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The Concept of Peacekeeping: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

5. October 1994 - 8:37

Remarks by Riina Kionka, Chief of Policy Planning, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia
Seminar on Peacekeeping and its Relationship to Crisis Management
5-7 October 1994, NATO HQ, Brussels

Mr. Chairman,

I would like to make a few brief remarks on how we, in Estonia, see the basics of peacekeeping. My remarks must necessarily be theoretical, because up to now we have had no real, hands-on experience in peacekeeping operations. The caveat to this opening is that as the Baltic Peacekeeping Battalion develops, we hope to be ready soon to participate in NATO-sponsored peacekeeping operations within the Partnership for Peace context, and thus will, in the nearest future, be able to speak from experience in addition to speaking from conviction.

But all that is for the future. I'd like to focus now on three aspects of the principles of peacekeeping that we might refer to in the terms used in the title of Hollywood's 1963 western, starring Clint Eastwood, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

First, The Good. These are the principles underlying the idea of peacekeeping.

Estonia is one of those small countries that is, at times, irritatingly attached to principles. We believe that those fundamentals of peacekeeping, including but not confined to impartiality, international sanction, case-by-case involvement, support of the involved parties and multinationalism, are still valid. Where peacekeeping has been fair, if not fully successful, those principles have been adhered to. There is no need to "flesh out" further the mechanisms leading from these principles, as some states have proposed doing within the CSCE framework--all the mechanisms and instruments we need already exist.

This leads me to my second point, namely The Bad. The Bad comes in where the world community, for reasons of financial constraint, benign neglect or political expediency, may consider watering down those honored ideas I just mentioned, thereby allowing large states to act unilaterally in their immediate neighbourhood. This does not constitute peacekeeping, and we should guard against any attempt to move toward this slippery slope. The optimal way to avoid this temptation is not to add more contingencies and procedures, but to strengthen the mechanisms assuring compliance with the existing principles. I would like to stress that it is up to organizations and processes like the UN and the CSCE to increase their own effectiveness in this area, and it is up to member-states to find the political will to act, rather than abdicating responsibility. The good name of respected international organizations should never become a mask behind which one country tries to assert dominance over another by a distorted understanding of peacekeeping.

And now the third point, The Ugly. We see the ugly face of peacekeeping where the good principles have not been followed and the bad tendencies have won a decisive battle. The ugly occurs where the idea of peacekeeping has been irreparably compromised, when one state acts unilaterally under the guise of keeping the peace, or making the peace, or enforcing the peace, or some other such euphemism. This kind of behaviour would mark our arrival at the slippery slope I referred to earlier.

Estonia is also apprehensive that this kind of behaviour may also mark the beginning of slide toward a new division of Europe. We have noted with great concern talk of new spheres-of-influence. We hear the continuing use of the term "The Near Abroad," or, in a kinder, gentler version, "The New Abroad." We observe similar attitudes in discussions about the enlargement of NATO and the European Union. To quote my minister, who spoke on this topic last Wednesday before the United Nations General Assembly, "We are already well past the initial stages of building a European security structure, based on shared values, a structure that goes beyond confrontation between East and West. A viable framework that includes East Central Europe is nearly in place. It is not only late, it is also unacceptable to ponder the plans of architects who speak of spheres-of-influence and to consult contractors who wish to build on sand, or worse, on a slippery slope" (end of quote). The point is simple: when the ugly face of peacekeeping appears, a new division of Europe cannot follow far behind.

In the end of the Clint Eastwood film, a gunfight among the three main characters takes place. The Ugly dies, The Bad gives up, handing over his money to The Good, who lives happily ever after. All of this suggests that in peacekeeping, as in films, the Good may well prevail to harness tendencies toward the Bad, and obliterate the Ugly.

Thank you.

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