Almost three years ago, on Sept. 12, 2014, the U.K. newspaper The Guardian published a photo and report featuring a Russian armored personnel carrier well inside Ukraine, in Lutuhyne, near the city of Luhansk.
Interestingly, the vehicle was marked with a blue circle around yellow Cyrillic letters “MC” — the Russian abbreviation for “Mirotvorcheskie Sily” or “Peacekeeping Forces.”
Such vehicles had earlier been spotted in Russia, in August, heading towards or stationed near the Ukrainian border. At the time, it was widely feared that a Russian invasion was imminent, and that Russia would seize the Donbas, and perhaps more of Ukraine, under the guise of inserting a peacekeeping force.
In the end, the Kremlin contented itself with cross-border shelling and covert deployment of regular units to halt Ukraine’s advance against Russian proxy forces, thereby preventing the collapse of the two rogue statelets it had set up in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.
Defeated on the battlefield, Ukraine was forced to the negotiating table in Minsk, Belarus, and the war settled into the lower-intensity conflict that it is today.
Ukraine has called several times for a United Nations-mandated peacekeeping mission to be sent to the Donbas, but Russia has never agreed. Then Russian dictator Vladimir Putin on Sept. 5 came up with his own proposals for a peacekeeping force in Ukraine. However, Putin’s plan is not a peacekeeping offer -- it’s a way to keep the war simmering.
The Russian president wants UN troops to patrol the front line between Ukraine’s army and the Kremlin’s proxy forces, providing cover for the unarmed Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe monitors. The part of the Ukrainian-Russian border that is not under the control of Kyiv would remain wide open for Russia to continue sending weapons, ammunition, supplies and men to keep the war going.
That is warkeeping, to coin a word, and typical of Kremlin cynicism. Ukraine and most in the West understand this and will oppose Putin’s plan. Almost in the same breath as voicing his support for peacekeepers, Putin suggested that his proxy forces might go on the offensive again if the United States supplies Ukraine with lethal defensive weapons.
Putin’s real intentions are clear: He wants to keep the war going on his terms.
A better plan would be to deploy peacekeepers throughout the Russian-occupied area. Only then will there be a chance of real peace returning to the Donbas.