Europe in the World
Frozen conflict or negotiated peace? Prospects for Donbas
The photostream of this expert roundtable can be accessed here.
Three years after the conclusion of the second Minsk Agreement on Eastern Ukraine negotiations have hardly produced results. Positions have hardened without any political solution in sight. Talks between Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia, as well as talks between the US and Russia have been fruitless. In this context, Ukrainian and Russian plans to introduce a UN peacekeeping operation in Donbas to assist in breaking the deadlock run the risk of yet another failure, in the post-Soviet space, leading to two new unrecognised entities: the separatist-controlled 'Donetsk People's Republic' (DPR or DNR) and the 'Luhansk People's Republic' (LPR or LNR).
This expert round table on the possibilities for conflict resolution in the Donbas region in Eastern Ukraine was initiated as the Netherlands held a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council in 2018 and had to deal with the conflict also from the perspective of ongoing investigations on the MH-17 tragedy. This would not be the first time the Netherlands has been involved in negotiations on protracted conflicts in the post-soviet space: in 2003 the Dutch OSCE Chairmanship almost produced a breakthrough on the conflict in Moldova/Transnistria.
Various experts offered their perspective on the conflict in Donbas and on the prospects of its solution:
- Clingendael Senior Research Fellow Tony van der Togt elaborated on the negotiations of protracted conflicts in the post-soviet space and its lessons for conflict resolution in Ukraine, which seem to lead to just another 'frozen conflict' with no real perspective for a political solution. This introduction builds on his own research as presented in Tug of War. Negotiating security in Eurasia, recently published as a result of the Clingendael-coordinated Programme for International Negotiations (PIN).
This contribution was preceded by a short introduction via Skype on the research for Tug of War on the particular challenges of negotiating security in Eurasia by co-editor Mikhail Troitskiy (associate professor at and dean of the School of Government and International Affairs at Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University, Moscow).
- Professor Oleksiy Haran (political science, National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and Research director, Democratic Initiatives Foundation) elaborated on changing public attitudes within Ukraine on the conflict in Donbas and possibilities for a politically acceptable solution, as presented in the recent book which he co-authored: Constructing a Political Nation. Changes in the Attitudes of Ukrainians during the War in the Donbas.
- Anna Matveeva (Visiting Senior Research Fellow - War Studies at King’s College London) told the story of the conflict in the Donbas region from the perspective of the rebels in the separatist entities, looking at their motivations and aspirations, which she registered in her recent book Through Times of Trouble. Conflict in Southeastern Ukraine Explained from Within, for which she extensively interviewed both rebels and experts in Russia and Ukraine.
The seminar was concluded by a panel discussion, moderated by Clingendael Senior Research Fellow Jan Melissen, on the prospects for a negotiated political solution to the conflict in Donbas, including on the implementation of the Minks Agreements, the role of sanctions and the prospects for a UN peacekeeping operation, as proposed in different forms by Ukraine and the Russian Federation.
The event was held under the Chatham House Rule.