Thursday, September 7, 2017

By Calling for UN Peacekeepers in the Donbass, Putin Hopes to Achieve Many Things but Not Peace, Portnikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 6 – By calling for the introduction of UN peacekeepers in the Donbass, Vladimir Putin is pursuing a variety of goals foreign and domestic, Vitaly Portnikov says; but they do not include the restoration of Ukrainian sovereignty and peace in the region. Instead, this proposal like all of Putin’s in the past is intended to make that impossible.

            The Ukrainian commentator says that Putin is not interested in having UN peacekeepers make peace but rather to ensure that he will be able to continue his pursuit of plans to dominate Ukraine and prevent Kyiv from succeeding in focusing the attention of the international community on that fact (

                Already some in Moscow and the West are rushing to suggest that Putin by this proposal is changing course, Portnikov continues, but there is no reason for such hopes. Indeed, “a careful analysis of Putin’s declaration shows that [he] is interested” in maintaining Moscow’s control of the region and continuing to work to weaken Ukraine more generally.

            According to Portnikov, Putin’s insistence that UN peacekeepers could be introduced into the Donbass “only after a ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy arms. This is the first point of the Minsk Accords,” something Moscow could have done long ago but hasn’t made any moves in that direction.

            Putin hasn’t hastened to do so, the Ukrainian analyst says, because “the Kremlin understands precisely” that if those conditions are ever met, it would work to Ukraine’s advantage and thus would “clearly not be in Russian interests.”

              Moreover, Portnikov points out, “Putin wants the peacekeepers to appear exclusively along the line delimiting the occupied territories.” Put in more honest terms, he says, this represent a shifting forward into Ukraine of the Russian border and thus the UN soldiers would perform de facto the role of Russian border guards.

            Putin talks about restoring Ukrainian control over the Donbass, but with this proposal, he makes clear that he isn’t even prepared to talk about the beginning of such a period. “He wants to keep for himself a free hand in the Donbass – and to back that up with a decision by the UN Security Council.”

            And finally, Portnikov observes, the most important aspect of Putin’s proposal is what he says at its very end.  The Kremlin leader says the UN peacekeepers can only be introduced if they enter into “direct contact” with Moscow’s puppet states, the so-called “people’s republics” of the DNR and LNR.

            Such recognition is what Putin has been seeking since he began his invasion of Ukraine because he wants to get that in order to give some substance to his otherwise insupportable claim that what is going on in the Donbass is “not an occupation but ‘an uprising’ or ‘a civil war.’”  Ukraine and its Western supporters must never agree to that.

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