The crisis in Ukraine could become the most serious confrontation between Russia and the West since the collapse of the Cold War. In addition to the economic sanctions Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently announced, two Canadian Forces observers have been deployed to Ukraine to participate in an international monitoring mission operated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) (Steven Chase & Kathryn Blaze Carlson, “Canada sends observers to join Crimea monitoring mission,” Globe and Mail, 5 March 2014):
The week-long military observer mission is taking place under a chapter of an OSCE accord that allows for “voluntary hosting of visits to dispel concerns about unusual military activities.” Ukraine is a member, as is Russia.
Fen Hampson, a director at the Ontario-based Centre for International Governance Innovation, said the military observers’ ability to carry out their mission will largely depend on Russia.
“The real question is: Is this the kind of fig leaf that the Russians want so they can, in effect, return to their bases?” he said. “They can [otherwise] make life totally miserable for the observers by restricting their freedom of movement and throwing up various kinds of road blocks – literally and figuratively.”
He said “there is huge potential for mischief” and noted it will be incumbent on the OSCE to withdraw the unarmed monitors if the organization feels they are in danger.
“I think this will be a very good indicator of Russia’s real intentions in this situation,” he said. “We will know, in fairly short order, whether they’re willing to co-operate with the OSCE or not.”
A total of 52 personnel from 28 OSCE countries have arrived in Ukraine to participate in the mission, but as of Saturday they have been prevented from entering the Russian-occupied Crimea region.
Photo credit: OSCE