On May 8, the US Helsinki Commission held a briefing with US Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Ambassador Kurt Volker in Washington. Under the topic “Ending the War in Ukraine,” Volker discussed the potential of a peacekeeping mission in Donbas and how to make the Minsk ceasefire agreements more effective.
According to Volker: “This conflict will only be resolved if Russia decides to move its forces from the territory of Ukraine and to allow a genuine security presence to enter. We propose that this be under a UN mandate, an internationally mandated peacekeeping force.”
There was also discussion on what this peacekeeping mission may look like. Volker stated that the US, together with France and Germany, had proposed parameters for such a mission in response to Russia’s desire for a peacekeeping regime solely along the contact line:
“There are three basic elements to that. You need to have responsibility in area security, to control security in this territory, we have to anticipate the cantonment of any weapons and we have to establish control of the international border between Ukraine and Russia.”
However, Volker is still awaiting a response from his Russian counterpart Vladislav Surkov on the matter.
Volker expressed further disappointment in the way Russia has acted in the last few months, citing the nerve agent attack on a former Russian agent on UK soil, the expulsion of diplomats and the attack from Russian contract soldiers on US forces in Syria.
What’s more, Volker believes that for Russia “there’s nothing to be gained by continuing this conflict,” highlighting the significant human, financial and military cost the war in Donbas has had not only on Ukraine but Russia too.
“There’s no recognition of Russia’s taking of this territory. There are no further incursions going to be made...If Putin could position himself to be supporting peace, I think that would be a positive legacy for him,” Volker commented.
The efficacy of the Minsk ceasefire agreements, and the inability of either side to implement them, are often the subject of criticism within the international community. Volker stressed the fact that, if a successful peacekeeping mission were to be introduced, then it would provide Ukraine with the security it needs to enforce the ceasefire and regain control of the occupied territories.
Despite the limited success of the Minsk Agreements so far, Volker still asserts that they are Ukraine’s best chance of restoring peace in the area, as opposed to a new open-ended negotiation process.
“[The Minsk Agreements] have flaws in the way that they were structured and how they were received, but, nonetheless, that’s what’s on the table and Ukraine and Russia have committed to it. So, I think that the most productive way forward,” Volker commented.