Archive for the ‘Barack Obama’ Category

Keeping our eyes on the all: Sectoral sanctions must be imposed against Russia, NOW, for its invasion, purported “annexation”, and continuing occupation of the Crimea

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Developing

If the pacifists and the appeasers in Europe and the United States can always find new reasons not to respond seriously to Russian aggression against the Ukraine, we should not be surprised, because it is easier to constantly shift attention from one detail to another in the never-ending quest to avoid looking at the elephant in the room, at the harsh, bold facts, to wit:

(1) Russia has invaded the Ukraine and purported to “annex” the Crimea, including the city of Sevastopol, in fagrant violation of Article 2 paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter, which prohibits “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence” of any state.

The presence of Russian troops and naval forces in the Crimea as a result of this invasion and occupation represents an ongoing violation of Article 2(4) of the Charter. Individual states are authorized under Article 51 of the Charter to use all necessary and proportionate measures necessary to repel this aggression, including economic sanctions and other measures up to and including the use of force.

(2) Russian invasion of the eastern Ukraine, which is continuing with the supply of weapons and fighters, constitutes a separate and ongoing violation of Article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter, giving right to the adoption of measures of collective self-defense, from economic sanctions up to and including the use of force.

The invasion of the eastern Ukraine by special operations, intelligence and other irregular forces is continuing, under overall Russian direction and control. The latter fact is manifest to any outside independent analyst who puts together all of the pieces of the new Russian form of “stealth warfare”.

(3) The shooting down of Malaysian Flight MH17 over territory of the Ukraine controlled by so-called “pro-Russian separatists” is merely a continuation of a pattern of military actions by “separatists” who all evidence suggests are coordinated and directed by Moscow.

The repercussions are international, and bring home to nations whose citizens on that flight were murdered by Moscow-backed separatists that there is a hot war going on in the heart of Europe, caused and continued by one nation, the Russian Federation.

Calls from Western leaders for a “ceasefire” and negotiations between the “separatists” and the Ukrainian authorities are so unprincipled as to be almost criminally naive.

These calls are being made by leaders of the countries which have chosen appeasement as the response to Russian aggression.

Any calls for a cease-fire which are not directly tied to an immediate end of the Russian aggression should simply be ignored.

The Ukraine has the inherent right as part of its sovereignty and political independence to reestablish piblic order within its territory. It should be allowed to do so without meddling by outside powers, or measures recommended as acts of appeasement in the face of threats of intensified aggression by Russia.

Some serious third-stage sanctions should be imposed against Russia now for its continuing illegal occupation of the Crimea, including the city of Sevastopol.

One economic sanction that would be supported by powerful logic would be a ban of business with any company or individual in the Crimea (except as may be authorized by the Ukrainian government), and a ban on any trade or business or financial transactions with any company doing business with any companies or individuals in the Crimea, as outlined above.

What is needed at this point to stop Russian aggression and reverse its effects are serious third-stage sanctions against Russia itself, including important sectors of its economy.

There will be a cost for Europe and the United States to pay.

Do the leaders of these countries think, however, that liberty and the freedom which they currently enjoy in democratic societies can be maintained without any sacrifice, without paying any price at all?

They would do well to reflect on the sacrifices their parenta and grandparents made, paid in blood and tears and not just money, when deciding how to act now to halt Russian aggression and to roll back its recent territorial conquests.

Do they think that the problem of Russian xenophobic nationalism and irredentism will be solved without the Crimea being returned to the Ukraine?

International law is absolutely unequivocal in its position that the Russian “annexation” of the Crimea is without legal effect, and does not change its status as territory of the Ukraine illegally occupied by Russian forces.

Do the members of the EU and the U.S. imagine for an instant that Hitler’s aggressions and annexations might have been stopped by “targeted sanctions” directed against German individuals, banks and companies?

The situation is similar now with Putin.

It is time now to contain Russian irredentism and aggression with forceful actions. Such actions are explicitly permitted under international law.

Russian aggression will not be stopped by empty threats or words. Only forceful actions, beginning with real economic sanctions, have any chance of producing the desired effects.

The Trenchant Observer

Putin the aggressor, and the downing of Malaysian Flight MH17

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Developing

One man, President Vladimir Putin, and one country, the Russian Federation, are responsible for launching an invasion of the Crimea and its annexation, and the invasion by special operations and irregular forces of the eastern Ukraine, particularly in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk and the territory in between.

As the Ukrainian armed forces have tightened their noose around the so-called “pro-Russian separatists” (actually led by Russian citizens who are either current or former military intelligence officers), Russia has dramatically increased its directed flow of Russian “volunteers” (recruited and dispatched by Russia) across the border into the Ukraine.

In coordinated large-scale military operations, Ukrainian border posts and control centers have been attacked and/or taken over by “separatist” forces, throwing the border wide open. These forces appear to have included Russian special operations and irregular troops.

After the fall of Sloviansk to the Ukrainian armed forces and the retreat of the “separatists” to the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, Russia has supplied pro-Russian forces with growing numbers of heavy weapons including tanks and increasingly sophisticated air-defense systems. The latter have been used in recent weeks to shoot down Ukrainian aircraft, including a transport plane whose downing led to the loss some 41 lives. Only days ago, another plane was shot down. A Ukrainian jet was also shot down by a missile which may have been launched in Russia.

Vladimir Putin, who launched his war of aggression and annexation in blatant violation of Article 2 paragraph 4 of the U.N. Charter and its absolute prohibition of “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence” of any state, is morally and legally responsible for actions taken in the war he launched and which he continues to coordinate in the eastern Ukraine.

His efforts to maintain “plausible deniability” as he engages in the new Russian form of “stealth warfare” (e.g., “little green men” in the Crimea, subsequently acknowledged to be Russian special forces), are transparent and in vain in terms of shielding him from political and legal responsibility.

Just as he and Russia are complicit and responsible under international law for supporting the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity by Bashar al-Assad and his regime in Syria, Putin is responsible for the actions of the military and irregular forces he has launched against the eastern Ukraine in what is an ongoing and intensifying invasion and war of aggression.

Nor should we forget the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Putin and Russia in Chechnya.

He is a presumptive war criminal. A cold-blooded killer.

For the taking of a human life outside the framework of domestic and international law–which provides for self-defense and punishment-with-due-process exceptions–is, in legal and moral terms, simply murder.

Only an international or domestic court can make the authoritative finding that Putin is legally guilty of war crimes. One can only hope that some day, perhaps in the distant future, such proceedings will be held. In the meantime, we can draw our own conclusions from the evidence that is available. Certainly he deserves to be tried as an accused war criminal.

The next time Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande, or Barack Obama sits down for dinner and a glass of wine with Vladimir Putin, they should have present in their mind that they are looking into the cold blue eyes and expressionless face of a presumptive war criminal responsible for the deaths of tens if not hundreds of thousands of human beings.

We don’t know what specific orders and chain of command was responsible for the downing of Malaysian Flight MH17. However, it is worth noting that Putin has often responded to increased sanctions with an escalation (e.g., annexation of the Crimea), and increased “targeted sanctions” were imposed by the U.S. and the EU only a few days ago.

It is hard to imagine that “separatist” forces in the Ukraine, or even Russian forces operating within Russia, would be shooting down Ukrainian aircraft or presumed Ukrainian planes without Putin’s knowledge and assent.

In that sense, at a minimum, Putin’s fingerprints are on the trigger that fired the missile that downed Malaysian Flight MH17.

See

(1) Review and Outlook (Opinion), “The Downing of MH17; Putin is the one leader who quickly assigned blame for the disaster,” Wall Street Journal, July 17, 2014.

(2) Carsten Luther, “FLUG MH17: Dieser Abschuss verändert alles, Die Zeit, 18. Juli 2014.

“Indizien deuten darauf hin: Von Russland unterstützte Separatisten haben das Passagierflugzeug in der Ukraine abgeschossen. Der Konflikt erreicht damit eine neue Stufe.”

(3) Anne Applebaum, “The Malaysia Airlines crash is the end of Russia’s fairy tale,” Washington Post, July 18, 2014 (2:57 PM).

The Trenchant Observer

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Observateur Incisif
El Observador Incisivo

Putin’s de facto partners: EU members—-and their further responses to ongoing Russian aggression in Ukraine

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Developing

See

Andreas Umland (Gastbeitrag), “Der Westen muss die Ukraine retten, Die Zeit, 16. Juli 2014.

“Russlands Vorgehen gegen die Ukraine stellt die internationale Ordnung und das Wertesystem der EU infrage. Der Westen muss endlich angemessen auf den Konflikt reagieren.”

At this juncture, as the EU is poised to impose a few mild additional “sanctions” on Russia for its continuing invasion of the eastern Ukraine, in addition to its invasion and annexation of the Crimes, one must simply ask whether the EU has become, in effect if not intent, a silent enabling partner of Vladimir Putin as he continues Russia’s aggression in the eastern Ukraine.

Putin is succeeding in achieving his objective of destabilizing the Ukraine, and promises to use all of the weapons at his command–from supplying the “separatists” (launched under Russia’s coordination and control), to economic pressures, to war propaganda–to keep the country off balance and to prevent it from consolidating a democratic government which will eventually join the EU, and potentially even NATO if Ukrainians deem that step necessary for their defense and NATO agrees to take them in.

Following the perfidy of François Hollande in breaking Putin’s isolation by inviting him to the 70th anniversary celebrations of the D-Day invasion on June 6, his invitation to Putin to visit Paris for a state dinner at the Elysée Palace, and his simultaneous announcement that France would deliver two Mistral-class warships to Russia beginning in the fall, over strenuous objections by the U.S. and other NATO countries, Angela Merkel of Germany, Barack Obama, and other Western leaders stumbled over each other to meet with Putin, the president of Russia and commander of an ongoing invasion of a European country.

Frequent telephone calls between Merkel, Hollande, Putin and Obama, and meetings on the sidelines of the Normandy celebrations, other international conferences and even the World Cup final in Rio de Janeiro on July 13, further restored Putin’s acceptance and respectability as a man you could do business with–without worrying about his invasion and annexation of the Crimea, and Russia’s ongoing invasion of the eastern Ukraine and use of economic weapons to destabilize that country.

Putin has offered the EU, NATO and the West a fig leaf behind which they can hide their pacifism and appeasement, by not overtly invading the eastern Ukraine with regular Russian troops (at least until now). He also has offered verbal concessions (when necessary to defuse pressure for real sanctions), but without implementing them on the ground.

The “sanctions” that the EU and the U.S. have imposed are not really sanctions in the classical sense, but rather targeted measures of reprisal aimed at a very limited number of individuals and companies. This allows Europe and the U.S. to announce “further sanctions” against Russia when in fact no serious sanctions, in the classical sense of the term, are being imposed.

The net effect of these “targeted sanctions”, and the continuing meetings and telephone calls with Putin, has been to enable Putin and Russia to continue their aggression in a process in which the united will of the West is progressively broken while the road of appeasement leading back to business as usual is increasingly accepted and followed.

No one in the West in a high leadersip position seems to have a strategic understanding of what is going on, and how these developments are undermining the strength and deterrent force of fundamental principles of international law and the U.N. Charter which are essential for the maintenance of international peace and security, including the prohibition of “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence” of any state (U.N. Charter Article 2 paragraph 4).

The consequences of the failure of the EU, NATO and the U.S. to repel Russian aggression have been thrown into stark relief since July 13, as Brazil, India, Russia, China, and South Africa hold their annual “BRICS” summit in Fortaleza, Brazil, without any one of them speaking out on Russia’s aggression against the Ukraine. Putin also visited Cuba, where agreement was reached to reopen Russia’s listening post at Lourdes (closed in 2001), as well as Nicaragua and Argentina, where he signed a nuclear cooperation agreement. Everywhere he was warmly received.

Looking at all of these developments, one can see that the U.S., NATO, the EU, and their allies have suffered a far-reaching geopolitical and strategic defeat because of their failure to respond effectively to Russian aggression in the Ukraine, in addition to their failure to engage in forceful diplomacy with Brazil, India, China, and South Africa. The latter all abstained in the vote on U.N. General Assembly resolution (A/RES/68/262) adopted on March 27, 2014 condemning the Russian invasion and annexation of the Crimea. Many African countries followed South Africa’s lead.

Looking at this broad picture as a whole, one can see clearly that the EU and the U.S. have in effect acted as silent partners with Putin and Russia in the latter’s aggression against the Ukraine. Succumbing to the temptations of appeasement in the face of Russian aggression and threats of further aggression, they have in fact emboldened Putin. Nowhere was this more clearly demonstrated than after the invasion of the Crimea, when they responded with a slap on the wrist, in the form of the mildest of “targeted sanctions” aimed at only a few individuals. Shortly thereafter, undeterred, Russia annexed the Crimea.

By not responding effectively, the West has become the co-dependent enabler of Vladimir Putin and Russia in their ongoing aggression against the Ukraine. In Europe and the United States, appeasement and pacifism have triumphed when they were face-to-face with the mighty Russian Bear.

Indeed, Europe and the United States have become Putin’s silent partners, his co-dependent enablers, as he proceeds to tear down the fundamental principles of international law and the U.N. Charter which prohibit the threat or use of force across international frontiers. “Co-dependent” on the bully who abuses them, they also remain silent on Putin’s violations of fundamental human rights in Russia itself.

The fact that Putin has succeeded in breaking out of his isolation, and is even welcomed by the BRICS countries, Argentina, and others in Latin America and beyond, should serve as a loud wake-up call to the West and the community of states dedicated to the rule of law on both the international and the domestic planes.

It is time for Putin’s silent partners in aggression to end their co-dependent relationship with him and Russia.

It is time for them to understand the broader consequences of continuing Russian aggression.

It is time for them to act to bolster the deterrent effect of the U.N. Charter’s prohibition of the threat or use of force by imposing real, “third-stage” sanctions aimed at restoring the status quo ante existing prior to Russia’s invasion of the Crimea.

The Trenchant Observer

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Observateur Incisif
El Observador Incisivo

Brazil, Russia and the Crimea: BRICS grouping serves interests of two greatest authoritarian states, as three great democracies ignore aggression

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Developing

If you want to understand why the future of the international political and legal order is fraught with uncertainty, consider Brazil’s position on the Russian invasion and annexation of the Crimea.

The so-called “BRICS”, a term originally developed by foreign investors to identify the largest emerging economies, have met in Brazil and agreed to establish an investment bank which some of them fancy might come to rival the IMF. The group is comprised of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

This group is a monumental credit to the cynical opportunism of the two greatest authoritarian states in the world, and their ability to take advantage of the naivete and vain nationalism of three of the world’s great democracies in the developing world.

The grouping has already paid dividends to the authoritarians, with the abstention of Brazil, India, and South Africa in the vote on the General Assembly resolution condemning–in the absolute mildest of terms–the Russian invasion and annexation of the Crimea.

The calculus of the authoritarians is clear: gain access to greater trade and commercial benefits while at the same time building support among Brazil, India and South Africa to abstain or not object to military aggression and violation of human rights.

The calculation on the side of India has a strategic dimension: to foster ties with Russia which has traditionally served as a counterweight to China and Pakistan, while at the same also building ties to China. Having itself invaded and annexed the Portuguese enclave of Goa in 1961, India may also not be in the best position to criticize Russia for the invasion and annexation of the Crimea. Worsening relations with the United States may also be playing a role, following the extraordinarily ill-considered and inept arrest in the U.S. of an Indian consular official last year in a case involving her former housekeeper.

As for Brazil, which already enjoys strong trade relationships with China, it is hard to understand what advantages its leaders hope to gain through the “BRICS” grouping, other than to thumb their noses at the United States, which has angered government officials by its spying activities. These caused President Dilma Roussef to cancel a state visit to Washington last fall, and are a continuing source of anger against the U.S.

Why Brazil would turn its head the other way in view of China’s and Russia’s human rights violations, particularly given Brazil’s own history in this regard and the fact that Rousseff was herself directly affected, defies logic.

Similarly, given the fact that Brazil fought in Europe alongside the Allies to defeat Hitler and German aggression and annexation of foreign territories, it is difficult to understand why Brazil now would find itself in the position of explaining to the world why it cannot take a position on as simple a question as Russian aggression in the Ukraine and annexation of the Crimea. The reasons given by the Itamaraty (foreign ministry) officials cited by Clovis Rossi in his column in the Folha de São Paulo today (see below) amount to no more than a pathetic parroting of Russian propaganda.

Brazil should be careful, however, as the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, has just concluded a nuclear cooperation agreement with Argentina during his visit to Buenos Aires. Given the deteriorating international situation and the likelihood of further nuclear proliferation, starting with Iran, the possibility of a renewed nuclear arms race between Argentina and Brazil cannot entirely be ruled out.

It is a terrible shame that Brazil, India, and South Africa have failed to stand solidly on the side of those defending the fundamental principles of the United Nations Charter, including the prohibition of the threat or use of force, in order to pursue the chimera of solidarity with the world’s two greatest authoritarian states.

The United States has failed utterly in managing its alliance relationships in Latin America, as the actions of Brazil reveal. It hasn’t done so well in managing its alliance relationships with Europe and the NATO countries either, as demonstrated by French President François Hollande’s breaking the isolation of Putin by inviting him to the 70th anniversary celebration of the Normandy invasion, then a state dinner at the Elysée Palace (meeting Barack Obama earlier in the evening at a restaurant), and at the same time announcing that France would complete the sale of two Mistral-class warships to Russia beginning in the fall, over the strenuous objections of the U.S. and several other NATO countries. Russian sailors are already training in France to learn how to operate the vessels, one of which is to be named “The Sevastopol” and both of which will presumably be based in the Russian-occupied Ukrainian port of Sevastopol.

For her part, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has effectively blocked the imposition of third-stage sanctions against Russia, however earnestly and with whatever peremptory deadlines threats of their adoption may have been made.

The failure of the EU and of the U.S. to follow through on serious sanctions against Russia, as it continues its “stealth invasion” (with less and less stealth), has also done little to underline the importance of fundamental U.N. Charter principles and the need to uphold them, in particular by imposing serious and permanent sanctions against Russia for its annexation of the Crimea.

But this is no excuse for India, South Africa, and Brazil. By their actions and statements, they have demonstrated that they are not ready to play leading roles in the building and maintenance of international peace and security. To reach that level, they will need to move beyond reacting to the U.S. and Europe, and themselves assume, independently, responsibility for the building and protection of international society. This they can never do by ignoring grave violations of the U.N. Charter’s fundamental norms.

Brazil is to be congratulated for holding a magnificent and successful 2014 FIFA World Cup series.

That is no substitute, however, for taking ownership of its responsibilities as a great democracy to uphold international human rights and the prohibition of the threat or use of force across international frontiers.

See

Clóvis Rossi, “Dilma e os dois lados da Ucrânia,” Folha de São Paulo, 15 de julho 2014.

The Trenchant Observer

Battle over electoral fraud in Afghanistan (updated July 7, 2014)

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

This is probably the last chance for the United States, NATO, and other ISAF countries to avoid losing the Afghan war.

To succeed in averting a collapse in legitimacy, they must fully and with great candor discuss openly the alleged fraud at each voting table, and absolutely insist on a full recount of all votes in dispute–voting station by voting station, with full representation of all parties concerned.

Hamid Karzai was “awarded” the presidency of Afghanistan in 2009 as the result of 1) massive fraud in the first-round election, reportedly organized by him and his supporters; 2) enormous international pressures which led to a very partial and skewed recount which, though it did not reveal the full extent of the fraud, reduced Karzai’s “official” vote count sufficiently to require a second-round runoff with Abdullah Abdullah; and 3) Abdullah’s withdrawal from the run-off, when his demands for reform of the electoral bodies were not met, and also apparently after having been subjected to great pressure from the United States.

In the first-round elections held in April of this year, Abdullah emerged with 45% of the votes as opposed to his opponent, Ashraf Ghani, who received just under 32% of the vote.

In the second-round election held recently, as the vote count proceeded, Abdullah denounced what he alleged was a massive fraud then underway being orchestrated by Ghani and Karzai acting in collusion with electoral officials. The chief electoral official, Ziaulhaq Amarkhil, was forced to resign after Abdullah released tapes allegedly showing him and other officials issuing instructions for ballot stuffing.

Much is at stake in whether Abdullah succeeds in gaining a full elimination of fraudulent votes before results are announced. It is no exaggeration to say that the legitimacy and cohesion of the government which emerges from the vote count may determine the chances for the United States’ and ISAF nations’ project in Afghanistan to avoid either a Taliban takeover or a civil war, or a combination of the two.

President Obama seems totally removed from this process, recalling his tightly-managed Afghanistan policy review in 2009, when the ongoing fraud in that year’s election was apparently not even discussed by those involved in the policy review.

This is probably the last chance for the United States, NATO, and other ISAF countries to avoid losing the Afghan war.

To succeed in averting a collapse in legitimacy, they must fully and with great candor discuss openly the alleged fraud at each voting table, and absolutely insist on a full recount of all votes in dispute–voting station by voting station, with full representation of all parties concerned.

In 2009 the United States and its allies took the easier path, accepting Karzai’s refusal to reform the electoral commission and the electoral complaints commission before a second-round run-off, and pressuring Abdullah to withdraw.

This looks like another massively fraudulent election, with the U.S., its allies and the U.N. Mission in Afganistan looking the other way.

Ghani’s numbers do not pass the smell test.

See Margherita Stancati (Kabul), “Afghan Candidate Boycotts Count of Votes; Abdullah, a Karzai Rival, Alleges Fraud in Presidential Runoff, Citing Outsize Turnout in Opponent’s Areas of Support,” Wall Street Journal, June 18, 2014 (Updated 7:40 p.m. ET). Stancati reported,

“Yusuf Nuristani, chairman of the IEC , which organized the election and is counting the votes, said Saturday’s turnout was up from 6.6 million in the first round. While turnout was largely the same or lower in much of the country, the IEC’s initial tallies indicated a dramatic surge —in the areas of eastern Afghanistan that are Mr. Ghani’s base.

“In the eastern province of Khost, for example, initial IEC tallies showed that more than 400,000 voters cast ballots on Saturday, up from 113,000 in the first round.

“According to the 2012-13 data compiled by Afghanistan’s central statistics office, Khost’s entire population is 549,000—and, given Afghanistan’s demographic structure, at least one-third of them are children.

“In the nearby province of Paktika, 390,000 voters cast their ballots on Saturday, up from 180,000. The province’s population is 414,000.”

See also, “Afghanistan Presidential Election: Abdullah Calls for Halt to Vote-Counting Alleging Fraud by the Electoral Commission,” The Trenchant Observer, June 18, 2014.

Without the acceptance by Abdullah’s supporters of the election results, any future Ghani-Karzai government will have the same weaknesses as the current government of Karzai. Karzai will continue to manipulate the tribal and warlord alliances to keep Ghani and the current political elite in power in Kabul. Ghani will owe his survival to Karzai. But without the continuing presence of the U.S. military in significant numbers to hold things together, such a Karzai-Ghani strategy is not likely to succeed.

Whatever illusions the Americans may have about getting rid of Karzai, while keeping the present political elite of “Corrupt-istan” in power as Karzai pulls the strings from behind the scenes, are likely to evaporate as the new government loses the support of Abdullah’s voters and the Northern Alliance.

Without their support, it is difficult to see how a new government might hold together and succeed in maintaining the allegiance of its soldiers.

See “U.S. National Intelligence Estimate points to dire future in Afghanistan,” The Trenchant Observer, January 8, 2014.

Obama may walk away from Afghanistan the same way he walked away from Iraq in 2011.

Yet it is hard to see how the Democrats, after losing the two wars that have been the focus of Americans’ attention since 2001 and 2003, respectively, could hold back the tide of a Republican sweep of Congress and the presidency in 2016, with Republicans running on a strong national security platform.

To repeat: What Obama and the U.S. do in the next several weeks to ensure a full and accurate vote count in Afghanistan, and what they have to say about it publicly, are likely to have a decisive impact on the success or lack thereof of the Afghanistan project that has been underway since 2001.

See

(1) Adam Ahmed, “Afghanistan Election Dispute Draws More Calls for Vote Audit,” New York Times, July 6, 2014.

(2) “Afghanistan Presidential Election: Abdullah Calls for Halt to Vote-Counting Alleging Fraud by the Electoral Commission, The Trenchant Observer, June 18, 2014.

(3) “Leading Afghan presidential candidate, Abdullah Abdullah, narrowly escapes assassination in Kabul,” The Trenchant Observer, June 6, 2014.

(4) “KARZAI’S FIGHT FOR SURVIVAL IN AFGHANISTAN—THE REAL EXTENT OF THE ELECTORAL FRAUD, ABDULLAH’S CHANCES, AND WASHINGTON’S RESPONSE,” The Trenchant Observer, October 16, 2009.

For deeper insights into the present crisis, consider the following articles and their implications:

(5) “Obama Snubs Abdullah During Latter’s Trip to Washington,” The Trenchant Observer, May 22, 2010.

(6) “The real problem with U.S. policy toward Afghanistan: Hamid Karzai and the CIA,” The Trenchant Observer, November 26, 2013.

The Trenchant Observer

REPRISE: Dare anyone say it? “We applaud the courage of the Ukrainian government and people in defending public order and the sovereignty and territorial independence of the Ukraine” — with latest news updates

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

In what may be a turning point in efforts to defend the country’s territorial integrity and repel Russia’s aggression and military intervention in the eastern Ukraine by special forces, intelligence operatives, and so-called Russian “volunteers” under their direction and control, Ukrainian forces have retaken Sloviansk and Kramatorsk and are pressing foreward with their “anti-terrorist” campaign. The so-called “separatists” withdrew first from Sloviansk to Kramatorsk, and then shortly thereafter from Kramatorsk to Donetsk.

See:

(1) Pilar Bonnet, “Los prorrusos acusan a Putin de traicionarles para mantener su poder; Los rebeldes creen que Rusia les abandona para evitar el conflicto con Occidente, El Pais, 6 de Julio 2014 (22:49 CEST).

(2) “Regierungstruppen wollen Donezk und Luhansk belagern
Die ukrainische Armee will die Städte Donezk und Luhansk blockieren und die Separatisten zur Kapitulation zwingen. Diese haben heftigen Widerstand angekündigt,” Die Zeit, 6. Juli 2014, 6. Juli 2014 (20:28 Uhr).

(3) Ukraine-Krise: Armee rückt auf Millionenstadt Donezk vor; Die Rebellenhochburg Slowjansk ist schon erobert – nun nähert sich das ukrainische Militär der Metropole Donezk. Dort halten sich prorussische Milizen zu Tausenden verschanzt. Es droht ein Belagerungszustand,” Der Spiegel, 6. Juli 2014 (17:48 Uhr).

(4) Le Monde avec AFP et Reuter, “Les forces ukrainiennes progressent vers Donetsk,” 6 Juillet 2014 (Mis à jour à 23h09)–avec carte / with map.

(5) Benoît Vitkine (Sloviansk, envoyé spécial), “Ukraine: le récit de la chute de Sloviansk, tournant de la guerre entre l’armée et les séparatistes,” Le Monde 06 Juillet 2014 (Mis à jour à 11h09)

(6) Alan Cullison (in Sloviansk) and Philip Shishkin (in Donetsk), “Ukrainian Government Troops Target Further Gains in East; Separatist Leaders Say Evacuation From Slovyansk Was Strategic,” Wall Street Journal, July 6, 2014 (Updated 11:51 a.m. ET).

(7) “A day in Sloviansk after liberation,” Kviv Post, July 6, 2014 (6:05 p.m.)(with photos).

REPRISE: Dare anyone say it? “We applaud the courage of the Ukrainian government and people in defending public order and the sovereignty and territorial independence of the Ukraine”

First published on May 3, 2014

In the face of Russian aggression, in the last few days the Ukrainian government has shown great courage in defending public order, and the territorial integrity, political independence and sovereignty of their nation.

Their courageous actions should make the authors of the cowardly responses of the West and the broader international community feel deeply ashamed. For the latter have merely paid lip service to the defense of freedom, human rights and international law, while engaging in a policy of pacifism and appeasement in the face of blatant Russian aggression.

Nor is the duty to act to uphold the U.N. Charter, international law, and the maintenance of international peace and security solely that of the United States and the West. The abstention by Brazil and other countries on the General Assembly resolution condemning the invasion and annexation of the Crimea, for example, will long remain as a black page in the histories of these countries.

The appeasement by the West and other countries is particularly clear with respect to the military invasion and annexation by Russia of the Crimea. These actions have upended the entire postwar international political and legal order. The demands of Western leaders for a restoration of the status quo ante in the Crimea have grown silent, while they have adopted no sanctions which can be realistically viewed as aimed at securing a reversal of the aggression and annexation.

In all communities, the force of law and its deterrent effect weakens when the community whose interests it protects do not act to uphold its norms.

Russia’s invasion and annexation of the Crimea, its attack on the eastern Ukraine through special operations forces and the organization, coordination and direction of pro-Russian militias and armed thugs–taking over public buildings and even towns by armed force, and its continuing threats of military intervention by massing combat-ready troops on the border poised to launch an invasion, have placed the entire postwar military, political and legal order in question in the greatest crisis of this nature since World War II.

Will anyone speak out in praise of the actions of the Ukrainian government, without which Russian aggression would triumph, and the rule of law and protection of the human rights of citizens in the eastern Ukraine would be lost?

Are Western leaders afraid to remind the world each time they speak that Russia has committed aggression in the Crimea and continues fresh acts of aggression in the eastern Ukraine?

Will they not only speak out in defense of international law and human rights, in defense of liberty and the rule of law, but also undertake immediate and concrete measures of a serious nature to come to the defense of the Kiev government and assist it in facing down Russian aggression?

Though Barack Obama and Angela Merkel and other world leaders seem oblivious to the fact, Ukrainian soldiers and security forces are today fighting to uphold the principles of the U.N. Charter and international law which guarantee their security and that of the citizens they represent.

If these leaders can grasp this point, might they not do more, through really significant actions, to aid the Ukraine in its defense of their common values of respect for international law and international human rights?

The future of their countries and of the international political and legal order are in their hands. If they are leaders, and not merely followers of ill-informed public opinions on critical foreign policy matters, can and will they lead?

The Trenchant Observer

Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine continues; Europe refuses serious sanctions; Only serious sanctions can stop Russia

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Developing

For background, see The Trenchant Observer, “The virus of nationalism and military aggression: Adolf Hitler in Vienna, March, 1938; Vladimir Putin in Sevastopol, May 9, 2014,” June 30, 2014.

The article includes video links to Vladimir Putin’s speech to a joint session of Russia’s parliament on March 18, 2014, and to Adolf Hitler’s speech upon his entry into Vienna in 1938, together with links to television programs from Walter Cronkite’s “The Seeds of War” series on the background to World War II.

Russia continues its aggression in the eastern Ukraine, while diplomatic discussions are to continue by Saturday on establishing a cease-fire which is observed by both sides, and other conditions to be met, including the return of border posts to the Ukraine. NATO Supreme Allied Commander Philip Breedlove offers a sobering assessment of what has actually been happening on the ground in the last month while diplomats and heads of state have been talking, negotiating, and essentially dithering. See Rosen, below.

Meanwhile, the iron will of the German Chancellor, and of the French President and other EU heads of state, has in effect foreclosed the imposition of serious, stage-three sanctions on Russia for its continuing aggression. This refusal helps account for the intense diplomacy underway to secure a real ceasefire and a cessation of the Russian invasion and occupation by special forces and others under their control of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. This diplomacy, if not backed by real sanctions, is not likely to succeed. Commercial interests, pacifism, and appeasement remain the leitmotifs of European actions and decisions. See the article in Die Zeit, below.

Stefan Kornelius of the Suddeutsche Zeitung, in a powerful commentary, explains why only serious sanctions can stop Russian aggression in the eastern Ukraine, and convince Putin that a Georgian style solution of frozen conflict is not possible in that country, both because of its size and because of its importance and ties to Europe. See his commentary, below.

The Ongoing Russian Invasion of the Eastern Ukraine

(1) James Rosen, “NATO chief to move forces from U.S. to Europe to respond to Russia in Ukraine,” McClatchy Washington Bureau, July 1, 2014.

Rosen quoted the U.S. Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, Air Force General Philip M. Breedlove, as saying U.S. troops will be moved to Europe in October to help shore up the troops on rotation in the eastern NATO members bordering Russia.

Breedlove said Moscow has supplied pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine with tanks, armored personnel carriers, anti-aircraft artillery and other heavy weapons.

The four-star general, who assumed NATO command last year, said there’s “a very good likelihood” that the anti-aircraft artillery used to shoot down a Ukrainian transport plane June 14, killing all 42 people on board, came from Russia.

“(What) we see in training on the (Russian) side of the border is big equipment, tanks, (armored personnel carriers), anti-aircraft capability, and now we see those capabilities being used on the (Ukrainian) side of the border,” Breedlove said.

Asked how many Russian troops have massed on the Ukraine border, Breedlove responded that there are “seven-plus battalion task groups on the east side of that border,” which would be on the order of 5,000 troops.

The Refusal of the EU to Impose Serious Sanctions

(2) “UKRAINE-KRISE: EU scheut Wirtschaftssanktionen gegen Russland; Die Staats- und Regierungschefs der EU haben ihre Drohung nicht wahr gemacht: Russland muss vorerst keine schwerwiegenden Wirtschaftssanktionen fürchten,” Die Zeit, 1. Juli 2014 (Aktualisiert um 16:00 Uhr).

Only the Imposition of Serious Sanctions Can Move Russia

(3) Sefan Kornelius (Kommentar), “Krise in der Ukraine; Sanktionen sind der einzige Hebel,” Suddeutsche Zeitung, 2. Juli 2014.

Die vergangenen Tage haben es gezeigt: Die Zeit ist nicht reif für einen echten Waffenstillstand. Frieden in der Ukraine kann es nur geben, wenn das Spiel aus Propaganda und Unaufrichtigkeit ein Ende hat. Moskau muss akzeptieren, dass der Osten der Ukraine kein zweites Georgien ist.

Politisch wird sich dieser Krieg nur dann beenden lassen, wenn Russland das Spiel von Lug und Trug aufgibt und den Separatisten sowohl die militärische als auch die politische Basis für ihr Treiben entzieht. Dazu muss Russland einem Ziel glaubwürdig abschwören: Eine Zone dauerhafter Unruhe darf es in der Ostukraine nicht geben.

As for President Barack Obama and the United States, they are nowhere to be found. The U.S. is not even participating in the negotiations, at the foreign minister level, between Germany, France, Russia and the Ukraine. To be sure, given the Obama administration’s performance in the past, this could possibly be a good thing–despite what it says about the quality of current American leadership.

Ironically, the failure of the U.S. and the EU to carry through on their previous threats of serious sanctions has, if anything, emboldened Putin to undertake the brazen military interventionist activities of the last month.

The empty threats of the West seem to have caused him to call the West’s bluff, increasing and amplifying the intensity of his military aggression.

The failure to carry through with these threats, even now, risks further escalation of the conflict by Russia, including overt military intervention to protect ‘Russian people” who need not even be ethnic Russians.

“When I speak of Russians and Russian-speaking citizens,” Mr. Putin said, “I am referring to those people who consider themselves part of the broad Russian community. They may not necessarily be ethnic Russians, but they consider themselves Russian people.”

–See David M Herszenhorn, “Russia Demands New Cease-Fire in Ukraine as Foreign Ministers Seek Path to Peace, New York Time, July 2, 2014, quoting Putin.

The West has simply not bothered to effectively refute this outrageous and unfounded asserted justification under international law of a right to use military force to defend “Russian people”.

Historians will wonder at the fecklessness of today’s leaders in the West, and the lack of concern of leaders in other parts of the world, just as they wondered at the appeasement of Hitler by Britain’s Neville Chamberlain and France’s Edouard Daladier when they agreed to the Munich Pact in 1938, ceding the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia to the Germans.

The Trenchant Observer

The virus of nationalism and military aggression: Adolf Hitler in Vienna, March, 1938; Vladimir Putin in Sevastopol, May 9, 2014

Monday, June 30th, 2014

The virus of unbounded nationalism and military aggression ravaged Europe, Germany and the world in the 1930′s and 1940′s, leading to World War II and its aftermath.

The same virus has reemerged in Europe twice in recent decades, first in Serbia and the former Yugoslavia in the 1990′s, and now again in Russia with its invasion and annexation of the Crimea, and its ongoing invasion of the eastern Ukraine in the areas of Donetsk and Luhansk.

As in the 1930′s, leaders in the West have yielded to pacifism and appeasement, even when not armies but merely severe economic sanctions were involved.

Despite repeated threats of severe, third-stage, sectorial sanctions, Western leaders have again and again backed down in the face of continuing Russian aggression, which each day is shaping facts on the ground.

Repeatedly, they have laid out very specific conditions which must be met in order for Russia to avoid the imposition of such serious sanctions. Each time, Russian President Vladimir Putin has tangled them up in endless negotiations, telephone calls and meetings. Each time, they have backed down in the face of his double game of saying just enough to divert the pressure for serious sanctions, while continuing the relentless pursuit of his strategic objectives on the ground.

Russia intently pursues its military and strategic objectives, while the West is immobilized by the lobbying of big business in favor of their commercial interests–the Republic be damned!–and by the firm grip of pacifism and appeasement on its leaders.

The very groups (National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in particular) whose members are reponsible for the massive off-shoring of American jobs have the incredible chutzpah to argue sanctions should not be imposed on Russia in order to save American jobs.

Barack Obama and the United States are not even involved in the intense discussions between Putin, Francois Hollande, Angela Merkel, and President Petro Petroshenko of the Ukraine. This has to mark the nadir of post-war leadership for the United States.

In France, President Francois Hollande not only invited Putin to Normandy and the Elysee in Paris, but also announced at the time of the D-Day celebrations that France would complete the sale and delivery of two Mistral-class warships, one of which is named “the Sevastopol”! Both will presumably be based in Sevastopol. Russian Navy sailors began training in France this week on how to operate the vessels.

In Germany, after the Russian invasion and annexation of the Crimea, former SPD Chancellor Gerhardt Schroeder quite publicly joined Putin in St Petersburg for Schroeder’s 70th birthday celebration. Former SPD Chancellor Helmut Schmidt has also expressed “understanding” of Putin’s actions in the Crimea and criticized the EU and the West for their reactions.

Now, the absolute conditions which President Barack Obama and European leaders laid down a month ago have undergone a metamorphosis into what has become an agenda to be worked on by Russia and the Ukraine, in “a peace process” (in Secretary of State John Kerry’s unfortunate choice of words).

In other words, the rapist and the victim are supposed to work together within a process aimed at ending the rape.

The West and its threats have lost all credibility.

Meanwhile, the North Atlantic Alliance is crumbling, as NATO fails to take the hard decision to permanently deploy large numbers of NATO troops in member countries bordering Russia, in response to urgent requests from the latter.

***

See the following videos, which may call forth memories of both distant and recent manifestations of unbounded nationalism and military aggression, and what they portended or portend.

Adolf Hitler’s Seizure of Austria and the Sudetenland in 1938

(1) Adolf Hitler in Vienna after the take-over of Austria in March, 1938.

See footage of Adolf Hitler’s entry Into Vienna, here.

(2) Background to Munich Pact and Adolf Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland September in September, 1938.

See Walter Cronkite, excerpts from “The Seeds of War”:

Part One, here.
Part Two, here.

Vladimir Putin’s Seizure of the Crimea and Entry into Sevastopol, May 9, 2014

(1) Putin’s speech to a joint session of parliament (Duma) on March 18, 2014.

See “Putin’s Crimea Address Rewrites History,” Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, March 19, 2014. The article and video are found here.

(2) Vladimir Putin’s triumphant visit to the Crimea on May 9, 1914.

See “Ukraine crisis: Vladimir Putin pays visit to Crimea; President Vladimir Putin visits Crimea for the first time since Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula, just days ahead of a separatist vote by pro-Moscow militants in eastern Ukraine,” The Telegraph, May 9, 2014 (2:37 BST).

The Trenchant Observer

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Obervateur Incisif
El Observador Incisivo

The West, Russia and the Ukraine: Threats, facts on the ground, and sectorial sanctions

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

The EU and the U.S. are on the verge of deciding, once again, whether they will actually carry out their last round of threats. They stated, in the strongest terms, that they would impose third-stage, sectorial sanctions against Russia if Putin and Russia did not withdraw their forces from the border and halt their support of so-called “separatists” in the eastern Ukraine.

These “separatists”, it is worth recalling, are led by the Russian special forces and intelligence agents who launched the rebellion in the East, and their followers, now including thousands of Russian “volunteers” who–in the last month–have flooded across the border into the Ukraine, together with ground-to-air missiles, tanks and other arms and equipment.

The border was “opened” for the Russians and their “volunteers” by a well-coordinated military campaign of attacks against Ukrainian border posts and their supporting control centers.

In the last month, Putin has continued to play his “double game” of saying one thing and doing something else. He has not ceased support on the ground for the “separatists” who, despite the former KGB-man’s machinations in a new form of “stealth war”, we have every reason to believe remain under Putin’s direction and control.

The West threatened sectorial sanctions if Putin did not change course. He changed only–at the last minute–in his verbal formulations, in what he said to Western leaders, but not in his actions on the ground.

If we look at what has transpired in the last month, can anyone say with a straight face that Putin has met the West’s conditions for not imposing sectorial sanctions?

Those who have followed Putin’s maneuvering in Syria are quite familiar with his modus operandi, of saying just enough to throw the West into disarray and to defuse any momentum toward the adoption of real, hard-hitting sanctions or stronger action, only to resume the relentless pursuit of his goals once the concentration and motivation of the West and other civilized nations has dissipated.

A fundamental question facing the West in deciding whether to defer sectorial sanctions and try to use them–again!–as a threat to induce Putin to act the way they want, is whether they want to continue devoting this enormous amount of energy and degree of concentration to the perfidious president of Russia, Vladimir Putin. Or, might they prefer to move on, to contain Russia through concrete actions, and then to devote their energies to building Europe and restoring the vitality of the Atlantic Alliance and its leadership.

Putin is not going to change. He is not going to become the democrat that Boris Yeltsin once thought he might become. He is someone the West can never trust again.

Moreover, the U.S. doesn’t really need Russian assistance to get out of Afghanistan, or to deal with Iran and the nuclear issue through the “five plus one” (5 +1) talks. Russia is not America’s friend, and won’t be again so long as Putin remains in power.

Consequently, the choice facing the West is whether

(1) to continue playing Putin’s game, on his terms, where all attention is directed toward him and what he might say or do, or not do; or

(2) to finally act forcefully in the face of the Russian invasion and annexation of the Crimea, and the ongoing Russian “stealth” invasion of the eastern Ukraine, by taking hard actions to contain Russia, halt its aggression, and restore observance of international law. The latter is of paramount importance, and includes the priniples of the U.N. Charter prohibiting the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any country, including the Ukraine.

Containment will require, at some point and sooner rather than later, the forward deployment of NATO troops in the front-line states of Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, and Romania.

Moreover, Russia needs to be pushed hard by the West and other civilized countries on the issue of its observance of human rights. We should not remain silent in the face of an increasingly repressive authoritarian regime whose “democracy” has become no more than a “Potemkin village”. The Magnitsky Act should be enforced.

Nothing is to be gained by further delay of sectorial sanctions. If the threat of such sanctions is ever to be credible in the future, repeated threats in the past must now be executed in view of Putin’s failure to comply with their conditions.

That doesn’t mean that measures like the OSCE monitoring of the border and of the situation in the eastern Ukraine need not be pursued, or that negotiations within the Ukraine under OSCE auspices must be halted.

It means only that the West, having called Putin’s bluff, will be in a stronger position to deal with him and Russia.

It will bring home to Putin, through actions and not mere words, that the EU, NATO, and the U.S. have finally gotten serious about putting an end to his aggression and redressing its consequences.

The Trenchant Observer

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Obervateur Incisif
El Observador Incisivo

REPRISE: Responding to military seizure and annexation of the Crimea: Stronger PERMANENT SANCTIONS against Russia urgently needed

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

The question of the hour: Should a little Russian aggression and annexation of the Crimea keep the West from getting back to “business as usual” with Russia?

The following article was originally published on March 26, 2014.

REPRISE: Responding to military seizure and annexation of the Crimea: Stronger PERMANENT SANCTIONS against Russia urgently needed,” The Trenchant Observer, March 26, 2014.

Commentary

Russia is not likely to disgorge the Crimea, annexed following Russian aggression and military seizure during the last month, any time soon.

So, should the West simply accept this fait accompli, be happy that Putin has not invaded the eastern Ukraine, and just get back to business as usual with Russia over the course of the next year or two?

Powerful commercial interests in European and also other Western countries would seem to support such a course of action, which can be rationalzed by stressing that the Crimea belonged to Russia for hundreds of years, and whatever the defects of the recent referendum in the Crimea, a majority of Crimeans most probably supported joining Russia. Moreover, some would argue, the West has not taken Russian sensitivities into account as it pushed the boundaries of the EU and NATO right up to the borders of Russia itself.

Like Kosovo, they might argue, the Crimea was a special case in which any violation of international law was not that serious, and should be put behind us. It was not as serious as the U.S. invasion of Iraq under false pretenses, for example.

Moreover, the imposition of further economic sanctions on Russia which would have a serious impact on trade, investment, and financial transactions would hurt the West as much or even more than they would hurt Russia.

Germany and Europe need Russian gas to get through the coming winter without extraordinary hardships being imposed on innocent, ordinary people. The fact that the U.S. is dependent on the use of Russian territory and airspace to complete its withdrawal of forces and equipment from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 represents a further, compelling consideration.

Moreover, Russian cooperative participation is needed in the “five plus one” talks with Iran over its nuclear program and non-proliferation concerns felt strongly in the U.S., Israel and Europe.

Finally, Russian cooperation in finding any resolution of the civil war in Syria will be essential, U.S. and other officials have repeatedly stated.

In view of these circumstances, and Russia’s understandable desire to secure the naval bases where much of its navy is based, others would argue, the West can ill afford to continue or strengthen economic sanctions against Russia.

The better course, according to the views of many, would be to simply get relations between the West and Russia working smoothly again.

What, if anything, could be wrong with this analysis?

Shouldn’t the West just get over Russia’s annexation of the Ukraine, and get back to business as usual?

Of course, there is the small question of international law and the U.N. Charter’s prohibition of the threat or use of force against another country’s territorial integrity or political independence, embodied in Article 2(4) of the Charter.

But what difference does that make, in the 21st century?

That is the question, the fundamental question, of the hour.

The Trenchant Observer

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Obervateur Incisif
El Observador Incisivo