Appeasement, American-style: Kerry reportedly did not raise Crimea withdrawal in Paris talks with Lavrov on March 30

If one wants to see what appeasement, American-style, looks like, one need look no further than the Kerry-Lavrov talks in Paris on Sunday, at which The Wall Street Journal reports U. S. Secretary of State John Kerry did not even raise the issue of Russian withdrawal from the Crimea and restoration of the status quo ante existing prior to the Russian military takeover of the peninsula.

See Jay Solomon and Stacy Meichtry, “Kerry’s Talks With Russia’s Lavrov Fail to Ease Ukraine Crisis; Kerry Pressed his Russian Counterpart to Pull Troops Back From the Ukrainian Border, Wall Street Journal, March 30, 2014 (updated 8:39 p.m. ET).

Solomon and Meichtry report the following stunning detail:

The question of Crimea’s future also appeared to be largely drowned out during the diplomacy Sunday. U.S. officials had only a few weeks ago been demanding Mr. Putin reverse his annexation of the territory and pull back his troops. Mr. Kerry on Sunday didn’t mention Crimea during his remarks—giving the impression that the U.S. has largely given up reversing the region’s absorption into Russia. But Mr. Kerry said he told Mr. Lavrov the “United States still considers the Russian actions to be illegal and illegitimate.”

If this report is accurate, it shows that America under Barack Obama is not only clueless, but totally lacking any moral compass.

The one demand from the West that should begin any conversation with the Russians is the demand that they undo their annexation of the Crimea, and withdraw their troops to positions they were in prior to the military seizure of the Crimea.

That is or should be our demand.

We should make it clear to the Russians that we, and international law, will never waiver in that demand.

We should also back that demand with economic sanctions that block any company doing business in the Crimea from participation in our financial system, or trade with the EU and the U.S.

The alternative is the road of appeasment, which leads to the collapse of the postwar political and military order. This postwar military, political and legal order has been guided by bedrock principles of the U.N. Charter and peremptory norms of international law (jus cogens) prohibiting military aggression and annexation through the use of military force. When a principle of jus cogens or peremptory law is involved, there can be no exception by way of agreement among states.

Under international law, any agreement among the EU, the U.S., and Russia to recognize the annexation of the Crimea, would be null and void.

In the U.S., Democratic leaders need to take control of foreign policy sufficiently to turn President Obama away from the path of pacifism and appeasement. If they don’t, as the consequences of inaction become clear, and the country awakes after Iraq and Afghanistan from its current war fatigue and stupor, the Democrats are likely to lose both the White House and the Congress to the Republicans in 2016.

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"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by The Observer, an international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. He is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (IACHR), where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, The Observer has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. The Observer speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, The Observer has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on the best articles that have appeared in the blog.