Ukraine Update: Overview and signficance of the continuing Russan invasion

Developing

See

Matthew Schofield, “A year after Russia took Crimea, stronger Ukraine military braces for long fight, McClatchyDC, March 5, 2015 (updated 4:17 p.m. EDT).

“Russischer Soldat beschreibt Einsatz bei Debalzewe; Von der Grenze zur Mongolei wurde er in die Ukraine geschickt, erzählt ein russischer Soldat. Er beschreibt auch, wie Panzer umlackiert und Abzeichen abgelegt wurden. 4. März 2015 (19:34 Uhr).

CARSTEN LUTHER, ALEXANDER SCHWABE UND STEFFEN DOBBERT, “OPPOSITION IN RUSSLAND: Die wenigen, die nicht schweigen. Boris Nemzow ist tot, Putins Politik der Einschüchterung wirkt. Sieben Beispiele, die davon erzählen, wie schwer es in Russland ist, Kritik an der Regierung zu üben,” Die Zeit, 3. Marz 2015 (16:16 Uhr).

News of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine has become “old hat”, no longer “hot” news because it continues on a daily basis.

Vladimir Putin has adapted the “salami technique”, used by the Soviet Union to take first one, then another country in Eastern Europe after World War II, to the new demands of the hybrid hidden war, executed first in the Crimea and then in the eastern Ukraine.

Why follow the details of the ongoing Russian invasion of the Ukraine?

Why follow the continued faltering response of the West, led by pacifists and appeasers who have failed to respond to Russian military aggression in Europe with more than economic sanctions?

Those sanctions have always been “too little, too late”. They always seem to come long after the most serious and definite of threats to deter some move or another by Putin, which he ignores, and which have then repeatedly been forgotten–not carried out. Instead, they are recycled and converted to threats to forestall his and Russia’s next act of military aggression.

As a result, such threats are not credible.

It is almost as if Western leaders and their foreign ministers are too busy flying around to meet with each other, and with Putin, to read the newspapers and form a coherent view of what is going on, what has worked and not worked, and what needs to be done.

Just today, less than a week after the assassination in Moscow (some 100 meters from the Kremlin’s walls) of Boris Nemtsov, a leading opposition figure who was an outspoken critic of Putin’s military aggression in the Ukraine—a cold-blooded execution that was almost certainly ordered by Putin or carried out with his approval—Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi flew to Moscow for a “quick visit” with Putin.

His attempt to have it both ways, by visiting the scene where Nemtsov was executed, was pathetic. What counted was that he traveled to Moscow to see Putin, sending the signal that Italy will not push for harsher sanctions against Russia for its current invasion of the Donbas. No doubt Renzi hopes for some kind of gas deal or other concession in exchange.

According to the U.S. military, Russia now has some 12,000 soldiers in the Donbas leading and fighting alongside the so-called “separatists”– which Putin called into being in April, 2014. Further, Russia has an estimated 50,000 troops threateningly poised on its border with the Ukraine, in addition to the 28,000 troops it has stationed in the Crimea.

Today, March 5, 2015, Russia continues its overflights near NATO countries flexing its military muscles, seeking as it were an incident that might provide a further “provocation”.

Yet beyond Russia and the Ukraine, there is so much more going on in the world, such as the advance of Iraqi army and militia forces, and Iranian-led forces, on Tikrit in an effort to reconquer that city from ISIS or the Islamic State group.

In Europe, the Greek crisis has slowed but not let up, leaving Greece’s participation in the Euro Zone and the possibility of a collapse of its financial system very much up in the air.

In Africa, Boko Haram continues its massacres in northern Nigeria and beyond.

In Argentina, the ex-wife of Alberto Nisman, a prosecutor who wss drafting a complaint against President Cristina Kirchner, says she has proof Nisman was murdered. He was killed by a gunshot to the head at close range the evening before he was to testify about a conspiracy with Iran not to bring to justice the authors of a 1994 bombing of a synagogue in Buenos Aires which claimed 84 lives. Nisman had no gunpowder trace on his hands.

In Washington, Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a strong speech to the U.S. Congress attacking the deal Obama and the P5+1 are negotiating with Iran to resolve the nuclear issue.

With all of this going on, why should we continue to pay close attention to the Russian invasion of the Ukraine and the response of the West?

The answer is stark and unyielding.

So long as Russia continues to defy the most fundamental norms of the United Nations Charter and international law, through its invasion of the eastern Ukraine but also through its continued military occupation of the Crimea, Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory conquered by military force, the entire international political and legal order established after World War II under the U.N. Charter (1945) is swaying under the assault of Russia, one of the five permanent members of the Security Council.

We must pay close attention to the Russian military aggression against the Ukraine, and its military threats elsewhere, because the resolution of all the other international conflicts that face the world today, including the Iranian nuclear question and the future of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, depend on upholding the U.N. Charter’s fundamental norms and the rules and mechanisms it lays out for the maintenance of international peace and security.

The threat represented by Putin’s and Russia’s policies of military aggressiom is also an existential threat to the West and the rest of the world.

Putin and Russia possess thousands of nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems which if used–and Russia has raised the possibility of nuclear war–could result in destroying the world.

Managing the risks of accidental nuclear war, or even the intentional use of nuclear weapons, outside the framework of international law and the U.N. Charter, and their definitions of legitimate state actions, is several orders of magnitude more difficult than managing these risks within that framework.

That is why we must pay close attention to Russian policies of military aggression and annexation, however familiar the headlines may become.

So long as Russia defies the postwar international legal and political order established under the U.N. Charter, no nation will be safe, as citizens throughout the world face an unacceptably high risk of nuclear war and annihilation.

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.

Comments are closed.