Ño-director of Foreign Affairs and International Security Programmes at the Razumkov Centre Oleksiy Melnyk took part in the Sofia Security Forum “The role of NATO and EU in the wider Black sea region” that was held on 9-10 September 2015 in Sofia, Bulgaria. Mr. Melnyk delivered a speech under the title “The role of international organisations in Ukraine: capabilities and limits”.
Let me start with some general statements:
1. In today’s globalised world an international cooperation provides opportunities for every state to take part in addressing common challenges. A membership or other forms alike provide a state with a toolbox for strengthening its position on the international arena and exerting influence on regional and global affairs.
2. An international cooperation is also a way to compensate the lack of national resources (financial, economic, political, military etc.). Being an equal member of the international community is supposed to offer additional capabilities for national governments to deal with their domestic and external issues, especially for small and mid-sized countries.
3. At least two preconditions are needed to enjoy the opportunities provided through an international cooperation: first, is an effectiveness of the interaction with and within an organisation and, second, is an effectiveness of the international organisation as such and its ability to fulfil its primary mission.
The on-going so-called “Ukrainian crisis” has not only dramatically changed the regional security landscape, but has also presented one of the most significant challenges to the existing global security system.
These days, Ukraine has a dramatic opportunity to learn very practical lessons about international organisations: their capabilities and their limits. One can hardly imagine more difficult circumstances for a country under attack in which Ukraine found itself back in February 2014. The then new Ukrainian Government having very limited means against the aggressor, immediately appealed for international assistance. After almost 18 month of confrontation it has become obvious that Ukraine still exists largely due to the enormous and lasting international support.
From the very beginning of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the global community – different international organisations and majority of states has been gradually dragged into the conflict. By using a definition of the “so-called” about the “Ukrainian crisis”, I would argue that this crisis has regional and global dimensions and should not be approached as a bilateral, let alone as an internal conflict.
Ukraine is broadly integrated in the system of regional and global organisations and participates in numerous regional and global security initiatives. Its membership in 75 international organisations proves intentions of the national government to be an active and responsible member of the international community. Just to mention, even today, 550 Ukrainian troops, 20 attack and transport helicopters are deployed abroad in different international peace-keeping operations.
It should be emphasised, that the majority of states and international organisations have sided with Ukraine by providing active moral, political and diplomatic, financial and technical assistance. Already on 27 March 2014, UN General Assembly adopted a resolution expressing support for “sovereignty, political independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders”.
Ukraine was also supported by G7 members, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, NATO Parliamentary Assembly, European Council, the European Parliament, and the European Commission. In numerous resolutions they condemned the aggression and demanded Russia to stop its unacceptable actions against Ukraine and against the global peace and stability.
Ukraine has also received considerable external financial, technical, humanitarian, advisory assistance from the West and international organisations. For example, in March 2014, the European Commission approved the ˆ11.175 bln plan of assistance for Ukraine, opened up its market for Ukrainian goods by implementing unilateral trade preferences. The European Union is also implementing a number of projects to support Ukrainian reforms, including the EU Advisory Mission for Civilian Security Sector Reform Ukraine (EUAM Ukraine). NATO and its members have significantly increased the level of practical cooperation in every area under the existing partnership framework.
The IMF opened a two-year $16.7 bln. credit line (stand-by) to restore the county’s macroeconomic stability. The World Bank has provided a $3.5 bln. loan in addition to a number of other projects (energy efficiency, urban infrastructure development, etc.).
In opposite, the Russia-dominated Commonwealth of Independent States was very reluctant to express its position and even refused to accept Ukraine’s demand for conducting consultations regarding the conflict.
Among many international actors involved in the Ukrainian affairs nowadays, I will touch upon UN, the EU, NATO and OSCE – those four that, in my opinion, have played the most important role.
United Nations. The UN Country Team is represented by 16 funds and programmes, specialized agencies and other entities. In accordance to the Partnership Framework for 2012-2016, UN devoted $133 million for economic growth and poverty reduction, social development, governance, Environment and Climate Change assistance programmes. The above mentioned priorities are still relevant, but the problems created by the conflict seems to demand significant amendments to the pre-war plans.
UN provides considerable humanitarian assistance. It is estimated that about five million people been affected by the conflict, incl. the most vulnerable two millions living in areas along the contact line, where aid organisations have been unable to operate due to insecurity and bureaucratic hurdles. Among 1.4 million IDPs 60% are elderly people and 13% are children. In accordance to the UN sources, since 21 July 2015, aid convoys have been unable to reach the area non-controlled by the Government due to the restriction imposed by the rebels. Had the UN been able to prevent or stop this conflict, this money would have been spent for solving many other – numerous and more urgent needs around the world.
Humanitarian and development assistance is very important and normally does not create big tensions among the main stakeholders in the UN. But, the main security mechanism of the international community – the UN Security Council – has been blocked by its permanent member, who pretends not to be the main troublemaker.
The European Union. The EU-Ukraine Association Agreement is the legal basis and framework for EU-Ukraine relations, aiming at political association and economic integration. Both sides accepted mutual commitments to develop a close and lasting relationship based on common values. What is the most important – are the Ukrainian Government’s commitments to fully implement democratic principles, rule of law, good governance, human rights and fundamental freedoms. The main role of the EU in Ukraine is not only to provide assistance in various areas, but also to maintain a positive external pressure on the national Government in order to meet its own commitments and to deliver what Ukrainian people need. The idea of becoming a part of Europe is widely supported by the Ukrainians (50+%) and has become a kind of the national interest.
In regard to the crisis, slowly but gradually the EU has developed its position towards the causes and parties of the conflict, introduced few stages of sanctions against the aggressor. However, any kind of the consistent strategy towards Russia or moreover a relevant and comprehensive European security strategy seems to be on the very early stage of development.
NATO. NATO-Ukraine relations have been through few ups and downs. In early 90s the newly independent Ukraine joined the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (1991) and the Partnership for Peace programme (1994). In 1997 the parties signed the Charter on a Distinctive Partnership and established the NATO-Ukraine Commission. There are also to permanent NATO missions in Kyiv – NATO Liaison Office and NATO Information and Documentation Centre.
Ukraine has both benefited and contributed to the cooperation being the only NATO partner who has participated in all NATO-led operations and missions.
In response to the conflict, NATO has reinforced its support for Ukraine giving priority to comprehensive security and defence sector reform, strengthening national capability to defend itself by providing a wide range of advisory, technical, financial assistance, conducting training and joint military exercises, establishing new trust funds.
Could NATO do more? Perhaps, yes, but not much. The Article 5 is not applied to non-member state as well as the “out-of-area operations” concept does not cover the areas of direct confrontation with Russia. However, being well aware of the main difference between an “ally” and a “partner” status, I would argue that had Finland or Sweden faced the same problem, NATO would have acted differently. Formalities, i.e. the formal membership, are as important as the informal links of solidarity and the logic of belonging to the same “club”.
By the way, the level of public support in Ukraine for possible NATO membership has increased from 20 to 50% over the last year. However, for the nearest future it is hardly possible expect any radical change of the existing partnership format.
OSCE. OSCE, which was traditionally criticised for lacking effective conflict resolution mechanisms, unexpectedly has become a major player in Ukraine-Russia conflict resolution. In March 2014 OSCE made a decision to deploy its Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) in Ukraine (excluding Crimea since the Russian delegation limited the geographical area of deployment and activities of the mission). The SMM currently consists of 500 civilian unarmed monitors from 40 States and the number can be increased up to 1000.
Also, in July 2014, the OSCE decided to deploy an “Observer Mission to the two Russian checkpoints of Gukovo and Donetsk” at the Russian-Ukrainian border in response to a Russian invitation (15 observers).
At the beginning of the SMM operations a number of facts of the obvious misconduct and misinformation by some of the observers (not only representatives of the RF) were reported. There was a jock told by one Ukrainian soldier: “I want OSCE gays to be my neighbours. I can yell, listen loud music, use hand drill – they will notice nothing”.
I should say that now the regular SMM reports are probably as substantial as they can be taking into account the SMM mandate and the extremely dangerous environment of the area of operation. There are still a lot of critical comments about the SMM objectivity (impartiality and transparency) and effectiveness from both sides, but nevertheless the SMM has been playing a crucial role of an independent observer. It is hard to overestimate its value in this kind of conflict where the information warfare has been as powerful and destructive as the military hardware.
In addition to monitoring, OSCE is conducting a number of activities aimed at reconciliation, promoting national dialog, supporting reforms etc. Last, but not least OSCE has been facilitating the negotiations in Minsk formats.
In conclusion, it is beyond any doubt that the strong international reaction and active involvement have produced a tangible political and psychological pressure on the Kremlin leadership and has had a significant constraining effect. Without the international support Ukraine would not be able to resist against the multiple military and non-military challenges for almost 18 month of confrontation.
Nevertheless, regardless of all the efforts taken and measures applied by the international community, this crisis is still on the stage of development. No prospect for the reliable and realistic solution has been achieved yet.
The most important is the fact that the United Nations as global security organisation and the OSCE as the regional one appeared to be unable to adequately and effectively respond to the aggression.