Basic Terminology and Concepts in International Peacekeeping Operations: An Analytical Review
Professor Alexander Nikitin
Translated by Mr. Robert R. Love
Foreign Military Studies Office, Fort Leavenworth, KS
This article originally appeared in Low Intensity Conflict & Law Enforcement Volume 6, Summer 1997, Frank Cass, London.
Prior to November 1998, only the abridged version was available on this Web Site. The full version is now provided below.
Table of Contents
With the growing number of peace operations around the world, the use of standardized terminology helps define and delineate the nature, goal and scope of these operations. Most such operations will involve a multinational force. Given the inherent cultural, political and linguistic differences among nations, a clear and common terminology is essential. If multinational operations are to achieve maximum effectiveness with minimum risk, the relevant terminology must be uniformly understood by all participating nations, forces and personnel.
The concepts behind the terminology must also be commonly understood, particularly when working across several languages. If, for example, a US or other peacekeeper speaks of "rules of engagement," his Russian, French and Polish, etc., counterparts should all understand the concept in the same way. The translator cites this example from personal experience. Back in March of 1994, a team of Russian officers came to Fort Leavenworth to work on peacekeeping tactics, techniques, and procedures for an upcoming combined exercise. While the term "rules of engagement" already existed as a fixed expression in the U.S. military, the Russians could not immediately agree on just what the standard term should be in Russian, which meant that the concept itself needed clarification. Today, in 1997, several combined exercises and real-world operations later, everyone is fairly clear on the concept.
In the article excerpted and translated below, the Russian authors present a practical definition and analysis of peacekeeping terms and concepts. The military author brings direct personal experience to the subject, while the civilian author offers an academic perspective. Colonel Demurenko is an active duty officer in the Russian Armed Forces who served as chief-of-staff of the UN's Sarajevo sector. Dr. Nikitin is a respected Russian academic with expertise in both domestic and international peace operations. The Russians have gleaned much hard-won experience from their peace operations in the "Near Abroad," i.e., the newly autonomous former Soviet republics, and from their participation in international operations. Since Russia's troubles at home and in the Near Abroad are far from over, the authors approach this subject seriously and with a sense of urgency.
A system of generally accepted peacekeeping terms and concepts has now evolved in international practice. These terms and concepts describe the various types of peacekeeping operations and the directives which pertain to them, and they characterize the actions which are taken in the course of performing these operations. For Russian government structures involved in such operations on CIS territory, analyzing and classifying this terminology has considerable practical importance. An incorrect or inexact usage of terms may lead to confusion or mutual misunderstanding, especially in the conduct of international operations. More important still is that this terminology reflects the essential features of the operations and plays an important role in their planning and execution.
Russia does not yet have officially approved peacekeeping terminology. This lack of terminology causes certain problems in preparing for and implementing such operations inside the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and it makes application of internationally accepted standards difficult. Some difficulties also arise because nearly all of the terminology and concepts used in peace operations were developed and formulated in English. Hence, it is not always possible to translate them into Russian literally and yet preserve all the unique features of the English "original."
Peacekeeping operations involve both political activity and the use of an armed force, and they differ in a number of fundamental aspects from classic warfare and traditional combat. They pertain to a broad group of armed forces actions that have come to be known as "operations-other-than-war." In recent years, such operations have become increasingly common in international practice, and they are increasing in both scope and scale. This situation holds true on CIS territory, as well. In order to define such operations clearly, it is first necessary to identify some of the features of "classic" warfare.
War. Several hundred definitions exist for the concept of "war." From this profusion of definitions the most important for our purposes are those describing the missions and goals for using an armed force during the course of a war. Therefore, we will understand war to mean conflict between the armed forces of two or more states or coalitions, with this conflict being conducted in order to achieve certain political goals. In a war (and this is a fundamental characteristic of "classic" wars), armed forces are intended for:
The achievement of some or part of these goals deprives the enemy of the ability to conduct combat actions and forces him either to accept the political conditions put forth by the victor, or to capitulate.
Aggression is the armed attack of one state on another, an egregious international crime. The definition of aggression as adopted by the UN in 1974 lists actions taken by one state against another that are viewed as acts of aggression. The list includes, among a number of other things, a first-strike armed attack by one state on the territory of another, or an attack on its armed forces. The term "indirect aggression" refers to the dispatching by a state, or on behalf of a state, of armed bands, groups, irregular forces or violent persons onto the territory of another state and who then apply armed force on a large scale.
"Self-defense" (individual or collective), as envisioned in Article 51 of the UN Charter, is the right of a state, when subjected to armed attack, to defend itself using armed forces, independently or jointly with other allied states. A broader interpretation of the right to self-defense calls for a state to use its armed forces for the defense of its citizens or against acts of international terrorism.
"Traditional" Armed Forces Operations. In "classic" warfare, armed forces carry out such operations as:
Operations-Other-Than-War. In recent years, international practice has seen broad use of the term "operations-other-than-war." Perhaps a more accurate description would be: "the use of armed forces for purposes other than war." Such operations include:
Sometimes included in operations-other-than-war is the use of armed forces to clean up after large-scale disasters, natural or man-made, and various types of rescue and humanitarian actions.
Unlike "classic" warfare, these operations do not have as their goal the seizure or occupation of an enemy's territory, or the destruction of his political, economic or military-economic structures, or, in most cases, the defeat of an opposing side's armed forces. With rare exception these operations are not carried out against states, but rather against forces, organizations or movements which lack state status or structures. In the great majority of cases, such operations pursue limited goals that have already been strictly defined before an operation begins. Many such operations are conducted through the joint efforts of several states and at the mandate of international organizations.
"Non-Traditional" Operations of Armed Forces. When using an armed force for a purpose other than war, in addition to traditional operations, such as defense, offense, etc., troops mainly carry out "non-traditional" operations not typical of "classic" wars.
Such non-traditional operations would include, among other things: separating the combatants; monitoring cease fires and/or compliance with other conditions of political agreements; controlling the weapons of the hostile sides; disarming combat formations; conducting weapons searches and seizures; providing demilitarized and buffer zones; various forms of monitoring of territory (setting up checkpoints and guard posts, patrolling, etc.); maintaining law and order; halting any violations of armistice agreements; protecting any humanitarian activity and sometimes performing this activity themselves; assisting in the organization and restoration of civilian structures and agencies which support the population's basic daily living; and assisting in the conduct of negotiations between the warring sides, and so forth. In other words, non-traditional operations of armed forces are a sort of combination of police actions, counterinsurgency operations, peacekeeping and the functions of occupation-force organs.
Non-international armed conflict is armed conflict that occurs on a state's territory between government and anti-government armed forces or other organized armed groups, i.e., civilian and ethnic, as well as similar wars that occur inside country's borders. An expanded definition of non-international armed conflict is found in the 8 Jun 77 Supplementary Protocol No. 2 to the 1949 Geneva Convention on the protection of war victims.
At present, no single, strictly verified, coordinated terminology exists that describes peacekeeping operations. However, despite definite differences, the definitions in use to today have much in common and reflect the specifics of various types of peacekeeping operations.
Virtually every well-known classification divides these operations into three groups:
Peacekeeping. Peacekeeping is a common term for various types of activity carried out: to resolve conflict; to prevent conflict escalation; to halt or prevent military actions; to uphold law and order in a conflict zone; to conduct humanitarian actions; to restore social and political institutions whose functioning has been disrupted by the conflict; and to restore basic conditions for daily living. The distinctive feature of peacekeeping operations is that they are conducted under a mandate from the UN or regional organizations whose functions include peace support and international security. English-language sources call these operations "peace operations" (USA) or "peace support operations" (NATO). Peace operations are subdivided into the types shown below.
Operations (or Actions) to Preserve Peace. English-language sources refer to such operations as "military support of diplomacy" (US Armed Forces), or "conflict-prevention missions" (NATO). The goals of operations to preserve peace include:
Non-force political and diplomatic methods play the primary role in the achievement of these goals, e.g., mediation, helping to organize negotiations, developing and implementing compromise solutions to the conflict as a whole, or to individual components of the conflict situation (preventive diplomacy).
"Good offices" are actions taken by a state, an international organization, or prominent state political or public officials, to help the parties in an armed conflict, whether international or non-international, establish direct contact for the start of negotiations that would settle the conflict. While such "good offices" help bring the sides into direct contact with one another, they stop short of actually conducting the negotiations between the sides.
Mediation is the conduct of negotiations by a state, an international organization or prominent state political or public officials, i.e., negotiations with the parties to an armed conflict, whether international or non-international, in order to halt the conflict or regulate some of its aspects (prisoner exchanges, defense of innocent civilians, etc.). The mediating body conveys the offers from one party in the conflict to another. In addition, the mediating body, as it sees fit, may also make its own recommendations about possible avenues of conflict resolution. The mere rendering of "good offices" evolves into actual mediation.
In conducting such operations, the role of peacekeeping forces consists of:
One important use of armed forces for preserving the peace is the preventive deployment of collective (or international) peacekeeping forces in zones of possible or actual escalation of tension. Such a deployment may also play a significant political and psychological role in the peaceful regulation process, since a peacekeeping force may be viewed as a guarantor that neither of the opposing sides will achieve a military victory by suddenly violating an armistice, breaking off negotiations, etc.
Peacemaking. Peacemaking operations are conducted with the mutual consent of the combating sides, or possibly at their request. For example, the parties may decide, independently or under pressure from international organizations or individual states, to cease military actions, but they are unable to do so without help from the world community and international peacekeeping forces.
Among the goals of such operations are:
The political aspect of these operations consists of arranging contacts, either direct or through intermediaries, for purposes of stopping fire, or for a first-time separation of the armed combating sides, as well as to prepare and initiate negotiations to bring the conflict under control. In this process, the armed peace force performs the following basic missions:
Peacemaking operations are generally initiated when the combatants agree to halt their fire, and they usually conclude when armistices are signed.
Peacekeeping Operations. Peacekeeping operations are also conducted with the consent of one or all sides of the conflict and fall into one of two categories. The first includes operations that are a sort of logical or practical continuation of peacemaking operations. After an armistice has been signed, negotiations begin in order to bring about the peaceful resolution of the conflict.
The second category includes operations conducted to implement a previously signed accord. One such example would be the NATO operation being carried out in Bosnia subsequent to the Dayton signing. In this case, the goal of the operation, including its military aspect, is assuring implementation of the terms of the agreement by all parties involved in the conflict.
As concerns the military, peacekeeping forces perform the following missions, in addition to other peacekeeping tasks. Peacekeeping forces:
As a rule, peacekeeping operations last as long as there exists the possibility that armed combat might resume or that any other form of conflict might arise.
Coercive actions are measures which the UN undertakes, based on its Charter, against states that create a threat to peace, violate the peace or commit aggression. The UN Charter prohibits resorting to war in order to implement foreign policy or resolve international disputes. The UN Security Council enjoys broad powers to take coercive measures against any state which violates this prohibition. Measures employed may not involve the use of an armed force (economic blockades, railway and air transport shutdowns, etc.), or they may involve using an armed force. Coercive measures are taken by the Security Council on behalf of the UN, or as assigned by regional UN organizations (Article 8 of the Charter). These measures may be taken either during an international or non-international armed conflict.
Peace Enforcement. Peace enforcement operations involve the use of an armed force, or the threat of such use, in order to compel combatants to cease their fighting and seek peace. Such operations might include combat actions taken by a peacekeeping force in order to separate and disarm the warring sides. These operations might be directed at all warring parties, or at a single party that refuses to submit to cease-fire demands.
On a practical level, peace enforcement actions include:
Upon successful completion of these missions, i.e., after cessation of military actions, the peace force switches over to actions that are typical of peacekeeping or peacemaking.
It must be noted that a number of peace enforcement operations conducted under a UN mandate have taken the form of "classic" warfare. Such instances would include the UN operation in Korea during the 1950-53 war, and Desert Storm, conducted against Iraq.
Peace-Building Operations. These operations represent the whole aggregate of actions and measures that may be undertaken once the military phase of a conflict concludes. Their purpose is to prevent any renewal of the conflict. In addition to military security measures, such as those taken during peacekeeping operations, peace "building" includes: restoring social and political structures and institutions capable of preventing renewal of the conflict; restoring, first and foremost, trust between the previously warring parties; providing at least a minimal guarantee that the population will survive; resolving problems of refugees and other categories of people who have suffered during the conflict; and restoring the economy and effective operation of civilian structures, including those responsible for law and order, health care and education.
Generally speaking, both civilian and military peacekeeping forces and organizations take part in peace-building operations. The military's specific job is to effect a final demobilization of the now former combatants' armed formations.
Humanitarian Actions. Humanitarian actions, in whatever form or on whatever scale, are a part of almost all peace operations. In addition, they are carried out independently from other efforts aimed at ending the conflict and restoring peace.
Humanitarian actions are undertaken to provide relief. They support the survival of the civilian population who have fallen victim to military actions. Very often these actions are conducted through the joint efforts of peacekeeping forces and international organizations, both governmental and non-governmental. Humanitarian actions generally include:
The first responsibility of peace forces is to protect those who are performing the humanitarian missions, as well as to guard equipment, food, medicine and other items of material value. In practice, however, it is most often the military themselves who carry out the bulk of the humanitarian work. English-speaking sources describe such operations as "humanitarian assistance operations," or "humanitarian missions."
Intervention by one or several states into the internal affairs of another state may involve the use of an armed force. Intervention carried out against a state's will constitutes a flagrant violation of international law. When intervention is carried out at the request of the state in which armed conflict is underway, that intervention is lawful and legal.
Large-scale police operations, which are carried out by the forces of one state on the territory of another, occupy a definite place among operations-other-than-war. Police actions, in contrast to peacekeeping operations, are usually conducted pursuant to the decision of a state's national leadership, rather than a decision taken by various international organizations, although the latter is also possible. It has often been the case that one country conducts such operations without the consent of the host country.
The goal of international police actions is to suppress criminal activity that has an international character, eradicate criminal communities and terrorist organizations, and to free hostages, etc.
Examples of such operations might include actions by the American armed forces to combat the Latin American drug trade; Israeli operations to destroy terrorist bases in Lebanon; Moroccan troop actions against POLISARIO rebels in the Western Sahara; the seizure by American troops of President Noriega after the latter became enmeshed in drug trafficking; and a number of other examples. Because of intense situations in the peripheral regions of the former USSR and the increase in organized crime hotbeds there, Russian authorities may be faced with the need to strike terrorist bases, narcotrafficking centers, and so on, which lie outside the borders of the Russian Federation.
The legal aspects of such operations are very poorly developed. In several instances they could be classified as interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. The criteria used to differentiate between national liberation forces engaged in a lawful struggle, on the one hand, and terrorists and separatists, on the other, are absolutely arbitrary.
Peacekeeping operations now have a fairly well-developed document base. The most important documents defining the actions of peacekeeping forces include: the mandate for the operation; the status-of-forces agreement; the operations plan; the rules of engagement; and the standard operating procedures.
The Mandate. The peacekeeping operations mandate provides the legal basis for the deployment and actions of the peacekeeping force. Ideally, it formulates the goals and missions of the peacekeeping force: size and structure of the international armed force that will carry out the operation; definition of the command and control system for the operation; responsibility of the international organization carrying out the peacekeeping operation and the government of the host country; and other basic points. Most peacekeeping operations mandates have been UN Security Council resolutions. In the majority of cases, UN mandates are in effect only for a short time, usually three to six months. This makes possible a fairly flexible reaction to a changing situation, as well as corrections to the force composition and its missions.
Status-of-Forces Agreement (Combined International Forces). This agreement is concluded between the UN (or other organization under whose mandate the peace operation is conducted) and the country on whose territory the peacekeeping force is deployed. It defines the basic rights, immunities and privileges of the peacekeeping personnel, and it also governs:
The more detailed and skillfully prepared the status-of-forces agreement, the fewer problems arise for the peacekeeping force as it organizes the operation and performs its functions.
The Operations Plan, or the Peacekeeping Force Commander's Concept. The operations plan is a very important document that defines the specific actions to be taken by the peacekeeping force as it carries out the international organization's mandate. The plan takes the form of a directive from the commander of the peacekeeping forces and contains the following basic points:
Rules of Engagement. One of the most important principles of international peacekeeping operations is restraint in the use of force (weapons). This principle is usually formulated as follows: weapons may be used only under extreme circumstances, when there is no other way to protect the life and health of service personnel. Much significance is attached to the creation, adoption and observance of the "rules of engagement" (abbreviated "ROE" in English-language sources). These rules strictly govern all instances involving the justifiable use of weapons, as well as the restrictions and rules for their use.
The key elements covered in the rules of engagement are the following:
The rules of engagement state:
Standard Operating Procedures. The standard operating procedures are a composite document containing the operation mandate, the peacekeeping force commander's concept, and the instructions and orders that spell out the actions of the force on the sector level. The standard operating procedures contain: historical and political information; the organizational and administrative structure of the sector and its headquarters; a breakdown of duties; missions of operational units and services; basic provisions on the rules of engagement; the operations plan; and other directives. In other words, the standard operating procedures contain all the information and directives essential for the successful practical functioning of the peacekeeping units and subunits on the tactical level.
Peacekeeping Forces. Peacekeeping forces are civilian and military personnel designated by the national governments of the countries participating in the peace operation. These personnel are placed at the disposal of the international organization under whose mandate the given operation is being conducted.
Generally, peacekeeping forces are made up of national contingents under international command. Each national contingent is assigned either a zone of responsibility or specific functional duties.
Coordination between the national contingents and the peacekeeping operation command is usually governed by those parts of the operations plan that set forth the chain of command and the powers of responsible personnel on the operational and administrative staff.
Internally, the national contingents operate in accordance with their own manuals and regulations, except in instances covered by the operations plan, the status-of-forces agreement or other directives.
Zone of Responsibility. The zone of responsibility is the sector of territory in the host nation that is designated for a specific national contingent. This contingent bears responsibility for executing the missions of the peacekeeping operation within the geographical boundaries of its sector.
Demilitarized Zones, Buffer Zones and Security Zones. Demilitarized zones, buffer zones and security zones are areas defined either by the mandate or the operations plan. Special conditions are imposed for these areas. For example, deployment of the combatant armed forces in this area may be prohibited, and/or positioning of combatant weapons in these areas may be prohibited or restricted.
As a rule, no combatant armed formations or weapons may be located in a demilitarized zone. Less stringent restrictions may be placed on buffer and security zones. For example, heavy weapons may be prohibited here. Perhaps combat formations will be permitted in such an area, but with no weapons whatsoever. In buffer and security zones, law and order are generally maintained by the peacekeeping force. The peacekeeping force also monitors compliance with the conditions of the zone.
These zones are usually established: along the combatant's engagement lines or sectors, in areas that hold particular strategic value, or in areas where the fighting is especially fierce.
Levels of De-Escalation and Resolution of the Conflict. The purpose of peace operations is generally to bring military actions to a halt and to assist in the gradual de-escalation and settlement of the conflict. In this regard it would be useful to define the basic stages of such resolution, which would then make it possible to formulate more precisely the goals and missions of the peace operation during each of the stages.
Settling the Conflict
The complete settlement (or resolution) of a conflict assumes the elimination of the conflicting interests of the countries or non-state entities, i.e., elimination of those conflicting interests which in their practical implementation resulted in political, economic, diplomatic or military confrontation. Such settlement becomes possible under the following circumstances:
"Freezing" of the Conflict
Given the foregoing, a so-called "freezing" of the conflict might be a relatively realistic goal for peace operations. The parties to the conflict, although retaining their incompatible interests, relinquish the realization of these interests. This comes about under the pressure of circumstances and pressure from the international community, or because the parties' interests have become less important. One form of conflict "freezing" may be a sort of cul-de-sac, i.e., a realization by the sides that continuation of the conflict offers no future, since neither side can ever win. In both instances, the point of the peace operation is to create a guarantee for both sides of the conflict that a resumption of military actions is either impossible or extremely unlikely. Such a guarantee is of the utmost importance in creating a political-psychological atmosphere that will help reduce the level of the conflict and bring about cooperative relations between the sides.
The "Festering" Conflict
"Festering" conflicts are the most dangerous, since they may escalate into open military conflict. In this situation, both sides, or at least one side, are looking for the right moment to initiate combat, in the hope that they will gain the element of surprise, some military advantage or some other circumstance that could bring them victory.
Such a conflict status presents the most complex scenario for a peacekeeping force, since it requires them to be in a heightened state of alert, always ready to act to prevent armed clashes. Strict compliance with the conditions of demilitarized and buffer zones becomes especially important, as does the monitoring of stockpiles of weapons collected from the combatants. Intelligence requirements rise sharply. The peacekeeping force must be prepared to switch from peacekeeping to peace enforcement operations. In the political arena, timely preparations for peace enforcement become especially important.