Pacifism and appeasement towards Russia in Germany, Europe, and the United States

In Europe, the fact that Angela Merkel and other leaders continue to meet with Vladimir Putin and Sergey Lavrov itself speaks volumes about the fact they have nothing but talk and further appeasement of Russia to offer.

In the asymmetric war between Putin’s tanks and the West’s economic weapons, not understanding that the struggle is already on, they refuse to apply further sanctions against Russia.

Meanwhile, they have taken no binding measures to halt the delivery to Russia by Francois Hollande and France of “The Vladilovstok” — a Mistral-class attack warship and area command and control system representing a 10-year technological advantage over Russia. The ship is in Ste. Navaire, the Russian crew has been trained, and we can expect the ship to slip away under Russian command any day now.

Neither the EU nor NATO nor individual NATO member states have taken any concrete measures to prevent this delivery from taking place. In all likelihood, it will soon be a fait accompli.

At the G-20 summit in Brisbane, Australia this last weekend, German Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared to talk tough to Putin in public, but it turned out to be just talk.

Later that evening, in fact, she engaged in a private four-hour meeting with Putin on the Ukraine. Details were not forthcoming.

The outcome?

More talk, more efforts to find magic formula that will placate the Russian aggressor, Vladimir Putin. This is the evidence that emerged following foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s visits to Kiev and Moscow, where he met with Sergey Lavrov and also Vladimir Putin, on November 18.

Merkel and her foreign minister are lost, with no further ideas for action beyond trying to use more words to talk Putin out of his current aggression in the Ukraine.

On Steinmeier’s meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow, see,

Pilar Bonet (Moscu), “Rusia y Alemania quieren obligar a Kiev y los separatistas a pactar; Ambos países coinciden en que el fin de la guerra en Ucrania requiere acomodar los intereses de las partes en un Estado común,” 18 Noviembre 2014 (20:32 CET).

Julia Smirnova, “Steinmeier sieht Europa vor der Spaltung Außenminister Steinmeier ringt in Kiew und in Moskau um Entspannung in der Ukraine-Krise, doch optimistisch ist er nicht. Die Nato berichtet derweil von weiteren Truppenbewegungen Russlands,” Die Welt, 18. November 2014.

Alison Smale, “Germany’s Foreign Minister, a Man in the Middle; Frank-Walter Steinmeier Meets With Vladimir Putin,” New York Tims, November 19, 2014.

Putin can relax. The Europeans aren’t going to do anything to stop his ongoing military intervention in the Donbas, much less to get him to disgorge the Crimea.

The Americans, for their part, are following the Europeans’ “lead”, such as it is, which means they aren’t even in the game.

They are certainly not leading the NATO alliance, which increasingly appears to be little more than a relic of the last cold war.

Putin has invaded the Ukraine twice, annexing the Crimea, but still NATO members can’t even see their way to abrogating the 1997 partnership agreement with Russia.

They cling to illusions and past dreams which are now dead, ignoring the harsh and threatening facts and realities on the ground. Every threat is transformed into a quest for political consensus, without focusing on the real effectiveness of the response which emerges from this political process.

Imagine! They are not yet agreed on the urgency of stationing large numbers of NATO troops on the eastern front bordering Russia! They insist on complying with the 1997 partnership agreement with Russia, long after the latter has rendered its obligations into mere scraps of torn-up papers lying on the ground.

In Europe, the pacifists and appeasers remain firmly in control. Expect Putin to move swiftly on Mariupol and to continue building his land bridge to the Crimea, as soon as attention is diverted from the Ukraine or the will of the West to oppose his aggression is weakened even further still. He can sit and wait until the circumstances are propitious.

As for the United States, President Barack Obama has recently conceded in his words that Russia’s actions in the Ukraine go beyond an “incursion”. But don’t expect any action to follow that verbal adjustment, or leadership from him, or any real economic sanctions that would significantly increase the pressure on Russia.

See Mark Landler, “Obama Says Russia’s Arming of Separatists Breaks Pact With Ukraine,” New York Times, November 16, 2014. he reports:

BRISBANE, Australia — President Obama edged closer to describing Russia’s military incursions in Ukraine as an invasion, saying on Sunday that the Western campaign to isolate Moscow would continue, though additional sanctions were unnecessary for now.

Speaking to reporters at the end of the annual meeting of the Group of 20, an organization of 19 industrial and emerging-market countries along with the European Union, Mr. Obama said the Russians were supplying heavy arms to separatists in Ukraine in violation of an agreement Russia signed with Ukraine a few weeks ago.

“We’re also very firm on the need to uphold core international principles,” he said, “and one of those principles is you don’t invade other countries or finance proxies and support them in ways that break up a country that has mechanisms for democratic elections.”

Note the juxtaposition between the fact that Russian tanks, artillery and troops have been pouring into the eastern Ukraine, and the fact that Obama sees no need for further economic sanctions at this time.

Such statements make one wonder, eight months after the Russian invasion of the Crimea, and three months after the intensified Russian invasion with regular troops of the eastern Ukraine, whether Obama is “the smartest man in the room”, or rather “the slowest kid in the class”.

In the Middle East, Obama has demonstrated that he is impotent to restrain Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel from pouring oil on the fire by building new settlements in response to terrorist attacks by Palestinians, or to restrain the latter, as the downward spiral of violence continues, unchecked.

With respect to the Islamic State, Obama refuses to introduce combat forces that would empower the battle from the air to be truly effective, sticking to his mantra of “no combat troops” for Iraq. Still, they will eventually have to be sent in. The costs of delay will be high.

In general, at present the United States cannot be viewed as dealing from a position of strength in its foreign affairs. Nonetheless, Obama is hoping to conclude a historic agreement with Iran on the nuclear issue. An important part of the proposed solution will depend on Russia repeocessing Iranian fuel.

This is the world we live in. There are no real leaders in major powers who are willing to act to turn back, or even halt, Russian aggression in the Ukraine.

Putin will continue his “salami technique” approach to gaining control of territory in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, and beyond.

A new Iron Curtain is descending across the face of Europe, as a new Cold War is gathering momentum.

Current governments in Europe and the United States appear unwilling to act to halt Russian advances. Putin won’t be stopped until, in the West, something “clicks”. When that might happen, not even Putin can know.

It may fall to the governments that follow those of the present appeasers to take energetic action to contain the Russians, militarily, economically, and politically.

By then, the costs and the efforts that will be required will have assumed much larger dimensions.

Along the way, accidents could happen, perhaps plungimg countries into war — with nuclear weapons in reserve.

In the meantime, there is little we citizens can do other than to sound the alarm, while trying to maintain a clear-eyed view of the turbulent forces that are sweeping down upon us.

Replacing pacifists and appeasers with real leaders to defend the West’s most sacred values

Then, as soon as we have the opportunity, we can replace the pacifists and appeasers who lead us today with real leaders, men and women who will stand up and fight to defend our most sacred values.

These values include the fundamental principles of the United Nations Charter, such as the prohibition of the threat or use of force across international frontiers, compliance with treaties and other norms of international law, and the promotion and defense of the rule of law, including the protection of fundamental human rights in places like the Donbas, the Ukraine, and even Russia itself.

It is the age-old struggle between tyranny and freedom, between democracy and dictatorship, between the ideology of freedom and democracy on the one hand, and that of dictatorship upheld by guns and a boot upon the neck, on the other.

Generations of Europeans and Americans have fought in this struggle, which has progressed to a point where democracy and freedom have become the dominant ideology in the world.

Moreover, one thing has changed in this age of the Internet: We are all connected now.

Vladimir Putin will not turn back this tide.

One day the Maidan will also come to Red Square.

We await only the leaders of this generation who understand these values, and who will lead us in defending them as their impact spreads throughout the world.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

The Observer
"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.