The settlement of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia can only become a consequence of geopolitical compromises. Ukraine is primarily interested in resolving this problem, but the Trojan horse of Donbass should not become a factor of destabilization of the political situation inside Ukraine. Namely, such a threat is “Minsk process”.
Almost all known scenarios of alternative to Minsk options for resolving the military conflict in the East, provide, in addition to peacekeepers, the introduction into the region of the Interim International Administration, to which they will be subordinate. According to Serhiy Harmash, head of the Research Center of Donbass Social Perspectives, it is this mechanism that will allow the conflict to end without winners and losers, which will not allow politicians to speculate on it in the future. Harmash developed a concept that provides for a phased economic restoration of the region, which, in his opinion, should contribute to the pro-Ukrainian orientation of the remaining Ukrainian citizens in the CDDLO. It was this concept that the experts of the analytical centers discussed during the second meeting of "The Future of Donbass" club.
PRICE OF SANCTIONS
"The Minsk agreements are used by both sides as an instrument for the depletion of the enemy: Ukraine is depleting Russia with sanctions; Russia is depleting Ukraine with war. But they are not an instrument for resolving the conflict. Sanctions against Russia should be tied not to the Minsk agreements, but to the very fact of aggression and annexation", - Serhiy Harmash says. - Minsk cannot be effective, since its algorithm is designed for an internal conflict. But this conflict is not internal. While the border is open, it is interstate. You cannot stop aggression of one state against another by local elections in the victim’s territory...
Accordingly, if everyone wants to carry out Minsk agreements, Russia has to withdraw its military and stop financing the CDDLO. What can make Russia do this? The prospect of a gradual lifting of economic sanctions and the possibility for the Russian-speaking population, whose interests it allegedly defends, legitimately express the will about its future - that is, the possibility for the Kremlin to "save face".
The Minsk agreements do not define the parties to the conflict and there are no guarantors for their implementation. Therefore, they are impracticable. I propose to solve the problem on the basis of the Budapest Memorandum, which guaranteed security and territorial integrity to Ukraine", - the author of the concept explains.
In his opinion, the Budapest format is important not only for resolving this conflict, it is important for the whole system of international security.
"No country in the world will ever give up its nuclear weapons if Budapest remains a negative precedent. Everyone will remember the example of Ukraine. Nevertheless, the problem with the separation of nuclear potentials will be relevant in future. Therefore, it is necessary for Budapest to become a positive precedent", - Serhiy Harmash says.
The concept developed by the head of the Research Center of Donbass Social Perspectives includes the following stages:
1. Russia's withdrawal of its military, volunteers and weapons in exchange for guarantees of free expression of will of citizens residing in the CDDLO, regarding their future as part of Ukraine.
2. Adoption of the law on the Interim International Administration, exercising its powers in the CDDLO.
3. The transfer of the border (including the Russian one) under the control of Ukraine and the United International Military Contingent of the guarantor countries of the Budapest Memorandum.
4. Termination of unilateral Russian financing of the occupied territories and humanitarian supplies. The financing of social needs, as well as humanitarian assistance, is carried out jointly by Ukraine and the countries participating in the Budapest Memorandum through the Interim International Administration, consisting of representatives of guarantor countries. This financing excludes military and other power spheres. The IIA exercises its powers with the support of a unified international military contingent of the guarantor countries of the Budapest Memorandum. Protection of law and order is carried out by peacekeepers. The IIA provides for a gradual return of the Ukrainian banking system, Ukrainian social payments, liberalization of the admission regime, and the restoration of economic ties.
"These actions will allow the IIA to become the manager of local budgets and begin work on restoring economic ties with Ukraine, paying pensions, social benefits, returning Ukrainian media to the region and regulating information policy issues.
I am sure that after blocking the financing, armed groups will be greatly weakened, and those who came to them not for wages, but for other reasons, either leave for Russia or will be gradually destroyed. Public opinion, which has already changed greatly in comparison with 2014 in favor of Ukraine, will become even more pro-Ukrainian after the return of peaceful life", - Serhiy Harmash says. "After that, an international discussion will begin on a phased lifting of sanctions imposed on Russia in connection with the aggression in the Donbass, but with their preservation for the annexation of the Crimea".
Further, Harmash proposes to convene a Constitutional Constituent Assembly, with the participation of the CDDLO representatives and IDPs from these regions, and to draft a new Constitution expanding the economic rights of all regions of Ukraine. By the way, this point fully meets the Minsk agreements.
"The constitutional process should become a reset of relations between the people and power for the whole of Ukraine and representatives of the Donbass as a part of it, they must necessarily be involved in all the all-Ukrainian processes so that no one then can say that they have nothing to do with this", - Harmash said.
"In addition, this process can take more than one month, it will give time for the region's adaptation to its reintegration into Ukraine. Until the local elections, the burden of economic maintenance of the region will be borne by all the guarantor countries of the Budapest Memorandum. It will soften the burden on our budget", - he thinks.
5. Adoption of the Constitution via a national referendum, including in the occupied territories.
The IIA with the support of the International Military Contingent organizes and conducts this referendum in the CDDLO under the Ukrainian laws.
6. Holding local elections in the CDDLO under Ukrainian law one year after the adoption of the Constitution. The transfer of all the powers of the IIA to elected authorities in terms of local powers and national state institutions - in terms of their competence. Cancelling the checkpoint mode on the line of demarcation.
7. Withdrawal of the United International Military Contingent from the territory of Ukraine after the local elections.
8. Two years after the adoption of the Constitution, an all-Ukrainian referendum and a regional consultative poll on the status of the Donbass are held.
"It's no secret that now Ukrainians believe that Ukraine does not need the Donbass. This could become a ground for conflicts between the Donbass and Western Ukraine in the future. Later, the politicians can speculate in the "winner-loser" paradigm. Therefore, it is very important that both sides consciously express their position on the question, whether we are unified Ukraine or not. Then it will allow to consider the conflict to be solved, because there is a consensus, there are no winners and losers. If some side says "no", then this will be a conscious step and civilized process. But I am sure that after three years of peaceful life and understanding that Russia does not need the Donbass, people there will vote for Ukraine", -Harmash explains.
Serhiy Harmash is against any "special status" for the territories of the CDDLO.
"The region should return to Ukraine with the same rights as other regions will have. Otherwise, all regional elites will want special statuses and start provoking conflicts, as local authorities did in the Donbass in 2014", - he said. In addition, in his opinion, the "special status" is an indirect victory of the separatists, it can provoke negative attitude of the rest of Ukraine.
All points of the concept directly depend on the extent to which it will be possible to balance the influence of the Russian Federation on the now uncontrolled territories, primarily in the matter of effective control over the Ukrainian-Russian border and the withdrawal of weapons. The Interim International Administration will be effective if this can be done.
"If Ukraine does not control the IIA, it will not solve the issue of real control over both the border and the region's economy", - the co-founder of the Ukrainian Institute for the Future, editor-in-chief of the Hvylia portal Yurii Romanenko says. - I think that the IIA will be weak in terms of management. It always happens when many people are involved in decision-making. Low managerial efficiency equals weak control on the site. This will create a lot of collisions that can be used by Russians who already have both power structures and a quasi-system of local power in these territories.
"If the border is blocked, logistics schemes for supply from Russia will be impossible, including the supply of arms and money", - Serhiy Harmash argues. This will automatically weaken its influence.
- But through participation in the IIA the Russians will be able to control, for example, the border sections assigned to them and, if they are involved in the financing of the IIA, they will have the opportunity to distribute the money for profitable for them purposes", - Romanenko continues.
- This will lead to conflict within the IIA, and hence - with the Americans, the British, the French, the Chinese. I mean, in any case, we will not be one on one with Russia, - Harmash believes.
- Put it crudely, the Russians should not get a blocking package in the IIA management. Our main task is to prevent the creation of a structure within the political system of Ukraine that will be able to block strategic decisions or the IIA's activities", - Romanenko says.
The main task of the IIA is to become the main resource manager, pushing Russia aside from this status, gradually gaining power over the territories, ensuring transparent and free elections under Ukrainian legislation and handing power over to legitimate local government bodies.
- The IPA will become a parallel, then – the main source of power and will begin, put it crudely, to give people money – social payments and pensions, to restore economic ties. - Serhiy Harmash continues.
- The key question is: where will all those people who are now "boarded the flow" from Russia go? If Russia takes the financing of 30% of the IIA upon itself, will then this money be given to those who now earn with the help of Russia? And if Russia refuses to finance - the construction will stutter. The risk is that the IIA can become similar to the UN, where an important decision requires the consensus of the Security Council, - Romanenko warns.
- If we recognize the conflict as internal (after the introduction of the IIA and the border closure, - ed.), it will be considered civil in terms of international law. This essentially changes the international policy on this issue, - says Lada Roslycky, the American-Canadian expert on "soft power" in the field of security, who work with Atlantic Council - the leading think tank of the USA. – Of course, the main problem is that we include Russia as the aggressor in this construction.
- We do not need to recognize it as internal. It is now de jure internal. But after the closure of border, it is possible to include conflict resolution mechanisms, inherent to internal conflicts – the same elections, etc. The main thing is to close the border and minimize the influence of the Kremlin on these territories. But Russia is too strong to just throw it out of all constructions. In any case, it will have to be considered. However, in the end, it will receive much less influence than it has now, - Harmash explains his position.
Serhiy Harmash believes that de-escalation of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia along the line of demarcation with CDDLO is strategically unprofitable for Ukraine, since it does not resolve the conflict, but freezes it.
- If we pursue de-escalation, this will allow Russia to build a "peaceful life" in the so-called republics and imitate statehood. In the context of restoring its sovereignty in these territories, Ukraine receives nothing. Furthermore, no matter how much we want peace, we must not forget that even if we leave them alone, they do not. They were created, armed and are being financed not for this purpose.
- This is a mine for our future, because Turkey is not Russia. It is necessary to understand that the task of Russia is to destroy Ukraine or bring it to a state of Belarus – the "union state". The destabilization of Ukraine will be permanent. Russia did not create this problem for us in order to reduce the tension in our interests.
- The Russians will have problems in the long run. Institute for the Future presented "Strength Limits of the Russian Federation" report, predicted the situation, including depending on the price for oil. Even if the price for oil falls to $20 a barrel – they have enough resources for a period of 3 to 5 years. This is 3-5 years, unproblematic for the political system. But the sanctions created a dangerous situation for them in the long term, because the Americans are taking them out of the European energy market. Hydrocarbon practice goes away, the Americans unpack their deposits and try to maximize profits and sell what they have to get the resources to invest in a new practice. Therefore, Russia is interested in getting out of the sanctions for the Donbass. If Russia was aimed at destroying via military means, then it would easily do so in 2014, but the Kremlin understands the costs of such a scenario. So it is aimed at resolving the Ukrainian issue via political means and will do this regardless of whether we take the path, suggested by Harmash or any other way. Therefore, our task is to reduce pressure from Russia to an acceptable level in order to focus on internal changes that will increase Ukraine's stability in the long term. At the same time, we should use Russia's motivation in a broader context, because the Kremlin is playing a global game, where Ukraine is one of the plots, - Yuriy Romanenko says.
His colleague Igar Tyszkiewicz believes that the Constitutional Assembly in the current Ukrainian reality will be a completely ineffective instrument both for social dialogue and its practical application for discussion with legal representatives of CDDLO because of the unpredictability of its results. He also has the same opinion on the referendum on the approval of the new Constitution.
- The referendum is worthwhile to hold, when we are able to predict its results somehow. What if there is a negative voting on the Constitution in CDDLO? We will actually return to the situation in 2014, but in case there is already the IIA, this conflict will be exactly internal – and what consequences can it bring to Ukraine?, - Tyszkiewicz says.
- If the Constitution is approved in a national referendum, it will give the country a new social contract, reset the relations between state and citizens - Harmash says.
- Belarus approved it exactly this way, but it did not give a new social contract, - Tyszkiewicz says. Adoption of the Constitution by the Parliament is enough. But the residents of CDDLO and displaced persons should be involved in its development.
Romanenko agrees with him:
- If the situation stabilizes, the deputies from CDDLO will participate in the voting in the parliament. This is enough.
- Deputies from CDDLO will not vote in the parliament, because no one will elect them at the time of approval of the new Constitution. But, perhaps, you are right, this point can be deleted, since it can become a subject to manipulation in the occupied territory - author of the concept agrees.
TO HURRY OR LATER?
There is no sense to force the Donbass conflict resolution, expert of the Ukrainian Institute for the Future Igar Tyszkiewicz believes.
- No one knows what the next Rada will be like. Perhaps there will be more pro-Russian forces in it. If we take the path of introduction of the IIA without de-escalation, it will give Ukraine time for consolidation, and if we immediately introduce deputies from CDDLO to the parliament, we will get another 24 pro-Moscow "solders", - he says.
Serhiy Harmash does not agree with him.
- First of all, elections will take place there at least in 2-3 years. By that time, having the right policy, pro-Moscow moods will go away. Everyone has already played enough in "republics" and "independence" there, the economic situation in these territories is terrible now, people already understand that they will live better in Ukraine. If you remove the factor of Russian propaganda, the mood there will change quickly.
- It is necessary to take into account the intra-Ukrainian demographic situation. The population of Western Ukraine leaves for Poland by millions – it is the electorate. The pro-European electorate, which supported the Maidan, is leaving. There remains a paternalistic group, pensioners. The demographic balance is terrible, the electoral balance will change. We see where this leads using the example of Moldova, which clearly shows the near future of Ukraine, if the governance model is not fundamentally changed here. Pro-Russian moods in Odessa, Dnipro and Kharkiv are mostly because of economic reasons. Put it crudely, we need to deal with those territories that we already have.
Russia is not interested in Ukraine becoming a stable state formation. Therefore, if you force a return of territories – you can get not only additional financial burden, but also a lot of destabilizing system elements. I do not believe that a solution to the conflict can be accelerated. If we postpone the deadlines – we will get the opportunity to reformat and approach the solution, being stronger. But in general, the model of interim international administration can work, - Yuriy Romanenko believes.
- My idea is not a ready-made recipe, it is just an idea. You can work on it. Moreover, it is already obvious from two of our discussions that at least the idea of introducing the Interim International Administration to the Donbass is accepted by almost everyone. Everyone agrees with the need for adoption of new Constitution and participation of displaced persons and residents of CDDLO, not tainted by terrorism, in its development. – These are the elements that can form the basis of a concept, acceptable to all. But it must be sought without waiting for Russia to collapse under the Minsk sanctions, or Putin to die. Proactive position – this is what should be the basis of Ukraine's policy for the liberation of Donbass, - S. Harmash concluded.
Next meeting of "The Future of Donbass" club of experts is planned for October 17.
The bill "On the peculiarities of state policy to ensure the state sovereignty of Ukraine over temporarily occupied territories of the Donetsk and the Luhansk oblasts" will be the subject of discussion.
It is possible to contact the club's moderator: e-mail mv(@)ostro.org
Maryna Vorotyntseva, Centre for research of Donbass social perspectives
The project is supported by The Black Sea Trust, a project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Opinions, expressed in written or electronic publications, do not necessarily reflect the views of the German Marshall Fund or its partners