The Minsk II Protocol is based on 3 initial steps:
- Implementation of unconditional ceasefire for the entire conflict zone.
- Withdrawal of heavy weaponry to place them outside of their operational range from the line of conflict.
- Monitor implementation of Point 1 and Point 2 by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission for Ukraine.
For the OSCE to be able to monitor the situation and report adequately, the following is required:
- Unrestricted and safe access to the entire area of conflict and the sectors from which the heavy weapons are to be withdrawn.
- Clear and undisputed definition of the sectors of withdrawal and the type of weaponry which needs to be withdrawn, if not all.
- Adequate manning and equipment matching the area which needs to be monitored.
The ceasefire is relatively simple and straight forward. Just CEASE FIRE and you are all set. That is the theory and the many reports about ongoing incidents and fighting in the conflict zone make clear that neither party is upholding the ceasefire completely and all parties are accusing the other side of breaching the ceasefire.
The withdrawal of heavy weapons is a very efficient manner of deescalating the conflict and in my opinion the most constructive item in the entire Minsk II Protocol. Unfortunately, the definition of the withdrawal is conflicting since it uses different requirements for the positions from which the sides are to withdraw their heavy weapons. The Ukrainian Forces are to withdraw from the actual line of contact at the moment the Minsk II Protocol was signed, the Separatists are to withdraw from the contact line as of the prior Minsk Protocol which was drawn and signed on 19th September 2014. As the above shown map makes perfectly clear, this is a total different situation and contact line. This sets the withdrawal on very thin ice and brings the OSCE in a rather difficult situation.
The monitoring by OSCE still depends on approval from and cooperation by the conflicting parties. Although politicians from all directions call upon the conflicting parties to fully cooperate with the OSCE SMM teams, reality shows an entirely different situation. The “daily game” is obstruction, hindrance, misleading and denial. By all sides involved!
A very popular “trick” to block the observers or at least by time until they arrive at the site they wish to inspect, is to intensively check the papers of the observers in a very time consuming manner. Valuable time is lost while waiting for “approval and confirmation”. “Not able to guarantee safety due to fighting by the other side” is also a common reason not to allow the observers to do their job. Some eyewitnesses have reported seeing roadblocks being installed an hour before the OSCE team crossed the road and being dismantled again after the team was kept there for hours…
Every side can play these games because the OSCE has neither mandate nor means to enforce access to the area. So they will continue to depend on unknown factors, political games and the willingness of the conflicting parties. And guess what; when a party is not upholding the agreements of the Minsk II Protocol, the willingness to allow OSCE to observe and document will not be very high, won’t it…?
It this can be handle by replace the OSCE team with a proper Peace Keeping Force, preferably with an adequate mandate by the United Nations Security Council. For this to happen, the permanent members of the UNSC need to work out a solution which all parties can accept, including the Ukrainian and Separatist side. 5 Members with Veto Power and 2 parties at war. Not an ease task!
And the next challenge will be, should such a resolution ever see the light of day, which countries will provide armed forces for the peacekeeping mission? Any country tight to the USA and NATO will most likely not be accepted by the Separatist side and on the other hand will the Ukrainian side most likely never accept Russian involvement. China and India could be “the common alternative”.
Whatever the solution will or can be, it will take time. Much time. And all that time, the population of Donbass is suffering under this war. Every single day, every single minute. And at this moment, there is nothing that the OSCE teams can do about that.