STOCKHOLM – The ongoing Greek drama may have transfixed Europe and the world, but the great crisis in Europe’s east has not gone away. Ukraine remains under partial occupation by Russian-backed separatists, with intermittent fighting still taking place, despite the Minsk II ceasefire agreement.
The on-and-off fighting in Ukraine’s Donbas region since the Minsk deal was signed in February has made one thing clear. If Russia is serious about seeking a solution to the conflict, it should be prepared to endorse the deployment of an international peacekeeping mission and force. Such a mission could begin the process of rehabilitating the region, allow those displaced by the violence to return, and facilitate the reintegration of the Donbas into Ukraine with appropriate safeguards and devolved powers.
A useful model for this approach is at hand. Two decades ago, the international community was entering the final phase of efforts to secure peace in Bosnia. But there were also lingering conflicts in Croatia, notably in the Eastern Slavonia region, adjacent to Serbia.
Croatian military offensives, first in early May 1995, and a second in early August, had taken back three of four United Nations-protected sectors from separatist Serb control. But the most important area, Sector East in Eastern Slavonia, remained under firm Serb control. And, much like Russian President Vladimir Putin on the Ukraine issue today, Serbia’s then-president, Slobodan Milošević, insisted that the issue could be resolved only by direct talks between the Serb separatists and the Croat government in Zagreb.