Archive for the ‘Barack Obama’ Category

REPRISE: If Putin invades Mariupol and seizes a land corridor to the Crimea, what will NATO, the U.S. and the EU do?

Friday, October 31st, 2014

Der Spiegel reports renewed fighting around the Donetsk airport and, much more ominously, that the leader of the “Donetsk People’s Republic”, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, has threatened to seize Mariupol by force if Ukrainian forces do not withdraw, as renewed fighting in the direction of Mariupol erupted.

See

“Ostukraine: Heftige Gefechte um Flughafen von Donezk; Keine Entspannung in der Ostukraine: Separatisten und Armee kämpfen um den Flughafen von Donezk. Die Aufständischen drohen zudem mit einer gewaltsamen Einnahme der wichtigen Hafenstadt Mariupol,” Der Spiegel, 30. Oktober 2014 (21:10 Uhr).

Donezk ist in der Hand der Rebellen, die sich ungeachtet einer Anfang September vereinbarten Waffenruhe mit der Armee Kämpfe um den Flughafen liefern. Der Armeesprecher Andrij Lyssenko sagte am Donnerstag, in den vergangenen 24 Stunden seien in der Ostukraine ein Zivilist und sieben Soldaten getötet worden. Demnach wurden außerdem elf Soldaten verletzt. Es war der höchste Verlust für die ukrainische Armee an einem Tag seit mehr als zwei Wochen.

Lyssenko zufolge nahm der Beschuss auf die Armee zuletzt zu, insbesondere im Süden von Donezk nahe Mariupol. Die strategisch wichtige Hafenstadt ist die letzte von Kiew kontrollierte größere Stadt in der Region. Die Separatisten drohten damit, Mariupol einzunehmen. Wenn die Ukraine die Stadt nicht auf friedlichem Wege abtrete, “dann setzen wir Gewalt ein”, sagte Separatistenführer Alexander Sachartschenko russischen Agenturen zufolge.

A move on Mariupol would be consistent with Vladimir Putin’s modus operandi. With each setback, he has escalated the conflict in the Ukraine. The EU just reviewed and decided not to lift the “Stage 3″ sanctions adopted on September 5 (implemented on September 12). The October 25 legislative election results in the Ukraine represented a stinging rebuke to Putin’s efforts to prevent that country from moving toward Europe. On October 24, Putin gave a speech in Sochi in which, within the delusional bubble he has created in Russia, he almost sounded reasonable. He argued in favor of international law and institutions, for example (if only we could overlook the facts that he has invaded the Ukraine twice and “annexed” the Crimea!).

This is how he operates, as a black belt judo master. Just as you think you see him moving from one direction, you get kicked in the head from another.

That other direction could be a move on Mariupol.

****************

Originally piblished on October 3, 2014.

REPRISE: If Putin invades Mariupol and seizes a land corridor to the Crimea, what will NATO, the U.S. and the EU do?

Developing

Russia’s continuing aggression in the Ukraine, and continuing appeasement in the West

The ceasefire in the Ukraine established by the Minsk Protocol is being violated on a grand scale. Russian troops remain in the Ukraine, as supplies of weapons and other military assistance to Moscow’s “separatists” presumably continue.

Russian troops illegally occupy the Crimea, which Russia has purportedly “annexed” following military invasion and conquest.

There appear to be no strategies or plans in the West to make Putin disgorge the Crimea, which with full compliance with the Minsk Protocol establishing a ceasefire in the Donbas and a plan to achieve peace, might open the path for Russia to turn away from its current policies of military aggression and to cease its open defiance of the U.N. Charter’s prohibition of the use of force.

Given Russian defiance of the international law norms governing the use of force, upon which the entire structure of the United Nations is based, Putin may in the absence of a strong countervailing force cede to the powerful logic of war that would unite the Crimea with Russia proper, by conquring Mariupol and other territory between the Donbass and the Black Sea fleet based at Sevastopol.

The question of the hour is: Where is that countervailing force?

Europe is focused on the approval by he European Parliament of the cabinet or team proposed by the new EU Commission president, Jean-Claude Junker. Several of his nominees do not seem acceptable to the parliament’s elected members.

Some EU member states, including the U.K. and France, are also distracted by their military engagement as participants in the activities of the coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

The United States is highly distracted by its ongoing military operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and the militarily grave situations that exist on the outskirts of Baghdad and in Kurdish regions in Syria close to the border with Turkey, whose parliament has just authorized military intervention in Syria.

Politicians in the U.S. are also focusing on the upcoming Congressional elections to be held on Tuesday, November 4, 2014. The Democrats, who currently control only the Senate while the Republicans control the House, are at serious risk of losing control of the Senate. If this were to happen, Barack Obama would be turned into a real “lame duck” president for the last two years of his term.

Attention is also focused on the frightening Ebola epidemic in West Africa, which has just registered its first American case in Dallas in the form of a passenger who arrived by air from Liberia. If 70% of new cases in West Africa are not confined to Ebola treatment centers by November (the current figure is 14%), the exploding number of cases is predicted to,number in the millions, with further risks of the disease being spread by travelers to other countries.

NATO is in transition, with the new Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the former Prime Minister of Norway, having taken office only on October 1. Not only must the Alliance proceed with rapid implementation of the decisions taken at the Wales summit on September 4-5, but also consider the potential invocation of Article 5 of the NATO Treaty by Turkey in the event it is attacked by ISIS. Further deployments of NATO troops in the East are also needed, and the issue should be receiving high-priority attention.

At the same time, the demonstrations in Hong Kong over the issue of universal suffrage have the potential, if not carefully managed by parties on all sides, to spin out of control generating responses that could be fateful not only for Hong Kong but also for the evolution of Chinese society as a whole.

In this mix of headline-gripping developments, it is easy for the Western nations to assume that the Ukraine crisis is under control and can be left to simmer on the back burner for a while.

In terms of facts on the ground, however, this is not the case. The ceasefire is not being observed in the Donetsk region, particularly around the airport where serious fighting continues. Other steps in the Minsk peace plan are not being complied with fully, if at all. Prisoner exchanges have come to a halt.

Putin’s modus operandi is to strike suddenly and with great surprise. The distraction of the Western countries, and the fact that they are not even talking about the imposition of further sanctions, may create an opportunity for Putin to strike while the West’s guard is down.

For those leaders in the West who seem to be distracted, asleep, or still in the grip of pacifism and appeasement, the central question in their minds should be:

“Why shouldn’t Putin just go ahead and invade Mariupol and seize the corridor between the Crimea and the Donbas, guaranteeing a secure overland supply route to the Crimea during the coming winter?”

See

James Rupert, “As Winter Nears in Ukraine, Will Moscow Attempt Another Strategic Invasion? Continued Attacks Show Kremlin May Be Preparing Drive Toward Crimea, Analysts Say,” Atlantic Council, September 29, 2014.

James Rupert, “Can US Support for Ukraine Help Prevent a New Russian Invasion?
Canadian Analyst Says US Should Signal Moscow To Avoid Any Assault in South,” Atlantic Council, October 3, 2014.

Mychailo Wynnyckyj, “10 reasons that a full-scale invasion of Ukraine is possible before winter,” EuroMaidan Press, October 3, 2014.

What is to be done?

The first thing that is required is for the leaders of the West to put the Russian-Ukrainian war at the top of their list of priorities.

Among the steps they should take, in order to demonstrate to Putin and Russia that a powerful countervailing force exists, are the following:

1. Take the Minsk Protocol to the U.N. Security Council and put a resolution incorporating its terms to a vote.

2. The U.S. should take the lead on further sanctions, including banning Russian banks from using the SWIFT system for the transfer of international payments.

3. The U.S. and the EU and their allies should push for decisions annulling the decision to award the World Cup to Russia in 2018.

The World Cup should not be held in a country which has launched a war of aggression against a neighboring state, annexed part of its territory seized through military conquest, and violated the fundamental human rights of the populations subjected to its control (e.g., freedom of expression, right to participate in free elections, right to life, integrity of the person, and not to be arbitrarily detained, right to due process and a fair trial),

4. U.S. provision of “lethal” military weapons and assistance to the Ukraine should commence immediately.

The White House rationale for not doing so is rooted in policies of pacifism and appeasement (fear of antagonizing the aggressor), and should be reversed now in the light of events since February.

Appeasement has not worked with Putin, and it will not work with him either now or in the future.

5. The U.S. and the EU should begin an active diplomatic campaign for support of a strongly-worded U.N. General Assembly resolution on the Ukraine, condemning Russian aggression and reaffirming the U.N. Charter’s prohibition of the threat or use of force. They should focus their diplomatic efforts in particular on South Africa, Brazil and India, and be prepared to take serious measures against states which vote with Moscow, whether with a negative vote or by abstention. The vote will count. A vote to support Russia should carry a heavy price.

6. Plans and decisions for the stationing of large numbers of U.S. and other NATO troops in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland and Romania should be made soon, and their implementation begun on an urgent basis.

The status quo cannot be accepted, if the crumbling international order and the U.N. Charter’s prohibition of the threat or use of force are to be preserved.

The Trenchant Observer

Update on Delivery of Mistral-Class Warship “The Vladilovstok” to Russia: François Hollande’s unilateral “conditions” for delivery, and the high risk of a treacherous fait accompli

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

French President François Hollande is hoping to be able to deliver “The Vladivostok”, the first of two Mistral-class attack warships with theater-command and coordination capabilities to Russia, in November.

Twice he has lifted suspensions of the delivery imposed because of Russian aggression in the Ukraine, the last time when he invited Vladimir Putin first to the Normandy commenoration exercises on June 6 and then to dinner at the Elysée Palace (the same night he had dinner with President Barack Obama at a restaurant in Paris). Under intense pressure from EU and NATO allies, Hollande “suspended” the delivery of  “The Vladivostok” again on the eve of the adoption of harsher “Stage 3″ sanctions on Russia on September 5, 2014. In retrospect, it appears that he did so mainly in order to avoid the inclusion of the Mistral delivery contract on the new sanctions list. In this, at any rate, he succeeded.

Now an invitation to a ceremony at which the first of the two Mistral-class attack warships is to be delivered, dated October 8, 2014, has been made public by a high-ranking Russian military official. Hollande’s government responds that the conditions are not ripe for the delivery of the warship.

The conditions he has stated are that the ceasefire in the Ukriane be fully honored, and that Russia be supporting other provisions of the “peace plan”, by which the Minsk Protocol of September 5 is presumably meant.

The fact that Hollande is even considering delivering the warship to Russia is an appalling commentary on the state of the NATO alliance. As Russian fighters and bombers are carrying out the greatest air maneuvers challenging NATO aircraft perhaps since the end of the Cold War, as Russia has kidnapped an Estonian oficial only days after President Obama’s visit to Estonia, and as Russian President Vladimir Putin sets forth his vision of a blueprint for international law and order (!) in a speech on October 24 in Sochi, Hollande wants to do business as usual with the Russians–even as their troops stand on conquered Ukrainian soil in the Crimea, which they have purported to annex.

See

(1) Dietrich Alexander, Stefanie Bolzen, and Julia Szyndzielorz, “Nato-Chef droht Putin – “Stärke ist unsere Antwort”; Nato-Chef Stoltenberg will mit Stärke und Innovationen auf die russischen Provokationen an den Grenzen der Allianz reagieren. Das Verhalten der russischen Führung verlange “hohe Alarmbereitschaft”,
Die Welt, 30. Oktober 2014 (14:51 Uhr).

(2) Julia Smirnova (Moskau), “Raketen, Jets, Radare – wie Moskau aufrüstet; Russland verstärkt seine Schlagkraft in Weißrussland und in der Arktis. Moskau fühlt sich von der Nato in die Enge getrieben und reagiert darauf mit harten Worten – und Waffen,” Die Welt, 30. Oktober 2014 (22:49 Uhr).

François Hollande is not a leader which other NATO members can trust to act in the interests of the defense alliance.

The great danger, given the perfidious character which Hollande has already demonstrated in connection with Putin, is that France will deliver “The Valadilovstok” to Russia at sea, presenting NATO and the EU with a fait accompli. This can be easily done, since the French have been training Russian sailors in France at St. Navarre since July in how to operate the ship. All that is needed is for the ship to set to sea, and for another ship to come and pick up the French sailors.

And Voilà! the Mistral-class warship will have been delivered!

Hollande will say that he was only complying with the requirements of the contract for the ship, and that there was no EU regulation or other binding legal order to prevent him from making delivery.

With that, France will have passed on to Russia, the greatest antagonist of the NATO countries of Europe, advances in high technology and battlefield management software and associated systems that is at least 10 or more years further advanced that what Russia now has.

What can NATO or the EU then do?

Once “The Vladilovstok” has been delivered, the second Mistral-class warship (reportedly to be named “The Sevastopol”) will be ready for delivery in a year. Two further Mistral-class ships are then envisioned to be built in St. Petersburg with French assistance.

For the latest news stories, see

(1) AFP, “La livraison du Mistral à la Russie impossible en l’état, selon Paris,” 30 octobre 2014 (Mis à jour à 10:13).

François Hollande avait indiqué le 16 octobre qu’il conditionnait la livraison des bâtiments à la Russie à une application intégrale du plan de paix en Ukraine et à un cessez-le-feu entre l’armée ukrainienne et les séparatistes prorusses «entièrement respecté». Ce cessez-le-feu est violé quasiment chaque jour par les protagonistes du conflit. En septembre le chef de l’Etat français avait indiqué qu’il rendrait sa décision «à la fin du mois d’octobre» en fonction de la situation en Ukraine, où les hostilités dans l’Est ont fait plus de 3 700 morts depuis avril selon l’ONU.

(2) “Les conditions ne sont pas réunies pour livrer le Mistral à la Russie, selon Michel Sapin,” Le Figaro, 30 Octobre 2014 (Mis à jour à 09:27).

(3) Isabelle Lasserre, “Imbroglio franco-russe autour des navires Mistral,” 29 Octobre 2014, (Mis à jour le 30/10/2014 à 11:18).

(4) Véronique Guillermard, “Mistral russes : Hollande se donne du temps pour trancher,” Le Figaro, 28 Octobre 2014 (Par à jour le 29/10/2014 à 14:36).

See also the stories cited in the article published here yesterday, and in particular the article by Vincent Jaubert, which recounts the history of the whole sordid Mistral affair.

“The End of NATO: France proceeds with plans to deliver the first of two Mistral-class warships to Russia,” The Trenchant Observer, October 29, 2014.

Vincent Jauvert, “Mistral: enquête sur un contrat qui dérange, Le Nouvel Observateur, 10 août 2014.

The bottom line here is that France should not be allowed to unilaterally decide to hand “The Vladilovstok” over to Russia, when doing so would greatly undermine the security of all NATO members, and particularly those in eastern Europe, on what one is almost tempted to call now “the Eastern Front” in the new Cold War.

The Trenchant Observer

The End of NATO: France proceeds with plans to deliver the first of two Mistral-class warships to Russia

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

Treachery Most Foul: François Hollande and France, in an appalling betrayal of NATO and NATO countries, plan to deliver a Mistral-class high-tech helicopter carrier and attack warship to Russia

See

(1) L’Obs avec AFP, “Le porte-hélicoptère Mistral sera-t-il livré à la Russie le 14 novembre ? Un ministre russe annonce la livraison pour cette date. Jean-Yves Le Drian, lui, affirme que François Hollande rendra sa décision “courant novembre”. Le porte-hélicoptère Mistral sera-t-il livré à la Russie le 14 novembre ? Le Nouvel Observateur, 29 Octobre 2014 (Mis à jour à 18h57).

(2) Sascha Lehnartz, “Frankreich liefert nun doch Kriegsschiffe an Russland; Wegen der Ukraine-Krise hatte Präsident Hollande einen umstrittenen Rüstungsdeal ausgesetzt. Aber nun will Frankreich die Helikopterträger offenbar doch ausliefern. Sie sind optimal für Invasionen,” Die Welt, 29. Oktober 2014.

(3) “Official document of the delivery of the Mistral to Russia on 14th of November, Nomistralsforputin.com, October 29, 2014.

(4) Le Nouvel Observateur: The scandalous history and details of the sale of two Mistral-class attack warships to Russia, The Trenchant Observer, August 16, 2014.

(5) Vincent Jauvert, “Mistral: enquête sur un contrat qui dérange, Le Nouvel Observateur, 10 août 2014.

We commented at the time the “Stage 3″ economic sanctions against Russia were under consideration, when France “suspended” its delivery of the first of two Mistral-class attack warships to Russia, that the move may have been aimed at avoiding inclusion of the delivery contracts on the sanctions list, and that Hollande could well proceed with their delivery at a later date.

This now appears to be imminent.

François Hollande’s last-minute “suspension” of the delivery of the warships is no reason not to include an absolute ban on the making or performance of any and all defense contracts, past and future, with Russia.

Otherwise, Hollande is fully capable of weaseling his way out of the present “suspension” and proceeding with actual delivery the ships. The delivery was suspended before, it should be recalled. Hollande lifted that suspension in June, when he invited Putin to visit him for dinner at the Elysee Palace after the D-Day celebrations at Normandy.

–“Western leaders, claiming there is no military solution in the Ukraine, prepare weak sanctions that will give Putin a military victory by Russian tanks,” Updated September 4, 2014.

Appeasement Triumphs over the Goals and Aims of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

There are no words that can fully express the dismay and outrage that the latest announcements regarding the delivery of the Mistral-class warship named the Vladilovstok evoke.

The fact that Hollande is even considering delivering these advanced weapons systems, that are fully a decade more advanced than those in Russia, to the principal antagonist to the member countries of NATO, to the one country which now poses the greatest threat toward their peace and security since the end of the Cold War and the demise of the Soviet Union, speaks volumes about the craven moral character of the French President, and indeed all of the major French political parties which at one time or another have been involved in this scandalous deal.

Contrast Hollande’s attitude toward the delivery of the Mistral-class warships to the eloquent words he spoke at Liège on August 4, 2014, at a conmemoration of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I:

(Use Google Translate for text in other languages)

J’ai évoqué la neutralité, deux fois bafouée, de la Belgique. Mais aujourd’hui, la neutralité n’est plus de mise. Comment rester neutre lorsqu’un peuple, non loin d’Europe, se bat pour ses droits et pour son intégrité territoriale? Comment rester neutre lorsqu’un avion civil est abattu en Ukraine? Comment rester neutre devant des massacres de populations civiles, comme en Irak, comme en Syrie, où les minorités sont persécutées ? Comment rester neutre quand un pays ami comme le Liban voit son intégrité territoriale menacée ? Comment rester neutre quand à Gaza, un conflit meurtrier dure depuis près d’un mois ?

Nous ne pouvons pas rester neutres. Il y a une obligation d’agir. C’est l’Europe qui doit en prendre les responsabilités avec les Nations Unies. C’est le message que nous devons retenir aussi de cette journée. Nous ne pouvons pas être simplement des gardiens de la paix, des évocateurs du souvenir. Nous ne pouvons pas simplement évoquer le culte de la mémoire. Nous sommes aussi devant nos responsabilités. Ici, à Liège, au mois d’août 1914, il y a exactement un siècle, des hommes ordinaires sont devenus illustres par leur courage et leur vaillance. Aujourd’hui le temps est aussi à être illustre, par les actions que nous sommes capables de mener. Ces hommes, il y a un siècle, au fond de leur cœur, espéraient qu’un jour tous les pays d’Europe seraient rassemblés. Cent ans après, cette utopie est réalité. L’Europe est là, mais l’Europe doit faire encore davantage car la paix n’est jamais sûre. Elle exige une vigilance, un combat, une organisation, une défense de son propre continent.

Voilà pourquoi l’Europe doit toujours être en mouvement, ne doit jamais être lasse et ne doit surtout jamais être fatiguée de la paix.

–Président Franois Hollande, “Allocution au Mémorial de Cointe” (Liège, Belgique), Èlysée, Présidence de la Républicque, Publié le 04 Août 2014

Reproduced in “Remembering World War I: European leaders should spend one week in simulated trench warfare, instead of going to banquets and giving noble speeches filled with hyprocrisy,” The Trenchant Observer, August 5, 2014.

From Putin’s point of view, this is just one more step in Russia’s relentless campaign to use threats, invasions, and military force to break NATO and to undermine the leadership of the West.

The Russian vision is one of a world ruled by the kind of Machtpolitik (the politics of military power) that characterized international relations in Europe between 1933 and 1945, and which after the departure in 1890 of the great German statesman, Otto von Bismarck, characterized the rivalries and alliances in Europe that led to World War I in 1914. Bismarck, like his predecessor the Austrian foreign minister Klemens von Metternich, successfully managed the European balance of power system following the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and the peace treaties that ensued. The one major exception was, ironically, the Crimean War (1853-1856), in which Russia was defeated by a coalition of France, Britain, the Ottoman Empire, and Sardinia. There were also short wars in 1866 (Austro-Prussian War) and in 1870-71 (German-French War).

Machtpolitik or Rechtstaat–Europe’s choice–now stands before Europe, NATO and the EU as a real and urgent choice.

To deliver your best technology and most advanced assault warships to your principal enemy–and let there be no illusions about whether Russia is now the enemy of NATO including in particular those countries lying within the borders of the former Soviet Empire—is a historic betrayal of the values and interests that have undergirded the strongest and most successful defense alliance in history since its founding in 1949.

The delivery of the Mistral-class warship, scheduled for November 14 according to a letter to the Russians dated October 8, 2014 and made public recently, will sound the death knell of the Atlantic Alliance.

The Inevitable Break-up or Neutering of NATO?

The fact that the United States lacks effective foreign policy leadership, and that European and American pacifists and appeasers have succeeded in blocking more forceful actions in response to the Russian invasion and “annexation” of the Crimea, and the invasion and seizure of large sections of the Donbas region in the Ukraine including Donetsk and Luhansk, points to the inevitable breakup of NATO or its neutering.

Only if very drastic changes are made immediately, under new or reinvigorated leadership in NATO countries including the U.S., can this catastrophic scenario be averted. Signs that such leadership will emerge and that effective actions will be taken are not promising.

Even if the Mistral delivery is suspended again, NATO countries and particularly those in the East, will always know that they have enemies within the Alliance, enemies who would sell them down the river whenever they could if they could do so without incurring a signifricant cost.

The essential trust upon which the NATO alliance is built is now shattered.

What should be done?

The often apparently clueless U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, has recently met with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and publicly declared that Russia and the U.S. will work closely together in the future on intelligence matters, particularly in regard to the war on the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

President Barack Obama has been unable to formulate a coherent policy towards Syria and the Islamic State group, despite the fact that U.S. military forces are engaged in bombing (and probably other activities) in Syria.

At the same time, he appears not to understand the threat represented by Putin’s Russia, and seems singularly ill-equipped to lead the Atlantic Alliance in responding to military aggression by that country.

David Cameron of the U.K. is small-minded politician, currently demonstrating that he is a purely domestic Prime Minister by wrecklessly poisoning relations with the EU and Angela Merkel for short-sighted perceived political advantage.

In a world with real leaders, the President of the U.S. would tell France that it will cease future military and intellligence cooperation with that country if it proceeds to deliver the Vladilovstok to Russia, in November or at any other time.

In a world with real leaders, NATO would immediately convene an emergency meeting of foreign ministers (if not heads of state) to make it clear to the French that they must desist from the delivery of the Mistral-class warships to Russia.

And while the European Union is now under the leadership of a new Commission and Council which appear to be decidedly more appeasement-oriented than their predecessors, European foreign ministers if not heads of stage should immediately convene to consider the adoption of mandatory sanctions against Russia which would prohibit the execution of the Mistral-class warship contracts and their delivery.

But alas! we live in a world with pacifists and appeasers leading Europe and the United States, in “the great unraveling” in the memorable words of New York Times columnist Roger Cohen, in a world where as in 1914 and 1938-1939, things are spinning out of control.

The French decision, or the mere fact that François Hollande is considering delivery of the Mistral-class warship, when Russia still illegally occupies the Crimea following a military invasion and conquest and its purported “annexation”, demonstrates the chaotic nature of international politics in the absence of U.S. leadership.

Whereas 20 years ago a telephone call from the U.S. President to the President of France might have forestalled the disastrous decision that Hollande is about to take, Obama and the U.S. have lost the respect and authority which they once commanded.

As a result, now no country can lead the Atlantic Alliance. And with leaders like Hollande, NATO will surely collapse or become irrelevant. Vladimir Putin is relentlessly determined to destroy it.

In fact, NATO may already be irrelevant.

The Trenchant Observer

A slow and inadequate response to a disease in Africa

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Google would not index this article in a timely manner under its original title, “The catastrophic international response to the looming Ebola pandemic,” The Trenchant Observer, October 27, 2014.

This is not the first time Google has neglected to index an article of obvious importance where timely access was of critical importance.

See the following article and those cited within it.

Not indexed by Google: Trenchant Observer article with text of Security Council Resolution 2118; the unregulated power of a totalitarian instrument of thought control (updated November 27, 2013), September 28th, 2014

There is mounting evidence to indicate government authorities, including the United States and the World Health Organization, are acting to manage the news and narrative about the risks of the exponential spread of the Ebola cases in West Africa, and the slow and inadequate responses of the international community to halt its advance.

Today on Al Jazeera America or CNNi, a WHO spokesperson, with carefully chosen and clever words that did not contradict the known scientific facts, sought strenously to downplay the truly frightening dimensions of the Ebola pandemic in West Africa. She stated, misleadingly, that the (best scientific estimates) of the progression of the disease were “not predictions” but only “calculations”.

The overall impact of these clever people is to downplay the disastrous nature of the current situation, in efforts to avoid alarm (which is needed) and cries for accountability for the failure to respond more effectively (which is also needed).

In not speaking frankly and openly to the public about the scientific evidence and the facts, this WHO spokesperson (and the U.N. representative quoted below), and President Obama who recently issued similar assurances, do us all a great disservice. President Obama’s statements, like his recent appointment of a domestically-oriented “Ebola Czar”, also appear to serve more immediate electoral purposes.

The situation is alarming, and alarm should be spread throught the land, and the entire world.

The original article follows.

“The catastrophic international response to the looming Ebola pandemic,” The Trenchant Observer, October 27, 2014.

Sadly, the United States and other developed countries have been focusing their attention on the few cases which have reached their shores, instead of the fact that the Ebola epidemic in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea is spiraling exponentially out of control.

Delays in implementing adequate isolation and containment measures have resulted in an ever-greater spiral of needs–particularly Ebola treatment Centers and teams of highly-trained medical personnel from abroad to staff them–that are not being met.

Experts using sophisticated models estimate that 70% of new cases need to be isolated in Ebola Treatment Centers to stop the exponential rise in new cases. Progress toward reaching the target number of hospital beds and medical personnel has been falling behind the time markers for effective interventions.

The costs of delay have been catastrophic, including tens of thousands of lives that might have been saved but now will not be. Each week the international response falls further behind the curve.

In fact, the lumbering response of the international community–despite the heroic efforts of thousands of doctors and other medical personnel and supporting staff to meet an extraordinary challenge–means that the window of opportunity for bringing the epidemic under control any time soon, say by early next year, is rapidly closing. There is then the possibility that interventions will not be able to catch up with the spread of the disease, which has the potential to become a pandemic reaching well beyond West Africa.

Most of the news coverage is now almost beside the point. What needs to be reported, every day, is the following:

1. Number of Ebola Treatment Centers in place and functioning as percentage of those required under different scenarios;

2. Number of hospital beds available in such centers as percentage of those required under different scenarios;

3. Number of Ebola medical teams in place and functioning as percentage of number required under different scenarios; and

4. Estimated number of cases not avoided and lives not saved due to delays in implementation, under different scenarios.

See the latest statistics in the following TIME article, the report on which it is based, and the (Sixth) Morbity and Mortality (MMWR) Special Report, dated September 26, 2014 (cited further below):

(1) Alexandra Sifferlin, “Study: Current Aid Promises Won’t Contain Liberia’s Ebola Outbreak,” TIME, October 25, 2014.

(2) Joseph A Lewnard BA a b †, Martial L Ndeffo Mbah PhD a b †, Jorge A Alfaro-Murillo PhD a b, Prof Frederick L Altice MD a c, Luke Bawo MPH d, Tolbert G Nyenswah MPH d, Prof Alison P Galvani PhD a b, “Dynamics and control of Ebola virus transmission in Montserrado, Liberia: a mathematical modelling analysis,”
THE LANCET -Infectious Diseases, Early On-line publication, October 24, 2014.

(3) Rachael Rettner, “‘Catastrophic’ Ebola Toll in Liberia Is Predicted Unless Aid Scales Up, LiveScience.com (Yahoo News), October 24, 2014 (12:24 PM).

For references to an authoritative model of the spread of the Ebola virus disease, under various intervention scenarios including timing, see

“Three imperious challenges for U.S. foreign policy: Ukraine, ISIS and Ebola, The Trenchant Observer, October 13, 2014.

The portions of that article dealing with the Ebola crisis follow:

The Ebola Epidemic

With respect to the Ebola epidemic, currently out of control in West Africa in Liberia, Sierra Leone and possibly Guinea, which potentially threatens the entire world, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have played a superb role in leading the response to he crisis on a technical, medical level. They have laid out the case that if 70% of new cases are not confined to Ebola treatment centers by November 20, the exponential growth in the number of infected individuals may reach 1.4 million in Liberia and Sierra Leone by January 20.

Obama has pledged to send 3,000 military personnel, but they will not be on the ground before November. Meanwhile the contagion of the disease continues to explode. Resources and above all the coordination of efforts have been slow to materialize on the ground. This is a situation which calls for massive and extraordinarily urgent action, but the U.S. has only said what it is going to do, and that’s it.

Unfortunately, the U.N. special representative for the Ebola crisis, Dr. David Nabarro, has been putting the credibility of the United Nations Ebola response on the line with optimistic statements that appear not to have a solid basis in scientific fact, or which are at least highly misleading. He has stated, for example,

The UN special envoy on Ebola says he hopes that the outbreak can be brought under control within three months.

David Nabarro told the BBC the number of Ebola cases was currently increasing exponentially, but greater community awareness would help contain the virus.

People were becoming aware that isolating those infected was the best way to prevent transmission, he added.

So far, there have been more than 8,300 confirmed and suspected cases of Ebola, and at least 4,033 deaths.

Mr Nabarro said that the number of new cases was “quite frightening”, as the spread of the disease was currently accelerating.

At the beginning, many west African communities did not understand that the outbreak was an infectious disease, he said.

“I think we’ve got much better community involvement [now] which leads me to believe that getting it under control within the next three months is a reasonable target,” he said.

–“UN: Ebola outbreak could be controlled in three months,” BBC, October 11, 2014 (23:52 ET).

His assertions stand in sharp contrast to the scientific analysis contained in the last (sixth) Morbity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) Special Report, dated September 26, 2014, which explained that under a worst case scenario the total number of Ebola cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone would be likely to reach 1,400,000 by January 20, 2015.

If trends continue without additional interventions, the model estimates that Liberia and Sierra Leone will have approximately 8,000 total Ebola cases (21,000 total cases when corrected for underreporting) by September 30, 2014 (Figure 1). Liberia will account for approximately 6,000 cases (16,000 corrected for underreporting) (Appendix [Figure 1]). Total cases in the two countries combined are doubling approximately every 20 days (Figure 1). Cases in Liberia are doubling every 15–20 days, and those in Sierra Leone are doubling every 30–40 days (Appendix [Figure 1]).

By September 30, 2014, without additional interventions and using the described likelihood of going to an ETU, approximately 670 daily beds in use (1,700 corrected for underreporting) will be needed in Liberia and Sierra Leone (Figure 2). Extrapolating trends to January 20, 2015, without additional interventions or changes in community behavior (e.g., notable reductions in unsafe burial practices), the model also estimates that Liberia and Sierra Leone will have approximately 550,000 Ebola cases (1.4 million when corrected for underreporting) (Appendix [Figure 2]). The uncorrected estimates of cases for Liberia on September 9, 2014, were 2,618, and the actual reported cases
were 2,407 (i.e., model overestimated cases by +8.8%). The uncorrected estimates of cases for Sierra Leone on September 13, 2014, were 1,505 and the actual reported cases were 1,620 (i.e., model underestimated cases by -7.6%).

See

“CDC projects huge increase in number of Ebola cases in West Africa until 70% of new cases confined to Ebola treatment centers or equivalent, The Trenchant Observer, October 6, 2014.

Adam Nossiter, “Officials Admit a ‘Defeat’ by Ebola in Sierra Leone,” New York Times, October 10, 2014.

Whether the 70% level of Ebola treatment centers or equivalent isolation can be achieved in time to break the momentum of the epidemic by December is an open question. Significantly, the critical factor is isolation not community understanding of the disease and its transmission, though the latter factor is obviously critically important in order to reach the 70% isolation target.

The Trenchant Observer

REPRISE — The fruits of pacifist foreign policies: Aggression in Ukraine, atrocities in Syria

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Viewing the developing Russian-Ukrainian war from the vantage point of March 3, 2014, it is striking to note how much of what has happened since was in effect a tragedy foretold. It has indeed been a tragedy foretold, like in a Greek tragedy where the audience (here, some in the audience) know the outcome, but the chief protagonists don’t, as they proceed to go about playing their tragic roles.

The question today (October 21, 2014), of course, is whether we can see further tragedies about to unfold and yet may still act to avert what the Greeks might have considered to be irreversible Fate.

*******

REPRISE — The fruits of pacifist foreign policies: Aggression in Ukraine, atrocities in Syria; Merkel’s fact-finding mission—a last chance to avert disaster?,” The Trenchant Observer, March 3, 2014.

First published on March 3, 2014

The new hybrid pacifism

The new, hybrid pacifism of Barack Obama and NATO countries has been obscured by Obama’s use of drones, and military operations begun long ago but now winding down in Afghanistan.

The military intervention of France and NATO in Libya pursuant to a U.N. Security Council mandate represented an exception to the general pacifism which characterizes Obama’s foreign policy, an exception and now rare case (outside of Africa) where military action is undertaken pursuant to authorization by the U.N. Security Council.

Other interventions by France and U.N. and African Union forces in Mali and the Central African Republic have reflected the paradoxical nature of current pacifist policies, which are hybrid in nature, admitting the use of military force to stabilize situations in African countries when there is a Security Council mandate or an invitation by the government of the target country.

However, often hiding behind simplistic interpretations of legal prohibitions, in effect ruling out the strong use of military force against powerful opponents when real blood and treasure must be put at risk, the new hybrid pacifism has the effect of ceding the playing field to ruthless countries such as Syria, Iran and Russia, allowing war crimes, crimes against humanity, and military invasions to effectively go unopposed.

On legal interpretations and justifications, see Sir Daniel Bethlehem QC, “Stepping Back a Moment – The Legal Basis in Favour of a Principle of Humanitarian Intervention,” EJIL Talk, September12, 2013.

The U.S. and other NATO countries, reeling from their losses in Iraq and Afghanistan, with little to show for their sacrifices, don’t want to live in a world where real military force may have to be used.

So they rule it out. U.S. and NATO military leaders, seemingly unaware of the impact of their words on adversaries, loudly proclaim they are ruling out the possible use of military force. This has occurred not only in the Ukraine, but also and repeatedly in Syria. These statements, like those of U.S. military leaders stressing the difficulty of taking military action in Syria, are essentially aimed at domestic audiences and allied governments while naively ignoring their impact on opponents.

Furthermore, it is painful to see military and NATO leaders allow themselves to get drawn into political debates, in public. These discussions should be conducted behind closed doors, without leaks to the press about what is going on or what leaders are thinking with respect to military action.

In Syria, this new, hybrid pacifism has been obscured behind cynical acceptance of Kofi Annan’s illusory six-point peace plan for Syria (and the promise of political settlement at the Geneva I and Geneva II peace conferences), and behind the simplistic legal argument that the U.N. Charter prohibits any military action (except self-defense) without the approval of the Security Council, even to stop the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity on a massive scale, as in Syria.

Under this interpretation, Russia would have been allowed to install nuclear missiles aimed at the United States during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October, 1963, the genocidal war in the former Yugoslavia would never have been halted, and Serbian ethnic cleansing in Kosovo in 1999 would have been allowed to proceed.

In a future world (after the Permanent Members’ veto has been eliminated), adherence to such a norm would be essential. In the meantime, we must rely on the closest approximations possible, limiting any such actions to the most narrowly circumscribed cases, where there is overwhelming support by the nations of the world for the action to be undertaken, and preferably when it is carried out under the authorization of another international organization.

In any event, this new form of hybrid pacifism has taken hold in America and NATO countries. As a result, Bashar al-Assad has been left free to commit his atrocities, which include not only the bombardment of civilian populations including hospitals and medical personnel, but also the arrests, torture, and executions in the night which do not make the daily news, and of which those who follow events closely only hear much later from international organizations when the latter report, for example, that maybe 80,000 people have “disappeared”.

Another, highly significant result has been Russia’s aggression against the Ukraine in February and March, 2014. This aggression follows that in Georgia in 2008, which NATO and the West allowed to stand, conducting business as usual with Russia afterwards. To be sure, Georgia was not blameless in the evolution of events. However, in the end Russian aggression through the illegal use of force across international frontiers was allowed to stand, without serious consequences for Russia.

Russia’s calculus in the Ukraine might have been very different had Anders Rasmussen, the Secretary General of NATO, not assured his members–and Russia–that options involving the use of force by NATO were not under consideration, and if, for example, NATO countries had put their military forces on alert, and NATO naval and air assets been strategically deployed within the region.

Now, however, absent a determined will to deploy force against the illegal threat or use of force, the pacifist leaders of the U.S. and Europe, and other NATO countries, must now resign themselves to the depredations of a Russian leader willing to invade neighboring countries in utter defiance of international law, and indeed the foundations of the post-WW II international legal and political order.

Given the current pacifism of the West, and given the fact that major consequences for Russia have already been triggered by its military intervention in the Ukraine, there is little to dissuade Putin from similarly using his military power to bring Georgia and Moldova (and other former Soviet Republics) back within the Russian “sphere of influence” or community of states.

China supports Russia, suggesting that it too might in the future be willing to settle its disputes with its neighbors through the use of military force.

Nonetheless, we need to recall certain hard-won lessons from history.

International law and order are in the end indivisible, for if the prohibition of the threat or use of force can be defied with impunity by one country in one part of the world, surely it can be defied by other countries elsewhere. When Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in 1983, it is worth recalling, the military operation was named “Operation Goa”, recalling the precedent set by India when it invaded the Portuguese colony and enclave of Goa in 1961.

Obama’s pacifism, and that of Europe and NATO, have left a vacuum in Europe which Vladimir Putin appears ready to fill with Russian military forces. Even if his actions are delusional, and make no sense in reality as the latter is understood in the West, they have already had momentous consequences which will reshape economic and political relations in Europe and beyond for decades to come.

Further, Putin’s actions have produced a situation in which the Ukraine has become a tinderbox, while madmen are running around with torches in their hands.

War is by its very nature wholly unpredictable. What could happen, for example, if Russians started killing Ukrainians, and Poland decided to send military forces to support Kiev in exercise of the right of collective self-defense?

Impact on Nuclear Proliferation

One impact from Russian intervention in Ukraine is of exceptional significance for the future of international peace and security. Following Russia’s violation of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum guaranteeing the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of the Ukraine in exchange for its surrender of its nuclear weapons, it is inconceivable that any arms control agreement with Russia could be ratified by the U.S. Senate so long as Putin remains in power–and probably long thereafter.

See Peter Spiegel, “Ukraine and the West: an international legal primer, Financial Times (Brussels Blog), March 2, 2014.

If one thinks carefully about the Russian military intervention in the Ukraine, it is obvious that Russia would have been extremely reluctant to engage in such behavior if the Ukraine still had the 1900 nuclear warheads on missiles it surrendered in 1994, when it also joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

One of the greatest impacts of the Russian military intervention in the Ukraine is likely to be the powerful impetus it will give to the forces of nuclear proliferation. Even in the context of the 5+1 nuclear talks with Iran, the invasion is likely to reduce the credibility of any guarantees of Iranian territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence to near zero, at least insofar as Russia is concerned..

A Last chance to draw back from the abyss? Merkel’s fact-finding mission

There may still be a slight chance to avoid unleashing the dogs of war, what the founders of the United Nations referred to as “the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind” (U.N. Charter, Preamble, below).

Russia and Putin appear to be under a kind of delusional spell which seems to result from believing their own propaganda, having stirred up a public which appears eager to use military force, in scenes reminiscent of the enthusiasm for war felt among the populations of the European powers in 1914 on the eve of and during the first days of World War I.

In these circumstances, Angela Merkel’s proposal to send an impartial fact-finding mission to the Crimea and the Ukraine should be implemented immediately. Putin has told Merkel that he agrees to the proposition.

The mission could be undertaken under the aegis of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), or even an organ of the U.N. such as the Human Rights Council where Russia does not have a veto.

At the same time, it could be useful for NATO to place some military forces on alert and move military assets into place in case a need arises for them to be used.

Russia is spewing lies about what is going on in the Crimea and the Ukraine, and seeking to provoke violence which might provide a thin veneer of legitimacy to its legal claims that it is intervening in the Crimea to protect its nationals.

These claims should be rebutted immediately in official reports published by NATO and other countries. The fact that the transitional president of Ukraine has vetoed a bill which would have revoked the 2010 language law allowing use of Russian as a second language should be made known to every citizen in Ukraine.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1963, John F. Kennedy and Nikita Krushchev exchanged letters at the most critical moments of the crisis, when nuclear war was a most palpable possibility. Khrushchev sent one letter to Kennedy on Friday, October 26 which was conciliatory in tone:

If, however, you have not lost your self-control and sensibly conceive what this might lead to, then, Mr. President, you and I ought not now to pull on the ends of the rope in which you have tied the knots of war, because the more the two of us pull, the tighter the knot will be tied. And a moment may come when that knot will be tied so tight that even he who tied it will not have the strength to untie it, and then it will be necessary to cut that knot, and what that would mean is not for me to explain to you, because you yourself understand perfectly of what terrible forces our countries dispose.

–“Krushchev letter of October 26, as received in the White House,” reprinted in Larson, “Cuban Crisis”, pp. 175-80, quoted in Graham Allison and Philip Zelikow, “Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis,” at p. 355 (2d ed. 1999).

Saturday, October 27, when an American U-2 was shot down over Cuba, a much harsher letter bearing the stamp of the Kremlin’s collective leadership was broadcast over the radio, adding new conditions to the offer in the Friday letter. Kennedy decided to ignore the second letter and to reply to the first (in what was referred to as “a Trollope ploy”, alluding to the acceptance of ambivalent gestures as a marriage proposal, in Anthony Trollope’s 19th century novels).

The West should now follow Kennedy’s example, and accept Putin’s acceptance of Merkel’s proposal for sending a fact-finding mission to the Ukraine, regardless of what he or the Russians have said since. Moreover, they should do so at breakneck speed, blasting through the diplomatic procedures that normally slow things down. The goal must be to get the first elements of the fact-finding mission on the ground in the Crimea within a matter of hours, not days. Time is of the essence.

Reports from the mission, including daily press briefings or updates, could then help defuse the war fever in Russia, affording Putin a gradual way to climb down should he become sufficiently enlightened to do so. Also worth bearing in mind is the fact that he may have unleashed organizational and bureaucratic forces which are not easily controlled, and may need time to be able to reverse course successfully when and if he comes to his senses and decides to do so.

The ends of the rope on which the knot of war has been tied must be loosened now, if at all possible, even at this late hour. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, assisted by her capable and experienced foreign minister, Walter-Frank Steinmeier, should lead the effort, with full support from the United States, France, Poland and other European and NATO countries.

The Trenchant Observer

Ommitted: Preamble to the United Nations Charter

REPRISE II: 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.”

Monday, October 20th, 2014

October 20, 2014

Since the article below was written, Russia continued its invasion of the eastern Ukraine sending in Russian troops, tanks, artillery and other equipment, which participated in the fighting and rolled back some of the recent gains of the Ukrainian army. NATO decided on September 5 to establish a rapid reaction force in eastern Europe, and to reiterate the goal of each member spending 2% of GDP on defense (to be achieved within 10 years). The EU adopted harsher “Stage 3″ economic sanctions against Russia on September 5, and after some hesitation finally implemented them on September 12. The U.S. implemented parallel harsher sanctions shortly thereafter.

The Minsk Protocol was also signed on September 5, and generally halted the advance of Russian and separatists forces on Mariupol, though sporadic fighting has continued. The current situation is that of a truce which is only partially working, as Russian troops remain in the eastern Ukraine or on the border poised to dictate terms to Kiev. Vladimir Putin’s announced order to withdraw 17,000 troops from the border area, made in anticipation of the Milan summit and side meetings on October 16-18, 2014, has not produced any noticeable movement on the ground accounting to NATO’s top commander, U.S. Gen. Philip Breedlove.

Putin has had the effrontery to argue that his invasion of the Crimea was legal under international law.

Angela Merkel disputed that assertion in Milan.

The whole world should dispute that assertion, every minute of every day, until even Vladimir Putin, the dictator of Russia, get’s the point. He has no legitimacy or authority to criticize anyone. He needs to implement the Minsk protocol, all 12 steps, including the withdrawal of Russian troops.

Putin will also need to return matters to the status quo ante in the Crimea, perhaps as part of and in order to make possible a negotiated settlement of the Crimean conflict of 2014. International administration of the peninsula for a couple of years, followed by a genuine plebiscite under international supervision, represents one potential path that might be explored. As a military diktat, the invasion and annexation of the Crimea will not stand.

Following is the introduction to the REPRISE of this article and then the original article itself.

*****************

July 6, 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,” July 6, 2014.

First published on May 3, 2014

REPRISE published on July 6, 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, South Africa, India 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

A rudderless U.S. foreign policy: Obama flounders in dealing with the Ukraine, ISIS, and Ebola

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

Draft

While the United States has finally, and belatedly, begun military actions in Iraq and Syria to slow the advance of ISIS forces, the country is still led by a White House of extraordinary incompetence. This is not about politics, but rather about the ability to formulate coherent strategies, policies and plans, and then to execute them effectively.

If this is what “driving from the back seat”means, it is a total and unmitigated disaster.

We have witnessed this disaster in the making, with Obama’s contradictory and indecisive policies toward Syria as far back as 2011 and 2012, when he refused the unanimous advice of his principal foreign policy advisers to provide military support to the Syrian opposition forces. His refusal to do so had the result of helping Syrian president al-Assad beat back the insurgents, and opened the space for the growth of what became known as ISIS, which now threatens not only Iraq and Syria but countries across the world, from Australia to the U.S. and Europe.

One element of Obama’s indecisiveness led to pulling the rug out from under Turkey in 2012 as it was poised to intervene in Syria, according to well-founded reports.

At the moment, Turkey stands over the border from Kobanê in Syria, a town with a large Kurdish population which has been coming under increasing pressure from ISIS notwithstanding U.S. and perhaps allied airstrikes and which, according to some reports, could soon fall into the hands of ISIS.

In order for it to intervene, Turkey is demanding a commitment from the U.S. that it will also include in its goals the defeat of the Syrian regime, which has caused the deaths of over 200,000 persons in Syria through barbarous atrocities including war crimes and crimes against humanity on a grand scale.

In Iraq, despite U.S. and allied coalition airstrikes, and even the use of Apache heliocopters, in addition to the successful formation of a new Shiite-led government after the departure of former president al-Maliki, reports speak of the realistic possibility that all of Anbar province could fall to the ISIS fighters. ISIS already holds a broad swathe of territory in the province.

While the U.S. has done an admirable job of putting together a coalition to fight ISIS, at least on paper, it has yet to prove that it is capable of leading and coordinating an effective military campaign and coalition war against ISIS, as demonstrated not by statistics on the number of airstrikes launched (self-regarding) but rather by strategic objectives and results obtained on the ground.

At the moment, Obama would appear to be not following the advice of his generals. When Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey stated in Congressional testimony that conditions could conceivably arise under which he would advise the president to send ground combat forces to Iraq, he was immediately contradicted the following day by President Obama who, in a military setting, firmly asserted that he would not introduce combat troops into Iraq.

With respect to the Russian-Ukrainian war, Obama was so slow in reacting that the Crimea had been annexed before the U.S., NATO and the EU could get around to offering a serious response. On economic sanctions, the U.S. did succeed in getting coordinated sanctions adopted with the EU, but only after much delay. Since September 5, when the sanctions were agreed and NATO also announced the creation of a rapid deployment force, the ceasefire called for in the Minsk Protocol of September 5 has stopped the advance of Russian troops, tanks and artillery, but has proven shaky particularly in the Donetsk region and around the Donetsk airport.

Over a month after the sanctions were agreed and the Minsk Protocol was signed, Russian troops remain in the Ukraine, and neither Obama nor the EU have taken any concrete initiatives to force their withdrawal.

With respect to the Ebola epidemic, currently out of control in West Africa in Liberia, Sierra Leone and possibly Guinea, which potentially threatens the entire world, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have played a superb role in leading the response to the crisis on a technical, medical level. They have laid out the case that if 70% of new cases are not confined to Ebola treatment centers by November 20, the exponential growth in the number of infected individuals may reach 1.4 million in Liberia and Sierra Leone by January 20.

Obama has pledged to send 3,000 military personnel, but they will not be on the ground before November. Meanwhile the contagion of the disease continues to explode. Resources and above all the coordination of efforts have been slow to materialize on the ground. This is a situation which calls for massive and extraordinarily urgent action, but the U.S. has only said what it is going to do, and that’s it.

The common thread to these ongoing failures of foreign policy, to which many other examples could be added, is Obama’s emphasis on what the U.S. is going to do–no more, and what other nations need to do. The emphasis almost seems to be on what the U.S. is not going to do, in a world in which time is not of the essence.

The focus is self-regarding, on what the U.S. and others are going to do, and not going to do, and not on the realities of the challenge on the ground and what is required to meet that challenge within the time limits that those realities impose.

Whether with respect to the Ukraine, ISIS and al-Assad in Syria, the defense of Anbar province and beyond in Iraq, or halting the explosion in Ebola infections, we are faced with policies which include many necessary elements (e.g., the replacement of al-Maliki with the formation of a a more inclusive regime in Baghdad (a work in progress, yet to convince the Sunnis), but which are blind to the urgency of the moment, to quickly developing military advances of ISIS on the ground, or the rapid explosion in the number of Ebola cses in West Africa.

Returning to the situaiton in Kobanê, one has the impression that Obama is far more interested in winning a battle of wills with the Turks over whether to also target the al-Assad regime than he is in protecting the hundreds of thousands of human beings who will be affected by a continued failure to take effective action. The airstrikes are important, but not sufficient to achieve the goal.

Obama doesn’t seem to grasp the importance of symbolic and strategic victories or of momentum on the ground.

The Daily Star in Beirut expressed the general exasperation with Washington’s policies in the Middle East in an Editorial published on October 10. The paper wrote,

The vastly contradictory statements coming from the U.S. government over the last few days are emblematic of a wider problem: that the Obama administration apparently has no coherent strategy when it comes to Syria, and now Iraq, and is playing the whole thing by ear. But this absence of any tangible policy will have ramifications far wider than simply the countries directly involved.

Despite a campaign of airstrikes against ISIS, backed by a coalition of some 60 countries, the U.S. is confused and confusing. Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that the U.S. was looking closely at the idea of a buffer zone along the border with Turkey, inside Syria. Hours later the Pentagon and the White House said (the) option was absolutely not on the table.

This flip-flopping really makes one wonder where decisions are being made, and by whom….

(T)the mistakes of Obama’s administration have done untold and likely irreparable damage.

And the vacuum that has been left appears to have given oxygen to the most extreme and most dangerous groups around the world. The destruction and loss of life happening now across the Middle East is only the beginning. The aftershocks of current political indecisiveness will be felt for generations.

The Trenchant Observer

International law and the use of military force against groups in Syria

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Preliminary draft – developing

There is considerable confusion over the legality under international law of taking military action against groups and targets in Syria.

This has led some governments participating in the coalition against the so-called Islamic State (or ISIS, ISIL, or Da’eesh) to support military action within Iraq but not within Syria.

It should be helpful to clarify the different legal authorities under international law under which military force may be used in Syria.

These break down into three broad categories:

(1) Action againsr ISIL in Syria may be taken in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the U.N. Charter “in the case of an armed attack”. ISIL has launched and is currently engaged in such an armed attack.

If Iraq issues a request for military assistance in repelling that attack, other states may use force that is necessary and proprtional to defending against the attack.

Collective self-defense is a valid justification for U.S. and allied air strikes and land action against ISIL in Syria.

With respect to Kobane, in particular, given the scale of the attack on Iraq and in response to a request from that country for assistance in collective self-defense, Turkey would be justified under international law in sending ground forces into Syria to attack ISIL forces and to repel the attack on that border city.

(2) The second justification for using military force in Syria, whether against ISIL or the Bashar al-Assad regime itself, would be to halt he commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity on a broad scale, until such time as the U.N. Security Council can take effective action to halt the commission of these crimes.

The justification is somewhat novel under international law, but it is submitted makes eminent good sense if narrowly drafted within the framework of the Security Council’s duty to implement the “responsibility to protect” resolution adopted in 2006.

See

(1) “The U.N. Charter, International Law, and Legal Justifications for Military Intervention in Syria—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #83,” The Trenchant Observer, September 1, 2012.

(2) “Humanitarian Intervention in Syria Without Security Council Authorization—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #24,” The Trenchant Observer, April 8, 2012.

In the case of ISIL, this would be a second legal justification, in addition to that of collective self-defense.

In the case of the al-Assad government, which has not committed an “armed attack” against Iraq, this would constitute the main legal justification for taking military action against Syria.

As set forth in considerable detail in previous articles on the legality of humanitarian intervention in Syria to halt al-Assad’s atrocities, the objective of such military intervention should be to halt the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the al-Assad government, under extraordinary circumstances and then only until the Security Council can take effective action.

Whatever objections Russia may have at one time been prepared to make to such an argument, resting on an overly mechanistic interpretation of Article 2 paragraph 4 of the U.N. Charter, it is hardly now in a position to make in view of its invasions of the Crimea and the eastern Ukraine.

(3) The third category of actions involve taking military action within Syria against jihadist or al-Qaeda related groups which have not been involved in an armed attack against Iraq or, arguably, even the large-scale commission of war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Here, the weakness of the international legal arguments used by the U.S. to justify drone attacks and other uses of force outside the Afghanistan-Pakistan war theater comes fully into view.

The U.S. argument turns essentially on assertions that the war against jihadists is global in nature with the result that the war theater is also global, and that certain interptetations by the U.S. of the laws of war or humanitarian law are (1) valid within the framework of humanitarian law itself; and (2) take precedence over the prohibition of the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political indedendence of any state contained in article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter, which is universally recognized as a kind of “super” or mandatory law (jus cogens), from which there can be no derogation.

The legal arguments used to support this third category of military actions within Syria are widely disputed outside the U.S. government, and do not appear to be supported by a wide number and variety of states.

That is why the recent U.S. air attacks on the Khorasan group, an al-Qaeda cell deemed to be particularly dangerous, at the same time the U.S. attacked ISIL targets in Syria, created much confusion, particularly in the absence of a detailed written legal justification for either kind of attack.

What was provided was a letter to the U.N. Security Council justifying the attacks both as collective self-defense and in the case of the attack on the Khorasan group as individual self-defense by the U.S.

The latter justification consisted in the mere statement of a conclusion, and failed to address the three self-defense requirements of immediacy, necessity, and proportionality.

The Trenchant Observer

Comments are invited.

If Putin invades Mariupol and seizes a land corridor to the Crimea, what will NATO, the U.S. and the EU do?

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

Developing

Russia’s continuing aggression in the Ukraine, and continuing appeasement in the West

The ceasefire in the Ukraine established by the Minsk Protocol is being violated on a grand scale. Russian troops remain in the Ukraine, as supplies of weapons and other military assistance to Moscow’s “separatists” presumably continue.

Russian troops illegally occupy the Crimea, which Russia has purportedly “annexed” following military invasion and conquest.

There appear to be no strategies or plans in the West to make Putin disgorge the Crimea, which with full compliance with the Minsk Protocol establishing a ceasefire in the Donbas and a plan to achieve peace, might open the path for Russia to turn away from its current policies of military aggression and to cease its open defiance of the U.N. Charter’s prohibition of the use of force.

Given Russian defiance of the international law norms governing the use of force, upon which the entire structure of the United Nations is based, Putin may in the absence of a strong countervailing force cede to the powerful logic of war that would unite the Crimea with Russia proper, by conquring Mariupol and other territory between the Donbass and the Black Sea fleet based at Sevastopol.

The question of the hour is: Where is that countervailing force?

Europe is focused on the approval by he European Parliament of the cabinet or team proposed by the new EU Commission president, Jean-Claude Junker. Several of his nominees do not seem acceptable to the parliament’s elected members.

Some EU member states, including the U.K. and France, are also distracted by their military engagement as participants in the activities of the coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

The United States is highly distracted by its ongoing military operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and the militarily grave situations that exist on the outskirts of Baghdad and in Kurdish regions in Syria close to the border with Turkey, whose parliament has just authorized military intervention in Syria.

Politicians in the U.S. are also focusing on the upcoming Congressional elections to be held on Tuesday, November 4, 2014. The Democrats, who currently control only the Senate while the Republicans control the House, are at serious risk of losing control of the Senate. If this were to happen, Barack Obama would be turned into a real “lame duck” president for the last two years of his term.

Attention is also focused on the frightening Ebola epidemic in West Africa, which has just registered its first American case in Dallas in the form of a passenger who arrived by air from Liberia. If 70% of new cases in West Africa are not confined to Ebola treatment centers by November (the current figure is 14%), the exploding number of cases is predicted to,number in the millions, with further risks of the disease being spread by travelers to other countries.

NATO is in transition, with the new Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the former Prime Minister of Norway, having taken office only on October 1. Not only must the Alliance proceed with rapid implementation of the decisions taken at the Wales summit on September 4-5, but also consider the potential invocation of Article 5 of the NATO Treaty by Turkey in the event it is attacked by ISIS. Further deployments of NATO troops in the East are also needed, and the issue should be receiving high-priority attention.

At the same time, the demonstrations in Hong Kong over the issue of universal suffrage have the potential, if not carefully managed by parties on all sides, to spin out of control generating responses that could be fateful not only for Hong Kong but also for the evolution of Chinese society as a whole.

In this mix of headline-gripping developments, it is easy for the Western nations to assume that the Ukraine crisis is under control and can be left to simmer on the back burner for a while.

In terms of facts on the ground, however, this is not the case. The ceasefire is not being observed in the Donetsk region, particularly around the airport where serious fighting continues. Other steps in the Minsk peace plan are not being complied with fully, if at all. Prisoner exchanges have come to a halt.

Putin’s modus operandi is to strike suddenly and with great surprise. The distraction of the Western countries, and the fact that they are not even talking about the imposition of further sanctions, may create an opportunity for Putin to strike while the West’s guard is down.

For those leaders in the West who seem to be distracted, asleep, or still in the grip of pacifism and appeasement, the central question in their minds should be:

“Why shouldn’t Putin just go ahead and invade Mariupol and seize the corridor between the Crimea and the Donbas, guaranteeing a secure overland supply route to the Crimea during the coming winter?”

See

James Rupert, “As Winter Nears in Ukraine, Will Moscow Attempt Another Strategic Invasion? Continued Attacks Show Kremlin May Be Preparing Drive Toward Crimea, Analysts Say,” Atlantic Council, September 29, 2014.

James Rupert, “Can US Support for Ukraine Help Prevent a New Russian Invasion?
Canadian Analyst Says US Should Signal Moscow To Avoid Any Assault in South,” Atlantic Council, October 3, 2014.

Mychailo Wynnyckyj, “10 reasons that a full-scale invasion of Ukraine is possible before winter,” EuroMaidan Press, October 3, 2014.

What is to be done?

The first thing that is required is for the leaders of the West to put the Russian-Ukrainian war at the top of their list of priorities.

Among the steps they should take, in order to demonstrate to Putin and Russia that a powerful countervailing force exists, are the following:

1. Take the Minsk Protocol to the U.N. Security Council and put a resolution incorporating its terms to a vote.

2. The U.S. should take the lead on further sanctions, including banning Russian banks from using the SWIFT system for the transfer of international payments.

3. The U.S. and the EU and their allies should push for decisions annulling the decision to award the World Cup to Russia in 2018.

The World Cup should not be held in a country which has launched a war of aggression against a neighboring state, annexed part of its territory seized through military conquest, and violated the fundamental human rights of the populations subjected to its control (e.g., freedom of expression, right to participate in free elections, right to life, integrity of the person, and not to be arbitrarily detained, right to due process and a fair trial),

4. U.S. provision of “lethal” military weapons and assistance to the Ukraine should commence immediately.

The White House rationale for not doing so is rooted in policies of pacifism and appeasement (fear of antagonizing the aggressor), and should be reversed now in the light of events since February.

Appeasement has not worked with Putin, and it will not work with him either now or in the future.

5. The U.S. and the EU should begin an active diplomatic campaign for support of a strongly-worded U.N. General Assembly resolution on the Ukraine, condemning Russian aggression and reaffirming the U.N. Charter’s prohibition of the threat or use of force. They should focus their diplomatic efforts in particular on South Africa, Brazil and India, and be prepared to take serious measures against states which vote with Moscow, whether with a negative vote or by abstention. The vote will count. A vote to support Russia should carry a heavy price.

6. Plans and decisions for the stationing of large numbers of U.S. and other NATO troops in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland and Romania should be made soon, and their implementation begun on an urgent basis.

The status quo cannot be accepted, if the crumbling international order and the U.N. Charter’s prohibition of the threat or use of force are to be preserved.

The Trenchant Observer

Putin’s threats against NATO and other countries

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

There are disturbing signs that Vladimir Putin’s ambitions, following his successful invasions of the Crimea and the eastern Ukraine, have become or remain boundless.

He has threatened to take Kiev, according to EU President Jose Manuel Barroso.

He has threatened to invade Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland and Romania, in conversations with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, according to EU documents relating Poroshenko’s account to EU members or officials.

He has made not so veiled threats against Kazakhstan.

Significantly, on a number of occasions, he has mentioned the threat of nuclear war against the West.

These threats, long ignored by Washington, Brussels, and NATO, need to be taken seriously.

President Barack Obama should be grilled by the media, repeatedly, on the question of what he is doing to prepare for the possibility of a nuclear showdown with Russia.

The following articles provide facts and perspectives regarding these issues.

(1) Daniel Brössler (Brüssel), “Putin soll Europa massiv gedroht haben,” Süddeutschen Zeitung Sueddeutsche Zeitung, 18. September 2014 (05:00).

Russische Truppen binnen zwei Tagen in Warschau, Riga, Vilnius oder Bukarest: Kremlchef Wladimir Putin soll dem ukrainischen Präsidenten Petro Poroschenko gesagt haben, dass seine Armee zügig osteuropäische Hauptstädte erreichen könnte. Das geht aus einer Gesprächszusammenfassung der EU hervor, die der “Süddeutschen Zeitung” vorliegt.

(2) Justin Huggler (Berlin), “Putin ‘privately threatened to invade Poland, Romania and the Baltic states'; German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung reports that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told European Commission that Putin made the threat in a recent conversation,” The Telegraph, September 18, 2014 (6:48 p.m. BST).

(3) George F. Will, “An eye on the Baltic states?” Washington Post, September 3, 2014

(4) Paul Roderick Gregory, “Ukraine Is More of An Existential Threat Than ISIS, Because It Could Destroy NATO,” Forbes Magazine, September 23, 2014 (8:33 a.m).

(5) Ian Traynor, “Kazakhstan is latest Russian neighbour to feel Putin’s chilly nationalist rhetoric; As Obama reassures Baltic states of Nato’s protection, Kazakhs wonder if they will follow Ukraine, Chechnya and Georgia,” the Telegraph, September 1, 2014 (14:42 EDT).

This includes a photograph of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev, and Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, in which in Putin’s eyes — contrary to the countless photos of an expressionless face, you can see a hint of the malice that lurks in his heart.

The Trenchant Observer