the hardliners within the Trump administration are in the ascendant, with US support for Ukraine’s Maidan government as strong as ever.

However the likeliest reason is that the Russians made their proposal with an eye to the German elections, which are due on Sunday.

The Russians have undoubtedly noticed the growing weariness in Germany with Merkel even if she is still likely to win the election on Sunday, and they have undoubtedly noticed the anger in Germany over the latest sanction law passed by the US Congress.

Putin’s proposal seems to have been pitched to underline the point – widely known in Germany, though publicly resisted by Merkel – that it is Ukraine’s intransigence not Russia’s ‘aggression’ which is prolonging the conflict.  With AfD, FDP and SDP politicians in the run up to the elections all making publicly known their deep skepticism about Merkel’s policy, and with doubts about the policy known to exist deep within Merkel’s CDU and – rather more openly – in the CDU’s Bavarian sister party the CSU, the Russians presumably felt that there was no harm in floating a proposal which would again show where the real obstacle to peace in Ukraine lies.

In other words the Russians are now starting to look beyond Merkel, assessing – almost certainly correctly – that even if she wins the election on Sunday as everyone expects, her time as Germany’s Chancellor is ending.

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K Pomeroy
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K Pomeroy

This article is wrong in many details. I believe Putin was not the first to suggest an OSCE mission in Ukraine. That suggestion came from the OSCE itself, when it composed the original Minsk agreements. Also, the OSCE do not need to be armed. Only one OSCE observer has ever died on the job: George Bishop, an American who was killed when his vehicle hit a landmine on the LPR side of the contact line in April 2017. There is much evidence that landmine was planted by Ukrainian saboteurs. Arming the OSCE, or “protecting” them with “lightly armed” UN “peacekeepsers”,… Read more »

Terry Ross
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Terry Ross

The OSCE did NOT compose the Minsk agreements. This was a hard fought negotiation over several days involving Ukraine and DPR/LPR, Russia and OSCE. As Forbes (from a US perspective) put it: The text of the agreement raises as many questions as it answers and sidesteps the thorniest issues. First, it calls for the “pullout of all foreign armed formations, military equipment, and also mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine under OSCE supervision (and) the disarmament of all illegal groups.” Sounds good, but all other provisions are subject to strict timelines. This one is not. No deadline is given—I doubt… Read more »

GeorgeG
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GeorgeG

Both of the suggesed motivations — flush out the Trump Admin and a nod (shhh!, not “interference in the German election campaign!), are viable, and together. First, Putin made a move. The entire German “establishment” welcomed the move behind the scenes. They all want to get off the American coat-tails. Merkel even made her own move: she would be willing to mediate in the Korean crisis, and Putin welcomed that move. The Germans don’t like Trump’s bluster on Korea, and they don’t want US “lethal weapon aid” to Kiev. It is German-all-too-German, and therefore rather illusory, but the German view… Read more »

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Peace on Korean Peninsula within reach, if only Trump can remove Pompeo & Bolton (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 152.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou discuss the results of the Putin-Kim summit in Vladivostok, Russia, aimed at boosting bilateral ties between the two neighboring countries, as well as working to contribute to a final peace settlement on the Korean peninsula.

Putin’s meeting with Kim may prove to be a pivotal diplomatic moment, as North Korea continues to work towards normalizing ties with the U.S. amidst ongoing denuclearization talks with the Trump White House.

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Via the BBC…

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un needs international security guarantees if he is to end his nuclear programme.

Such guarantees would need to be offered within a multinational framework, he added, following talks near Vladivostok in Russia’s far east.

Mr Kim praised the summit as a “very meaningful one-on-one exchange”.

Mr Putin said North Korea’s leader was “fairly open” and had “talked freely on all issues that were on the agenda”.

The meeting followed the breakdown of talks between the US and North Korea in February, when Mr Kim met US President Donald Trump in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi.

Those talks reportedly stalled over North Korea’s demand for full economic sanctions relief in return for some denuclearisation commitments – a deal the US was not willing to make.

Speaking after the talks on Thursday, Mr Putin said he wanted to see full denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula.

But he said this could only be achieved through respect for international law.

“We need to restore the power of international law, to return to a state where international law, not the law of the strongest, determines the situation in the world,” he said.

Mr Kim greeted Russian officials warmly when he arrived in Russia on Wednesday.

The North Korean leader was entertained by a brass band in Vladivostok before he got inside a car flanked by bodyguards, who – in now familiar scenes – jogged alongside the vehicle as it departed.

What do we know about the summit?

According to the Russian presidential spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin believes the six-party talks on North Korea, which are currently stalled, are the only efficient way of addressing the issue of nuclear weapons on the peninsula.

Those talks, which began in 2003, involve the two Koreas as well as China, Japan, Russia and the US.

“There are no other efficient international mechanisms at the moment,” Mr Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.

“But, on the other hand, efforts are being made by other countries. Here all efforts merit support as long as they really aim at de-nuclearisation and resolving the problem of the two Koreas.”

What do both sides want?

This visit is being widely viewed as an opportunity for North Korea to show it has powerful allies following the breakdown of the talks with the US in February.

The country has blamed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for the collapse of the Hanoi summit. Earlier this month North Korea demanded that Mr Pompeo be removed from nuclear talks, accusing him of “talking nonsense” and asking for someone “more careful” to replace him.

The summit is also an opportunity for Pyongyang to show that its economic future does not depend solely on the US. Mr Kim may try to put pressure on Moscow to ease sanctions.

Analysts say the summit is an opportunity for Russia to show that it is an important player on the Korean peninsula.

President Putin has been eager to meet the North Korean leader for quite some time. Yet amid the two Trump-Kim summits, the Kremlin has been somewhat sidelined.

Russia, like the US and China, is uncomfortable with North Korea being a nuclear state.

How close are Russia and North Korea?

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union (of which Russia is the main successor state) maintained close military and trade links with its communist ally, North Korea, for ideological and strategic reasons.

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, trade links with post-communist Russia shrank and North Korea leaned towards China as its main ally.

Under President Putin, Russia recovered economically and in 2014 he wrote off most of North Korea’s Soviet-era debt in a major goodwill gesture.

While it is arguable how much leverage Russia has with the North today, the communist state still regards it as one of the least hostile foreign powers.

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Putin meets Kim for the first time (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 151.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a look at the historic meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the city of Vladivostok in the Russian Far East.

The meeting marks the first ever summit between the two leaders.

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Follow The Duran Audio Podcast on Soundcloud.

Via RT…

Leaders of Russia and North Korea sat down for a historic summit in Vladivostok, expressing hope it will revive the peace process in the Korean Peninsula and talks on normalizing relations with the US.

The summit on Russky Island, just off Vladivostok, started a little late because President Vladimir Putin’s flight was delayed. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had made the trip by train, arriving on Wednesday.

In brief public remarks before the talks, the two leaders expressed hope the summit will help move forward the reconciliation process in the Korean Peninsula. Putin welcomed Kim’s contributions to “normalizing relations” with the US and opening a dialogue with South Korea.

Kim said he hoped the Vladivostok summit would be a “milestone” in the talks about denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, but also build upon “traditionally friendly ties” between Russia and North Korea.

The North Korean leader also made a point of thanking Putin for flying all the way to Vladivostok for the meeting. The Far East Russian city is only 129 kilometers from the border with North Korea.

The historic summit takes place less than two months after Kim’s second summit with US President Donald Trump in Hanoi fell apart without a breakthrough on denuclearization. The US rejected North Korea’s request for partial sanctions relief in return for moves to dismantle nuclear and missile programs; Washington insists on full disarmament before any sanctions are removed.

Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the main subject of the Kim-Putin summit, but there will also be talks about bilateral relations, trade, and humanitarian aid. The first one-on-one meeting is scheduled to last about an hour, followed by further consultations involving other government officials.

Following the summit, Putin is scheduled to visit China.

 

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Kim And Putin: Changing The State Of The Board In Korea

The future of Korea could be decided by these two men today.

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Authored by Tom Luongo:


Today is a big day for Korea. The first face-to-face summit of Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un takes place.

At the same time the 2nd annual Belt and Road Forum kicks off in Beijing.

This meeting between Putin and Kim has been in the works for a while but rumors of it only surfaced last week. But don’t let the idea that this was put together at the last minute fool you.

It wasn’t.

The future of Korea could be decided by these two men today.

I know that sounds bold. But hear me out.

And while no one seems to think this meeting is important or that anything of substance will come from it I do. It is exactly the kind of surprise that Putin loves to spring on the world without notice and by doing so change the board state of geopolitics.

  • Russia’s entrance into Syria in 2015, two days after Putin’s historic speech at the U.N. General Assembly
  • 2018’s State of the Union address where he announced hypersonic missiles, embarrassing the U.S. Militiary-Industrial Complex which accelerated the Bolton Doctrine of subjugating the world
  • Flying 2 TU-160 nuclear-armed bombers to Venezuela, creating panic in D.C. leading to the ham-fisted regime change operations there.
  • Nationalization of Yukos.
  • The operation to secure Crimea from U.S. invasion by marines aboard the U.S.S Donald Cook during the Ukrainian uprising against Viktor Yanukovich.

Both Putin and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping are angry at the breakdown of the talks in Hanoi back in February. It was clear that everyone expected that meeting to be a rubber stamp on a deal already agreed to by all parties involved.

In fact the two meetings between Kim and Trump were only possible because Trump convinced them of his sincerity to resolve the ‘denuclearization’ of North Korea which would clear a path to rapid reunification.

It’s why they went along with the U.S.’s increased sanctions on North Korea as administered through the U.N. in 2017.

That John Bolton and Mike Pompeo destroyed those talks and Trump was unwilling or unable (who cares at this point, frankly, useless piece of crap that he is) to stop them embarrassed and betrayed them.

They are now done with Trump.

He’ll get nothing from either of them or Kim until Trump can prove he’s in charge of his administration, which he, clearly, is not.

And they will be moving forward with their own agenda for security and Asian economic integration. So I don’t think the timing of this meeting with that of the Belt and Road Forum is an accident.

And that means moving forward on solving the Korea problem without Trump.

It is clear from the rhetoric of Putin’s top diplomat, the irreplaceable Sergei Lavrov, that Russia’s patience is over. They are no longer interested in what Trump wants and they will now treat the U.S. as a threat, having upped their military stance towards the U.S. to that of “Threat.”

If Bolton wants anything from Russia at this point he best be prepared to start a war or piss off.

This is also why Russia took the gloves off with Ukraine in the run up to the Presidential elections, cutting off energy and machinery exports with Ukraine.

To put paid Putin’s growing impatience with U.S. policies, he just issued the order to allow residents of Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics to apply for Russian passports.

This will send Bolton into apoplexy. Angela Merkel of Germany will be none too pleased either. Putin is now playing hardball after years of unfailing politeness.

It’s also why Lavrov finalized arms and port deals all over the Middle East in recent weeks, including those with Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey and India.

Bolton, Pompeo and Pence are ideologues. Trump is a typical Baby Boomer, who lives in a bubble of his own design and believes in an America that never existed.

None of them truly understand the fires they are stoking and simply believe in the Manifest Destiny of the U.S. to rule the world over a dim and barbaric world.

Putin, Xi, Rouhani in Iran and Kim in North Korea are pragmatic men. They understand the realities they live in. This is why I see Putin willing tomorrow to sit down with Kim and flaunt the U.N. sanctions and begin the investment process into North Korea that should have begun last year.

Putin would not be making these moves if he didn’t feel that Bolton was all bark and no bite when it came to actual war with Russia. He also knows that Germany needs him more than he needs Germany so despite the feet-dragging and rhetoric Nordstream 2 will go forward.

Trade is expanding between them despite the continued sanctions.

Putin may be willing to cut a deal with President-elect Zelensky on gas transit later in the year but only if the shelling of the LPR and DPR stops and he guarantees no more incidents in the Sea of Azov. This would also mollify Merkel a bit and make it easier for her politically to get Nordstream 2 over the finish line.

There are moments in history when people go too far. Bolton and Pompeo went too far in Hanoi. He will pay the price now. Putin and Kim will likely agree to something in Vladivostok that no one is expecting and won’t look like much at first.

But the reality is this summit itself marks a turning point in this story that will end with the U.S. being, in Trump’s transactional parlance, a “price taker” since it has so thoroughly failed at being a “price maker.”

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