Why Can't Russia Send Peacekeepers to the Golan?

The United Nations is scrambling to find new blue helments for its Golan Heights peackeeping mission, which has seen several key contingents withdraw. But not all offers of help are welcome. The UN is rebuffing Russia's offer to participate. As the New York Times reported earlier this month, Russian president Vladimir Putin is ready to send troops if the Secretary General will only ask. At the United Nations, Russian diplomats have reiterated their willingness.

So why can't Moscow send troops? The Security Council doesn't have to approve every troop contingent for every mission. And presumably the Syrian government--on whose territory the peacekeeping force operates--would be thrilled to have Russian troops nearby. With Moscow champing at the bit, I'm told that the UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations recently sought  clarification on whether Moscow could participate.

The answer from the UN's legal office was no. While I haven't seen the response, the key element is no doubt the 1974 Protocol to Agreement on Disengagement Between Israeli and Syrian Forces Concerning the United Nations Disengagement Force. It provides that members of UNDOF shall be selected by the Secretary General in consultation with Syria and Israel and shall be drawn from "members of the United Nations who are not permanent members of the Security Council." 

The Multilateralist

The UN's Golan Force Tries to Survive

There have been interesting developments recently in the saga of the UN's endangered Golan Heights peacekeeping force. The withdrawal of several troop-contributing states has left the UN scrambling for replacements. But some outlets are reporting that Fiji--a regular contributor to peacekeeping operations--might step in. Meanwhile, the UN is reportedly leaning on Austria to slow down the departure of its troops. Via Al Arabiya:

The U.N. has asked Vienna to keep soldiers in the buffer zone between Syria and Israel until the end of July, a month longer than the four-week timetable Austria gave when it announced on June 6 it was recalling its forces.

“We are still going to pull out, but the question of how and when has to be negotiated with the U.N.,” Spindelegger told reporters.

The defense ministry, however, has said the withdrawal would go as planned.

Spindelegger said Austria’s troop commitment accord stipulated that any exit from the Golan, where the Philippines and India also have troops, requires three months’ notice.

“These three months would end on Sept. 6. The offer from the U.N. says July 31. Now we, together with the defense ministry, have to see that we reach a joint withdrawal plan with the U.N. that heeds everyone’s interests,” he said.