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The Daily Vertical: Putin Plays Peacekeeper Games (Transcript)

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

So now Vladimir Putin says he supports sending UN peacekeepers to the Donbas.

And since this is something Ukraine has been requesting for years, this must be good news, right?

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel certainly seems to think so.

Gabriel called Putin's proposal "surprising," adding that it is a change in Russian policy "that we should not gamble away" and an "opening to talk about detente."

But, before we get carried away, let's take a closer look at the fine print of what Putin is actually proposing.

Speaking at the BRICS summit in China, Putin said he would support sending UN troops only to the demarcation line separating the territories held by Moscow's proxies in eastern Ukraine from the rest of the country.

And this is quite different from what Kyiv has been demanding: that is, international peacekeepers throughout the Russian-occupied parts of the Donbas and -- most importantly -- on Ukraine's international border with Russia.

A border that has long been used by Moscow to smuggle troops and weapons into Ukraine.

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Putin's peacekeeper gambit is a clever ploy for a number of reasons.

It perpetuates the myth that Russia is a mediator in a war in which it is, in fact, the aggressor.

It creates the illusion that Moscow is being reasonable and agreeing to a key Ukrainian demand, when in fact it is not.

And it creates the impression that the front line in the Donbas conflict zone is, in fact, Ukraine's international border, which it certainly is not.

Putin's proposal may yet inadvertently open the door to a serious discussion about sending a real international peacekeeping force to Ukraine at some point.

But at this point, we should see it for what it is.

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