The Multilateralist

Why Can’t Russia Send Peacekeepers to the Golan?

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."