Ukraine in a situation of turbulence: between the hybrid war and the hybrid peace. The small steps mechanism

Following the speech of the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Arsen Avakov at the IX National Expert Forum “Ukraine in a situation of turbulence”

Kiev, June 07, 2018


Today, not only Ukraine but, in fact, the entire world lives in the situation of turbulence.
 The world community is in a dual state – between the hybrid world and the hybrid peace.

This fact is reflected, first of all, in existing approaches to conflict resolution both between subjects of international law and within them.  The experience of seemingly various forms of “peacemaking” (in the post-Soviet space from Transnistria to Karabakh) shows that international structures tend primarily to such options as “freezing” of conflicts, translating confrontations from the military showdown to political-diplomatic form.

It is a kind of “healing” of the disease by its transformation from the acute form to the chronic phase; it rarely leads to recovery, but fraught with complications in the future.

The key problem of the “external” (international-institutional) security contour is that virtually all international structures that claim to ensure international security are the result and continuation of the Cold War era and the bloc confrontation.

Meanwhile, today we live in a completely different world: the structure and the system of relationships in the world should now be considered in the context of the paradigm of “hybridity” – both war and peace. In many respects, it determines the “horizon of thinking“, in which it is possible to understand and assess the current situation meaningfully, in particular, in Ukraine, and the prospects for its development.

We are in a situation when the traditional threats to the world order have changed (mutated) and have emerged entirely new threats, which previously have not been in the focus of our attention.  This situation requires urgent reform and actualization of existing systems for ensuring international and regional security.

The very fact that terrorism is modifying and becoming more complex is of great importance.  The terrorist organizations unite, become more complex and very successfully oppose the government law enforcement agencies in various countries, seizing and controlling entire regions (for example, IGIL).  But in addition to this the states themselves are actually becoming “terrorist states”, and terrorist organizations are becoming their “external” paramilitary structures, instruments for the realization of geopolitical claims and ambitions.


Russia is a terrorist state using the technologies of the “hybrid war”


The Russian Federation, realizing the aggressive foreign policy of the current regime in different regions of the world, has turned into a STATETERRORIST.  The Russian leadership supports the policy of not only terror, but also terrorism, both against the population of Ukraine and Syria, and against their people.

The variety of methods and mechanisms that the Russian Federation uses is shocking.  It uses such elements of pressure on Western countries as hacker attacks, interference in the election process, flows of refugees from Syria, blackmail, intimidation with weapons of mass destruction, energy pressure, manipulative information technologies.

The essential dimension of “hybridity” (in its applied, confrontational sense) is the gradual blurring of boundaries and brinks between “military” and “non-military” components and dimensions of the confrontation itself and its contexts.

“Hybridity” is manifested in the combination of the military operations with economic, informational, political and diplomatic blows to the opposite side and its partner countries.  It creates a “synergistic” effect, whose destructive consequences far exceed the traditional forms of conducting the “declared” war.

The Russian Federation conducts a hybrid war not only against Ukraine but also against all democratic countries.  The presence among the democratic countries of influential “clubs of Putin’s friends”, which are amplified in many European countries, is hazardous.

The security of Europe is threatened not only by wars and terrorism but also by various emergency situations, international crime, etc. The existing international structures (institutions) are not able to adequately counter them, even though the EU is gradually becoming a kind of collective security system that can complement NATO in the European region.

Ukraine is a foothold on which the aggressor hones the military, political, and information technologies of “hybridity”


Unfortunately, it was Ukraine that became the foothold where the aggressor is honing his military, political and information technologies. And that’s why just here, in Kiev, we must discuss the consolidation of our efforts, the all-European strategy of defense.  In the course of our dialogue, we have to work out common security policy, on which today depends the future not just of Ukraine but also Europe, and the stable, steady development of the world economic system.

We bear the brunt of the hybrid war for more than four years – one of the most terrible wars in the history of world lasted only a little longer…

We have found the strength and courage – without having an army, with a completely unbalanced economy – to repel a well-prepared, strong, technically equipped enemy!

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs at the temporarily uncontrolled territories of Lugansk and Donetsk regions under the guise of the paramilitary troops of the so-called “DNR” and the “LNR” is located the task group of the Russian occupation forces including the first and second Army Corps. The first one is Donetsk; the second one is Lugansk.  These Corps are assigned to the 8th Army of the Southern Military District of the Russian Federation and consist of the local population, mercenaries and regular military servicemen of the Russian Federation. The authorized strength of these Corps amounts to 35.5 thousand. In their arsenal: 478 tanks, 848 armored cars, up to 750 artillery systems and mortars, 208 multiple-launch rocket system, 363 anti-tank weapons, 419 air defense weapons.

And we in the spring of the 2014th had only three weapons: the moral courage of the Dobrobats fighters, the selflessness of the volunteers and the team of state managers who could not let their country die!

As Golda Meir had precisely formulated: “We had a secret weapon – the lack of an alternative”!  We have stopped the enemy.  But it is our common cause – to stop an unprecedented, insidious, based on lies and fakes hybrid war!


Minsk agreements have exhausted their peacekeeping potential


Today, the most important priority of the security policy is the development and strengthening of the security and defense sector. The future of our state, its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and hence the stability and security of Europe, largely depends on the combat capability of the Armed Forces and the efficiency of law enforcement agencies.

It is time to recognize that the Minsk agreements have exhausted their peacekeeping potential.  The urgent task now is to work out a new format for resolving the conflict and restoring sovereignty over the temporarily occupied territories.

Obviously, the time has come to work out a new, more effective strategy for resolving the armed conflict as well as a detailed plan for a phased restoration of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.


A strategy of de-occupation and reintegration of the occupied territories of Donbas on the basis of the SMALL STEPS MECHANISM as one of the real ways to end the war


We propose a strategy of de-occupation and reintegration of the occupied territories of Donbas by the SMALL STEPS MECHANISM.

Ukraine is already moving in this direction.  I mean the Law on De-occupation and Reintegration of Donbas, as well as the National Security Bill No. 8068, which will allow to improve the effectiveness of state policy in the sphere of national security and defense and ensure timely and effective response to threats.

But we need to adopt several more legislative acts that will contribute to the restoration of the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Among them there are two most important laws:

  • The adoption of the Amnesty Law, which will affect the majority of people living in the occupied territory and involved in the conflict. Amnesty will not cover only those persons who have committed serious offenses or war crimes. Amnesty will not cover those persons who have “blood on their hands”. As to these persons, criminal proceedings must be opened, and the measure of their guilt will be determined by the Ukrainian Law.
  • The adoption of the Law on Collaborators. It should be officially stated that legally every citizen of Ukraine is endowed with all civil rights under the Constitution of Ukraine. And then, using the mechanism prescribed in the Law, it will be necessary to determine the status of each citizen: whether he/she is a victim of the occupation regime (the majority); or a participant, who by virtue of circumstances cooperated with the occupation regime; or a criminal who killed our soldiers and participated in repressions against civilians. Accordingly, the Law should determine the degree of public response to the relevant status of each person.

This is a very complex issue, which touches on the level of the society’s readiness for compromise, but it must be solved. These laws will lay the foundation for the overwhelming majority of the population of the temporarily occupied territories to return legitimately to the Ukrainian legal framework, to obtain civil rights and access to state services. Only after that, it will be possible to hold elections in these territories.

The equally important preparatory factor is a carefully designed communication strategy to explain people within Ukraine our plans! It is necessary to achieve people’s understanding and to get support from the civil society of Ukraine, since only the consolidation of the entire Ukrainian people and the transparency of all processes will allow the program to be fully implemented, including unpopular but necessary measures.

The deployment of an international peacekeeping mission, the definition of the status and order of involvement of international regulatory forces, the program of international monitoring, advisory and resource assistance is also an integral step in the implementation of the de-occupation and reintegration phase through the Small Steps Mechanism.

What’s really  this mechanism:


  1. A separate area (district) of the occupied territories of Donbas is chosen and agreed upon, and the opposing military formations at this area are withdrawn behind the agreed line; thus, a demilitarized security zone is created.

For the simultaneous de-occupation and reintegration of all temporarily occupied territory of the Donbas, it will be necessary to find and enter in Ukraine from 20 to 40 thousand peacekeepers. Since it is impossible, it is proposed to start from a separate city or district (for example, Gorlovka and/or Novoazovskiy district).

  1. A special international peacekeeping mission and the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine take control of the specified area of the territory and its borders.
  • They enter the territory of a certain city or district;
  • Ukrainian border guards and peacekeepers jointly take control of the border;
  • In the rest of the territory, law and order are provided by the National Police and the National Guard of Ukraine together with the “blue helmets”. At the very first stage, it is possible to involve also volunteers from among the local population, representing local village and settlement councils.


  1. Within the liberated territory, the Ukrainian judicial authorities conduct preparations for the electoral process and subsequent local elections in accordance with Ukrainian legislation.

It is not important who wins this election; it is fundamentally important that the process is conducted by Ukrainian legislation with guarantees of free will. Even if they choose a candidate with frankly pro-Russian views, in the strategic perspective, after the conflict resolution processes are completed, this issue will be balanced in the coming years.

  1. On the territory of the reintegrated area, the work of all state institutions and law enforcement bodies of Ukraine is being restored.

It is essential to form a transitional administration, which will observe the Ukrainian legislation and will start to work with central government bodies within the framework of reintegration and rehabilitation procedures.

  1. The process of reintegration is beginning.

First of all, it is necessary to improve the quality of life of citizens in the de-occupied territory (health care, education, pensions and other types of social welfare, financial and banking sphere, job creation, employment of the population).

  1. The procedure of humanitarian demining of the previously occupied territory is being carried out.

The zone of military hostilities in the Donbass and the area around it is one of the most polluted by mines and explosive remnants of war regions in the world. According to the UN, about 700,000 hectares of Ukrainian territory is mined.

  1. Immediate work is being carried out to eliminate technogenic and environmental risks and threats.

The area of combat operations is always becoming a zone of ecological disaster due to the destruction of soils, local flora and fauna, and contamination of the territory. When it comes to the Donbass, one should additionally take into account the specifics of the region, in which there are numerous mines, enterprises (including chemical ones), and 1,200 sources of ionizing radiation. All of them constitute a threat of pollution of sources of drinking water, epidemics, emissions and explosions of methane and other harmful substances. The ecological catastrophe of Ukraine will be an ecological disaster for the whole of Europe!  (Annex 1).

  1. An urgent program is launched to check and restore Ukrainian documents for all people who have lived these years in the occupied territory.

There must be a special mechanism for a very thorough check of these people to ensure that Ukrainian passports are issued exclusively to Ukrainian citizens.

  1. The process of restoring the social and economic infrastructure is beginning: roads, bridges, institutions, enterprises.

According to various estimates, it will take at least ten years and US$ 20 to 30 billion to restore the region’s social and economic stability.

Since in the foreseeable future Ukraine will be unable to compensate by itself damage from military aggression, special measures of economic support are needed:

  • a legislative embodiment of the mechanism for attracting donors and investors and providing them with an opportunity to control the expenditure of funds (Council for the distribution of funds);
  • the creation of the agency (the Fund) for recovery of Donbas with the participation of experts from reputable international organizations; for example, it can be done on the base of the US Institute of Peace, whose Executive Vice President is William B.Taylor, the former US Ambassador to Ukraine in 2006-2009;

USIP’s Strategic Goals:

To help prevent, manage, and resolve violent international conflict both within and between states;

To promote post-conflict stability and development;

To increase peacebuilding capacity, tools, and intellectual capital worldwide;  

To teach, train, inform policymakers, practitioners, students and the public about the challenges of conflict prevention, management, and resolution and how to respond to those challenges.

  • tax and other incentives for investors;
  • possibly, the creation of free economic zones for the restoration of the economy of Donbas.
  • the creation of a special reserve fund with the participation of international organizations.


  1. Work is being carried out to return internally displaced persons, e., to foster internal migration of the population to areas abandoned due to hostilities.

It should be taken into account that the return to Donbass of people who have lived for several years not covered by the toxic Russian propaganda will help restore the confidence of the local population to the Ukrainian authorities and to some extent facilitate reintegration.

  1. The participation of citizens residing in the previously occupied territories in elections to the central authorities of Ukraine is resumed, but not earlier than in 3-5 years.

Elections can only be conducted in the demilitarized territory. They can not take place in the absence of a sufficiently secure environment and capable institutions.


A hasty holding of elections can contribute to the strengthening and resumption of the conflict with a new force.

For example in Angola in 1992  the victory of one side in the elections with a margin of 1-2% triggered a new conflict and led to a new civil war. The war ended only in the early 2000’s.

Elections can be held when the state borders are under state full control or control of international observers. Otherwise, there are no security guarantees on the voting day.

In Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Liberia, elections took place after the establishment of effective control over the border crossing (2-5 years after the end of conflict).

In the case of Bosnia, the OSCE, under pressure from Western governments, sanctioned the conduct of the elections, ignoring the absence of some conditions for democratic voting. As a consequence, after the national elections, the leading positions were won by people with little interest in the full implementation of the peace agreement.


The most appropriate time interval between the ceasefire and the conduct of elections is three years. If elections are held less than two years after the ceasefire in the case of young democracies, and in less than one year – in the case of developed democracies, this leads to the resumption of armed confrontation.


Such period is necessary to ensure the conditions for an honest and free expression of will and the formation of a moderate local political force capable of counterbalancing the radicals.


Also, this time is necessary to return refugees and internally displaced persons to previously occupied territories. It is impossible to deprive the refugees and temporarily displaced persons their right to participate in the elections! We need to give them the opportunity to return and settle in places of their previous residence!


Changing the electoral legislation requires at least one year to familiarize all participants in the electoral process (commissions, parties, voters, etc.) with the new rules and arrange their work.


Conducting national elections to the Verkhovna Rada in the previously occupied territory before disarmament, demilitarization, restoration of control over the border, proper legislative and institutional provision of elections will not lead to a solution to the conflict. The results of such elections will not be recognized by the majority of the conflict parties and, therefore, the entire process will be doomed to failure.


The results of the implementation of the Plan of De-occupation and Reintegration of the Occupied Territories


As a result of the implementation of the Plan, the systemic work of the authorities is restored on the liberated territory, the quality of life of people is improved, security and law and order are ensured, and all livelihoods processes are normalized. A normal peaceful life returns to the war-torn cities and villages.

Further the project is scaled to the neighboring districts. Moreover, each next stage of de-occupation and reintegration will be easier, because residents of liberated cities and villages will become “agents of influence”, an example and a model for their neighbors.

Thus, it can be expected that the phased process of de-occupation and reintegration will proceed with increasing intensity and will be more efficient and less resource-intensive than a one-stage operation in the entire temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine.


The Ministry of Internal Affairs and its CEBs are the key actors in the liberation of the Donbas and restoring control over the state border of Ukraine


We understand that the liberation of the territory of the Donbass and the restoration of control over the eastern border will be a police operation involving the peacekeeping forces, not the military one.  The forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs: the National Police, the National Guard, the State Border Guard Service, the State Emergency Service, and the Migration Service are preparing for this option; each of our services is already developing a Strategy for the reintegration of these territories within its remit. As soon as the war leaves this land, our services will be ready to immediately begin to perform their functions taking into account the peculiarities of the situation.

And it is our National Police, the National Guard, the Migration Service, and the Service Centers that will be for the local population the bearers of the ideology and positive changes that had occurred in Ukraine when these territories were torn from us. We must demonstrate positive changes, bring peace, security, and open, friendly European Ukraine to this land!  And this is also our common task!  Let’s work out this plan together – and the world will become more harmonious, capable of development and economic prosperity!

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and its structures (NPU, NGU, SBGS, SES) can be considered the key tools and mechanisms for implementing this plan, and they can play proactively to oppose the strategies of the increasingly complex “hybrid war” against Ukraine.


Here we have a special role as the active subject of countering the “hybrid war” and pro-active guarantor of social stability.

Ukraine needs to regain territorial integrity and sovereignty over the occupied territories of the Crimea and the Donbas.  And we must achieve this not by appeasing the aggressor, but by a series of progressive steps and reasonable compromises.

We will return not the territories but people!  These people are traumatized by Russian propaganda and the bandit regime, thus so much depends on what State they will return to, what State they will see.

A hybrid peace will come after the hybrid war, and we have to prepare to meet its challenges


There is no doubt that the “hybrid war” will end sooner or later.  However, the problems that have been already generated and are still generating by it will not disappear. Rather, on the contrary, they will enter as important components into the specific phenomenon of the “hybrid peace”. And both Ukraine and the world community will have to learn how to answer the challenges of this peace including manipulative information technologies, hacking, economic blackmail, various manifestations of terrorism. The world has changed forever.

Therefore, our strategic task is to prepare for the oncoming “hybrid peace” in the situation of the ongoing “hybrid war”, expanding the scope from the awareness of the problem to the development of new effective prevention mechanisms.

As the Strugatsky brothers wrote in their novel “The Ugly Swans” (1967), “the future is a thoroughly neutralized present”. The global security system should be built today precisely to provide for such future.