U.S. to Seek Russian Approval for Peacekeepers in Eastern Ukraine!


Senior Member
Mar 21, 2009
Country flag
U.S. to Seek Russian Approval for Peacekeepers in Eastern Ukraine!

BRUSSELS—U.S. officials are preparing to test Moscow’s willingness to end the Ukraine conflict by seeking Russia’s approval for 20,000 peacekeepers across Ukraine’s embattled east, U.S. and Western officials said.

The U.S. is expected to raise the proposal with Russian officials in coming days, these people said. It is driven by hopes in some Western capitals, including Paris and Berlin, that Russian President Vladimir Putin is seeking a way out of Moscow’s military support to Ukrainian separatists.

The proposal is also part of a larger Trump administration strategy for Russia that includes diplomatic efforts to force Moscow back into compliance with arms-control treaties, such as a ban on intermediate missiles that Washington has accused Russia of violating.

Western capitals remain skeptical, however, that Russia will fulfill its commitments under the 2015 Minsk peace accords, obliging it to pull all troops and weapons out of Ukraine and allow Kiev to restore control.

The U.S. proposal would respond to a Russian initiative put forth at the United Nations Security Council in New York in September, calling for a peacekeeping mission.

Russia proposed that peacekeepers protect international observers in Ukraine along the so-called separation line that divides Kiev-controlled territory from rebel-held areas in the east. The conflict in eastern Ukraine erupted in 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine. Fighting has left some 10,000 dead.

Western diplomats dismissed Russia’s proposal because they feared it would effectively freeze the conflict, perpetuating rebel control of parts of Ukraine’s Donbas region.

Mr. Putin responded positively to a counterproposal from German Chancellor Angela Merkel that peacekeepers be granted free access throughout Donbas, Russian and Western officials said.

Russia’s role in the Ukrainian conflict is the biggest obstacle to improving ties between Moscow and Washington, Western and Russian officials said. U.S. President Donald Trump has said repeatedly he hopes to improve ties with Moscow. The two leaders may meet on the sidelines of an economic summit in Vietnam on Friday.

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The September peacekeeping proposal “was a serious signal from the Kremlin,” said Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s ambassador to the European Union. Progress in Ukraine, he said, could improve “the hugely abnormal situation in Russian-American relations.”

The U.S. envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, has since the summer met with Ukrainian and Russian officials on the Donbas conflict. Those talks have run parallel to formal negotiations on the conflict, involving Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany.

Mr. Volker has met twice with top Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov since mid-August. A third meeting is planned in Belgrade next week.

Trump administration officials said they believe progress is best achieved by taking several big steps toward fulfilling the Minsk accords instead of trying to make incremental progress. Minsk committed Russia to letting Ukraine restore authority across its territory in exchange for Kiev holding local elections in Donbas and agreeing to greater autonomy for its eastern regions.

Officials briefed on the U.S. initiative said obstacles to a deal with Russia on peacekeepers are formidable, but an agreement could be reached if Russia is willing to negotiate.

“It is not impossible, which is interesting,” a U.S. official said.

Mr. Volker said last week he was exploring with Mr. Surkov how Russia’s September peacekeeping proposal “can be developed further” to make it effective for controlling contested areas, monitoring heavy weapons and policing the Ukrainian side of the border.

“We are not in agreement on this yet,” Mr. Volker said.

U.S. and Western officials say a mission may not operate under a U.N. Security Council mandate. Peacekeepers could instead operate under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, whose monitors are already in Ukraine, or be a more ad hoc coalition, the officials said.

Mr. Volker said last week the U.S. has spoken about Ukraine with diplomats from Sweden, a non-NATO country. Sweden, which has taken a firmly pro-Kiev stance since the Ukraine conflict erupted, has frequently volunteered for peacekeeping missions in the past.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, meanwhile, on Thursday said her government is making a significant diplomatic push for a U.N. peacekeeping force in Ukraine.

Several U.S. officials said the White House has approved in principle providing Ukraine lethal weapons, including Javelin antitank weapons. No decision has been taken on when such weapons could be provided.

The officials said that the weapons could be used to persuade a skeptical Ukrainian government, facing major domestic opposition in parliament, to embrace the peacekeeping effort. They could also be used to signal to Moscow that the West is ready to increase its military support, should the peacekeeping effort fail.


Global Defence

New threads