Daniel Baer, U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
The issue of armed police mission in Donbas should be addressed based on the situation on the ground
16.12.2016 12:30 1133

The US believes that there is no necessity of changing the mandate of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Donbas now, but is ready to discuss the issue when the conditions for that arise. The OSCE participating states are ready for the dialogue with Russia, but the retaliatory steps will be taken in case of persistent unwillingness of the Russian Federation to cooperate constructively. U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Daniel Baer said this in a brief interview with Ukrinform.

– Mr. Ambassador, once again to the question of the OSCE police mission to Ukraine.  We got it that it is highly unlikely at the time being.  But minister Klimkin has suggested that the OSCE could somehow combine its resources with those of the UN.  Might that be an option in your opinion?

– With respect to a police mission or election security presence for the Donbas, there’s never been a formal proposal tabled.  

As you know, right now the OSCE has the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine and a small Observer Mission at two checkpoints along the Russian-Ukrainian border.  Both of those are civilian, unarmed missions, and we think they should carry on doing their work according to their mandates.

We’ve said that, if a ceasefire is achieved, if there’s full visibility of the border and that ceasefire is sustained and sustainable, that would open up the opportunity for some progress on other parts of the Minsk Agreements.  And if at that time there is a need for more support from the international community to facilitate the implementation of the Minsk Agreements, we should consider it then.  So far, the discussion has taken place more in press conferences than in formal meetings.

I think the real issue is that we need to get that sustained and sustainable ceasefire, end the fighting on the ground, and figure out together what else is necessary on the part of the international community.  We, as the United States, are open minded about that conversation, and we will go into it with a practical lens of what’s really needed based on the situation on the ground.  And we heard last week from High Representative Mogherini a similar perspective, which is that the EU would also base any genuine discussion on the situation on the ground.

–  Minister Steinmeier mentioned in Hamburg that the present SMM should be enforced next year. Could you maybe provide some details: is it about the increase in staff or some extra technical facilities?

– We look forward to working with the Austrian Chairmanship and with other participating States to bolster the effectiveness of the SMM and ensure that it gets the tools, resources and political support that it needs to fulfill its mandate.  

In the near-term, that means providing additional technology – cameras, sensors, and other hardware that will expand its ability to “see” outside of locations where monitors are physically present.  It also means continuing to press on Russia and the separatists it supports to allow full and unfettered access, consistent with the Minsk agreements.  

We would of course like to see more reporting from the SMM based on more access to the areas it needs to monitor, but it doesn’t make sense to increase the number of monitors on the ground if they don’t have the ability to move freely to perform their work.

– Russian permanent representative with the OSCE Lukashevich has said (to the Russian Media) that after March 31 when the mandate of the SMM expires, there may be difficulties with its prolongation and because of “the unwillingness of the Ukrainian side to constructively tackle the problems” to that. Could you comment on that?  Is there a possibility that even the present mission may be revoked?

– I’m not going to speculate on what our Russian colleagues might or might not do.  The OSCE is a consensus organization, and it’s true that Russia has demonstrated recently, including at the Ministerial Council, that they are willing to be spoilers and bad faith actors, including in the OSCE context.  

But as I noted earlier, they are isolated in that type of engagement.  All of the rest of the OSCE participating States have been clear and unified in calling for an end to the Kremlin’s manufactured war in eastern Ukraine.

 It is clear that Russia is the aggressor and the outlier – as demonstrated by its unilateral effort to block the draft OSCE declaration on Ukraine.  And while we are clear-eyed about Russian behavior, the rest of us – those of us who are engaging in good faith -- will continue to look to Russia to engage constructively, and to be open to that kind of engagement.  We will judge them by their actions.  And if they choose instead to be spoilers and to act in bad faith, we will work to hold them to account.

Olha Tanasiychuk, Berlin.

Photo credit: Flickr/U.S. Embassy Tokyo, Eric Bridiers

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