Putin’s triumph over the pacifists and appeasers of the West, and the ferocious opponents he may face in the future (revised February 25, 2015)

COMMENTARY

Revised February 25, 2015

The pacifists and appeasers who lead Europe and the United States, by taking no effective measures to counter Russian military aggression in the Ukraine, have brought us to where we are today.

Russian military forces continue to occupy the Crimea, sovereign territory of the Ukraine conquered by Russian troops and purportedly “annexed” by Russia.

After the military defeat of the Ukrainian army at Debaltseve, in flagrant violation of the Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014 and even the ill-advised Minsk II agreement reached on February 12, 2015, Europe lies defenseless at the feet of the Russian army and Vladimir Putin.

If Putin wants to take Mariupol and seize territory linking his puppets’ “separatist” territories in Donetsk and Luhansk provinces with the Crimea, he can do so.

What was most telling about the collapse of the Minsk II agreement and the military conquest of Debaltseve after the Minsk II ceasefire was supposed to enter into effect on February 15, was that the United States, the EU, and NATO did not even attempt to organize a countervailing force that might halt or even slow the Russian army and its puppets.

No attempt to impose new economic sanctions. No “decision” to send “lethal weapons” to Kiev, which in the event amounted to a cowardly decision not to send such weapons.

Putin appears to have secured blocking votes within the EU which render the possibility of imposing further sanctions on Russia moot. Consequently, the EU was able to do absoluely nothing to deflect the Russian military drive.

Now, we shall return to the pattern of Minsk I, where the Europeans beg Putin to honor his “agreement” (now Minsk II), while his tanks, artillery and other forces and equipment are free to move in and out of the Ukraine at will across an open border, earlier dismantled by Russian military means, and to launch new rebel offensives whenever they deem the moment right.

Meanwhile, the United States has shown that it is all talk and no substance when it comes to opposing Russian tanks on the move in Europe.

NATO’s nuclear deterrent, designed to offset Russia’s immense advantage on the ground with the largest army in Europe, is moot. Inoperative. Not able to be deployed.

Consequently, the pacifists and appeasers who lead the U.S. and Europe have left Europe totally exposed to the Russian military, which is led by a man who has openly expressed approval of the Molotov-Von Ribbentropp agreement of alliance between Russia and Germany in 1939 and its secret division of Poland, who does not consider Russia bound by the prohibition of the threat or use of force in Article 2 paragraph 4 of the U.N. Charter, and who does not feel bound by agreements Russia makes such as the April 17, 2014 Geneva Agreement, the Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014, or the Minsk II agreement of February 15, 2015.

There is no point negotiating with Putin, who is a brazen liar and whose word is worthless.

The next two years are going to be tough, until the United States gets a new president in January, 2017.

Hopefully, he or she will be strong on defending the U.S. and Europe against Russian aggression, and resume forceful leadership of the free world.

National security issues promise to be central to the 2016 presidential campaign.

In the meantime, a Republican Senate, with John McCain as Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and a Republican House are sure to keep foreign policy issues in the limelight.

Barack Obama’s record of passivity and its consequences will not be easy to defend.

The only point of light for the Democrats is the appointment of Ashton Carter as Secretary  of Defense. Carter has in his first few days in office already signalled that he will take a hard-nosed, pragmatic approach to defense and foreign policy issues. He may form a rallying  point and nucleus around which other serious, experienced foreign policy officials within the Obama administration can rally. As in rugby, they may form a scrum that can push through hard measures against Russia, in response to its continuing policies of military aggression and the annexation of conquered territories.

Putin may yet be surprised by the ferocity of the American response to his mlitary aggression, whether in two years or sooner as the Democrats try to reverse a situation which is currently out of control.

Democracies can be slow to react.

The United States was slow to enter World War I and also World War II. In both cases, however, its entry proved decisive to the outcome of the conflict. These are examples Putin would do well to ponder.

So, in the short run, Putin can take Mariupol and seize a land bridge to the Crimea. In the longer term, however, the responses of the West and its allies to any such actions could send the Russian economy into a tailspin from which it could not recover so long as Putin remains in power.

In five years, if not before, we’ll have a better perspective on Putin’s triumphs of the moment.

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.

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