Soon we will mark the fifth anniversary of the ongoing armed conflict in Donbas. The main parties, one way or another involved in the conflict, have created many different plans and proposals to this sad jubilee. But their plans still have remained on paper. Some of them are impossible in reality; others do not satisfy one party of the conflict. Actually, the only document on which the parties agreed and which more or less works, is the Minsk agreements.
The last document for the years of its operation was criticizeв a lot, and in general this is logical - the Minsk agreements cannot return Donbas to Ukraine, and cannot solve its problem. But the harsh truth of life lies in the fact that, most likely, the document was aimed just at reducing the escalation in the region, which it successfully achieved. Demanding more from the Minsk Agreements is simply unfair.
If we put aside all the “plans”, proposals and loud statements of the politicians, there are only two ways to solve the Donbas issue and a number of options that are aimed at solving the problem. Their quantitative and qualitative composition depends on the ultimate goals, means, opportunities, domestic and international situation, and many other factors.
The main ways to solve the problem of Donbas provide a choice between the military and diplomatic option.
1) The force option involves the return of temporarily uncontrolled territories of Donbas by force of arms.
Actually, in this sense, there are only two most likely options - a direct large-scale offensive in order to return the territories of the "people's republics" or the implementation of the so-called "Croatian scenario."
Ukraine has already tried to test the first option in 2014, but because of the intervention of the Russian Armed Forces, its implementation was impossible. The balance of power between Ukraine and Russia in the support the "people's republics" is too unequal. Actually, the last year's "Kerch incident" has already shown this.
Another force option for Ukraine, from time to time actively discussed in the information space, is the so-called “Croatian scenario”. Successfully applied by Croatia in 1995, it has become synonymous with a strategy of long-term preparation for a forceful resolution of the issue, restructuring the country and the economy to achieve the goal. And finally, there will be one quick and successful offensive strike.
In the conditions of Ukraine, such way is possible only with guarantees of non-interference of the Russian Federation.
2) The diplomatic way involves a greater number of options, depending on the ultimate goal - to return the uncontrollable part of Donbas or "let it go".
The simplest option is obvious - to recognize the "people's republics", but it is obviously impossible for the authorities. In fact, this means admitting a complete defeat on all fronts, losing all that allowed them to come to power in 2014 and get a credit of national trust, which, however, has already been “wasted” successfully.
But if this option means political bankruptcy of power, for Ukraine its results may turn out to be even worse, since the “surrender” of ORDLO will stimulate the further growth of separatist tendencies, which will receive confirmation of the possibility of their realization. In this sense, the southern regions of the country and Transcarpathia may be the most dangerous.
We can use the option designed for the long-term perspective - just leave attempts to return Donbas by a certain date and wait, simultaneously developing your own country. Over time, we can expect that the Russian Federation, which has officially declared its unwillingness to accept "people's republics" in its territory many times, will simply get tired of them, as their people will get tired of the "fraternal embrace" of LNR/DNR authorities.
If the internal political situation in the Russian Federation (economic crisis, change of foreign policy and so on) and in the "people's republics" (impoverishment of the population, loss of faith in bright prospects, desire to return to Ukraine), as well as the international situation (pressure on the Russian Federation, readiness to meet the Russian demands in exchange on refusal of support of separatists) will allow, it will be possible to return Donbas peacefully.
The disadvantage of this approach is also obvious - the impossibility of even approximately calculating the timing of its implementation, not to mention the fact that the plans of the Russian Federation for the accession of the "people's republics" may change.
Finally, the third option of a diplomatic solution is a peace settlement with the involvement of peacekeepers that has been repeatedly heard under the auspices of the United Nations.
Actually, it is this option that is most preferable, since it allows us to build some kind of problem resolution strategy, to partially eliminate the parties' distrust by attracting neutral intermediaries. And in the humanitarian sense, this option is the most profitable for the population of Donbas.
As part of this option, there were also quite a few plans, ranging from the outright “idealism” of Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and ending with the most recent “Sajdik plan” for today.
The plan proposed by the Special Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office in Ukraine and in the Tripartite Contact Group, Martin Sajdik, is largely based on the use of similar experience in the Balkans.
The essence of the diplomat's proposals in brief means the introduction in the uncontrolled part of Donbas of some kind of transitional international structure with its own military and police forces, civilian administration, under the auspices of the UN and the OSCE. The humanitarian component should be provided by the creation of a Donbas Recovery Agency by the European Union, similar to the one that previously existed in the Balkans.
According to Sajdik, the final task of the work of such a transitional structure should be the reintegration of the uncontrolled part of Donbas into Ukraine.
According to the diplomat, the peace plan must be signed by the heads of the countries of the "Normandy Quartet" - Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany, and then approved by their parliaments.
In essence, in theory, the plan looks good, perhaps even the best for today, since, apart from simply entering international peacekeepers, it presupposes a humanitarian and no political settlement. However, its implementation even in theory has a huge number of obstacles.
Perhaps the most pressing issue for the EU, the UN and the OSCE in this regard today is financial. It is impossible to imagine how much the peacekeepers, the police forces, the international administration, not to mention the Donbas Rehabilitation Agency, will cost. And although, if desired, the participants of the plan can find all these costs together, but the critical question is: do they really need it?
True, the main issue still remains the problem of peacekeepers. It is unlikely that anyone will want to go to the zone of military conflict in order to carry out a humanitarian mission, to ensure the restoration of infrastructure or to carry out management activities without adequate force protection. Of course, peacekeepers are not armed forces, they have a different status, and their very presence in a combat zone does not guarantee security, but it’s safer with them there than without them.
And here I must say that this main component of the plan has much less chance of adoption than others.
The most frank in this regard was Kurt Volker, the special representative of the US State Department for Ukraine, who called the main requirement of the plan’s implementation - Russian consent for peacekeepers.
"In my opinion, Martin Sajdik demonstrates that there are certain ideas that can be pushing. But the prerequisite for this can only be Russia's decision to end the war, establish peace and ultimately accept the UN peacekeeping mission to create a peaceful and secure environment. Only when these demands are implemented, all other things will also make sense. The problem is that they have not been fulfilled. Russia has never adhered to a complete cease-fire. There was no complete withdrawal of heavy weapons. Russian troops are still present in the east of Ukraine, Russia continues to finance the illegal units and provide them with weapons, it supports the existence of two so-called "republics", he said.
Volker’s statement is completely undiplomatic, but in essence is true.
For the first time, the need to introduce international peacekeepers to Donbas was stated at the beginning of 2015, however, this issue was immediately firmly blocked by the Russian Federation, which made it clear that during voting in the UN it will use the veto as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
The situation unexpectedly changed in the fall of 2017 - another statement by Ukraine about the need to introduce peacekeepers was supported by the Russian Federation, albeit with reservations - there should be a little number peacekeepers, they should protect the OSCE mission and not go beyond the contact line. This option categorically did not suit Ukraine and the United States, and the same Kurt Volker launched negotiations with Vladislav Surkov, presidential aide of Vladimir Putin. Over the past year, the result of the negotiations is zero.
Does Russia benefit from the plan of an Austrian diplomat? On the one hand, undoubtedly, after all, it removes the problem of the maintenance of "people's republics" from its shoulders and in the future can return them to Ukraine. Anyway, in the Russian Federation, there is clearly no room for them.
On the other hand, the transitional administration will clearly reduce the influence of the Russian Federation in Donbas, and retreat from its own positions in Russia itself can be interpreted as a “defeat.” The latter is very important in the light of the clearly growing discontent with the power in the country on the part of society.
Is this plan beneficial for Ukraine? If we really want to return the region, yes, we still cannot offer anything better at the moment.