Archive for the ‘China’ Category

Ukraine attacks Russian armored column which entered Donbass Thursday night; August 8 (2014) Security Council meeting on Ukraine — Trancript (U.N. Doc. S/PV.7239) and links to webcast

Friday, August 15th, 2014

Ukrainian military forces have engaged the Russian armored column which entered the Ukraine near Luhansk Thursday evening, and according to Kiev destroyed at least part of it.

See Michael Birnbaum, “Ukraine forces destroy most of a column of Russian military vehicles, president says, Wasington Post, August 15, 2014 (2:02 p.m.).

Overt Russian military intervention, as occurred Thursday night when a column of Armored Personnel Carriers and related equipment crossed over the border into the Ukraine near “separatist” controlled areas including Luhansk, represents an overt act of war.

The incursion constitutes a flagrant violation of Article 2 paragraph 4 of the U.N. Charter, which prohibits “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”

Russian military intervention in the Ukraine was discussed at the U.N. Security Council meeting on August 8, 2014. The statements of the representatives (see links to Transcript and Webcast, below) are quite revealing in terms of what is going on in the Donbass, and the illegality of Russian military intervention under the U.N. Charter and international law.

See the minutes of the U.N. Security Council meeting on the Ukraine, August 8, 2014, here.

Links to the Webcast of the meeting, in both English and the original language of the speaker, as well as the Press Release on the meeting, are found here.

The Security Council should reconvene in emergency session immediately.

Delegates should set forth clear evidence regarding Russian military intervention in the eastern Ukraine, both by irregular and by regular forces, and table a resolution condemning the Russian invasion.

While Russia will surely veto the resolution, a vote on it will force other members to take a position. China should be lobbied very hard by EU, NATO and other civilized countries to at least abstain on the vote.

Defending Russian aggression in the Ukraine is not in the long-term interests of China, a rising global power with important responsibilities for the maintenance of international peace and security.

Just because Russia has trashed its “brand” through its overt policies of aggression is no reason for China, which has an increasingly attractive “brand” throughout the world, to do likewise.

In the meantime, Western countries should actively press countries which abstained on the last General Assembly resolution on the Ukraine, including the other BRICS countries besides China, to vote in favor of a new General Assembly resolution condemning Russia’s military intervention in the country.

Once this lobbying has lined up the votes in the General Assembly, the Security Council resolution can be put to a vote. Following the Russian veto of that resolution, a similar resolution should be taken up for consideration and put to a vote in the General Assembly.

In the meantime, the U.S. and the EU should adopt further “stage 3″ sanctions (including a ban on all existing defense contracts), and begin supplying serious military training, arms and equipment to the Ukraine.

The “containment” of Russia’s xenophobic nationalism and aggression must begin now, in earnest.

All declarations and promises from Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials should simply be ignored, unless promises can be specifically monitored and verified as they are implemented, in real time.

Russian war propaganda should likewise be ignored, except that investigations into whether such “propaganda for war” constitutes an international crime should be opened and vigorously pursued.

The Trenchant Observer

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Observateur Incisif
El Observador Incisivo

Russian military vehicles violate territorial integrity of Ukraine, crossing into Donbass near Luhansk; Whether invasion follows may depend on immediate response of the West

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Developing

A column of Russian miltary vehicles including Armored Personnel Carriers (APC’s) have crossed the border into the Donbass area of the Ukraine near Luhansk.

This action constitutes an open and flagrant violation of Article 2 paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter. Members of the U.N. Security Council should convoke an immediate emergency meeting of the Council to lay out evidence of the border violation, and table a resolution condemning this act of war.

In the past, Vladimir Putin has probed for weaknesses and pulled back when he encountered strong opposition. Whether a full invasion follows the current incursion may depend on the force with which the West reacts and the strength of the actions they immediately take.

See

(1) By Roland Oliphant, Kamensk-Shakhtinsky and Tom Parfitt (in Kharkiv), “Russian armoured vehicles and military trucks cross border into Ukraine
Exclusive: Telegraph witnesses Russian armoured vehicles and military trucks cross the border from Russia into Ukraine, ” The Telegraph, August 14, 2014 (8:15 PM BST).

“A column of armoured vehicles and military trucks crossed the border from Russia into Ukraine on Thursday night, in the first confirmed sighting of such an incident by Western journalists.”

(2) Shaun Walker (on the Russia-Ukraine border), “Russian military vehicles enter Ukraine as aid convoy stops short of border; Column of 23 armoured personnel carriers and support vehicles approach the border, while 280 trucks come to halt separately,” The Guardian, August 14, 2014 (15.38 EDT).

The Guardian saw a column of 23 armoured personnel carriers, supported by fuel trucks and other logistics vehicles with official Russian military plates, travelling towards the border near the Russian town of Donetsk – about 200km away from Donetsk, Ukraine.

After pausing by the side of the road until nightfall, the convoy crossed into Ukrainian territory, using a rough dirt track and clearly crossing through a gap in a barbed wire fence that demarcates the border. Armed men were visible in the gloom by the border fence as the column moved into Ukraine. Kiev has lost control of its side of the border in this area.

The Trenchant Observer

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Observateur Incisif
El Observador Incisivo

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Russian military intervention in Ukraine “a high probability”

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Reuters reports,

President Vladimir Putin said on Monday Russia is sending an aid convoy to eastern Ukraine despite urgent Western warnings against using humanitarian help as a pretext for an invasion.

With Ukraine reporting Russia has massed 45,000 troops on its border, NATO said there was a “high probability” that Moscow could intervene militarily in the country’s east, where Kiev’s forces are closing in on pro-Russian separatists.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said there was no sign Russia had withdrawn the troops it had massed at the Ukrainian frontier. Asked in a Reuters interview how he rated the chances of Russian military intervention, Rasmussen said: “There is a high probability.

“We see the Russians developing the narrative and the pretext for such an operation under the guise of a humanitarian operation, and we see a military build-up that could be used to conduct such illegal military operations in Ukraine,” he said.

Kiev put the size of the Russian forces much higher. “As of 11 o’clock today, about 45,000 troops of the armed forces and internal forces of the Russian Federation are concentrated in border areas,” Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told a briefing.

He said they were supported by 160 tanks, 1,360 armoured vehicles, 390 artillery systems, up to 150 Grad missile launchers, 192 fighter aircraft and 137 attack helicopters.

–Adrian Croft and Sergei Karpukhin (Brussels/Donetsk), “Russia sending aid convoy to Ukraine despite Western warnings of ‘invasion pretext’,” Reuters, August 11, 2014 (3:48pm EDT).

Obviously, Russia has prepared to do much more in the eastern Ukraine than to provide “humanitarian assistance”.

If one looks broadly at all Russian actions over the last week or two (or since the run-up to the invasion of the Crimea in February), it is clear that Vladimir Putin is engaged in a strategy leading to military intervention in the eastern Ukraine under the pretext of providing “humanitarian assistance” to the population of the Donbas (Russian: Donbass) or Donets Basin region.

The humanitarian situation is critical, to be sure. But, as the leaders of many nations have pointed out, it is being caused by so-called “separatists” who are in fact part of a Moscow-directed invasion of irregular forces which has received an ongoing influx of military forces (mercenaries, “volunteers” organized by Moscow, and special operations forces), military equipment and supplies, and advanced air defense systems, including the “”Buk” or SA-11 system that shot down a Malaysian civilian airliner, Flight MH17, on July 17, 2014.

The guiding hand of Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation behind all of these events, and all of the fighting in the eastern Ukraine, has been clear for all to see. One need only “connect the dots”, and relate disparate events and developments to each other.

Russian war propaganda seeks to distract attention from the overwhelming body of evidence supporting this interpretation, by drawing attention to this or that dispute over this or that fact or particular event.

Yet for all who have eyes to see, it is obvious that the solution to the humanitarian crisis in the Donbas is for Russia to direct its irregular agents in that region to stop fighting, and to lay down their arms in the Russian-instigated insurrection underway against the legitimate territorial sovereign of that territory.

Ukrainian President Petro Petroshenko, it should be recalled, won a majority of the votes in the May 25 presidential elections not only in the Ukraine as a whole, but also a majority in the eastern Ukraine (wherever the opening of polling stations was not prevented by the so-called “separatists”).

At this hour, with 20,000-45,000 combat-ready Russian troops massed on the Ukrainian border, with all of the equipment necessary for an invasion, Russia is now pressing to furnish “humanitarian assistance” to the people of the Donbas.

The help is needed, but having the Russians supply it is like having the fox in the chicken coop provide first-aid to the chickens he has not yet eaten.

It is not hard to imagine how Russia could use an international “humanitarian assistance” program as a pretext form an invasion.

Russia could say that while they supported the international relief effort, it was forced to supply its own humanitarian aid due to: 1) the delaying tactics of the Western powers, which made timely delivery of the assistance impossible; 2) the insuffient assistance provided by the international effort, which required additional Russian convoys of aid necessary in order to make up the difference between the urgent humanitarian requirements and the aid that was actually reaching the target population; or 3) Ukrainian failure to cease military activities in order to allow the aid the reach target populations.

Putin has in the last few days been talking to a variety of actors, including EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. In the past, Putin has shown that he is a master of playing Western leaders off one against the other, and taking immediate and direct advantage of the resulting confusion by creating new facts on the ground.

Russia’s strategy appears to be to intervene militarily to prevent the defeat of the so-called “separatists” in Luhansk and Donetsk, and with the overt presence of Russian troops on the ground in the eastern Ukraine to create new “facts on the ground” that would require a negotiated cease-fire, and a “solution” to the crisis that would freeze the conflict in place in the Ukraine.

This would directly further Russian objectives of preventing Ukrainian accession to the EU, and eventual Ukrainian membership in NATO.

The strategic logic of the situation, from the current Russian point of view, requires military intervention in the eastern Ukraine under the pretext of “humanitarian intervention”. All of Russia’s actions in the last week, from preparing troops for a “humanitarian mission” to diplomatic efforts (from the emergency Security Council meetng called at Russia’s request on Tuesday, August 6, to efforts at the Shanghei Cooperation Council meeting a few days ago and bilateral meetings with China) point in the direction of there being a well-orchestrated plan to prepare for and execute a military intervention in the Ukraine.

Before Putin creates new facts on the ground, NATO, the EU and the United States need to create facts on the ground of their own.

One possibility would be to organize an immediate NATO mission to provide humanitarian assistance to the Donbas through airlifts and the furnishing of supplies through territory controlled by Kiev. This mission could be conducted directly, or organized under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

The Old KGB Playbook: The Guns of August 1968 and of August 2014

The timing for a Russian invasion is excellent, with U.S. and European leaders typically on vacation during the month of August.

The Soviet Union used the old KGB playbook, when after many feints and apparently conciliatory moves, it and other Warsaw Pact countries invaded Czechoslovakia and overthrew the independent communist government of Alexander Dubček and Ludvik Svoboda on August 20, 1968.

Nearing the 46th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia under Leonid Brezhnev, former KGB operative and current Russian President Vladimir Putin appears determined to wrie a new chapter in the KGB playbook by invading the Ukraine with regular forces in the next few days or weeks.

President Obama is on vacation for two weeks on Martha’s Vineyard, in Massachusetts. European leaders–and their assistants and staff–are also going on vacation. Having recently imposed some of the much-touted “stage 3″ sanctions on Russia, European leaders are not focused on the immediate adoption of really hard measures to deter Putin from a new act of military aggression.

The timing for a Russian invasion of the Ukraine by regular forces couldn’t be better.

Only if the West can be roused from its slumber, and very, very quickly, can the day be saved.

The Trenchant Observer

U. N. Security Council meets on Ukraine (with video links to webcast); Medvedev insinuates world community will accept further Russian military intervention in the Ukraine; Russian “President” of “Donetsk People’s Repiblic” resigns in favor of Ukrainian deputy

Friday, August 8th, 2014

Developing

Medvedev’s Remarks

Russia’s ITAR-TASS news agency reported today on Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev’s comments in Russian military intervention in Georgia in 2008, insinuating that the international community would similarly accept a further military intervention in the Ukraine.

His remarks were reported as follows:

MOSCOW, August 08, /ITAR-TASS/. The world community was wise and strong enough to understand Russia’s actions during Georgia’s aggression against South Ossetia back in August 2008, and now the region is a territory of peace, Russian Prime Minister Dimuitry Medvedev wrote on his Facebook account on Friday.

“Six years ago, Georgia unleashed a war against South Ossetia delivering air strikes at peaceful Tskhinval. Its key goal was to annex South Ossetia,” he wrote. “On those days, I had to make one of the most difficult decisions in my entire life and declare a peace-enforcement operation in Georgia.”
“Now we see that it was the only right decision,” Medvedev went on. “Two new states – South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which was involved in that conflict, emerged on the world map.”

“However, six years ago, our recognition of these states caused strains in Russia’s relations with the West, but back then the world community was wise and strong enough to understand Russia and to show respect to our position,” he noted. “As a result, peace has been reigning in Abkhazia and South Ossetia for six years.

Medvedev’s statement is significant for two reasons.

First, it follows a pattern by Russia of well-orchestrated moves as part of a propaganda campaign to lay the basis for military intervention.

Second, it is suggestive of just how delusional Vladimir Putin’s thinking is vis-avis the consequences for Russia of a further military intervention in the Ukraine.

The West needs to pierce Putin’s delusional bubble.

To do so, it should:

(1) Immediately prepare for implementation of a broader array of “stage 3″ sanctions to be imposed on Russia, in the very near future, in the light of its continued support of the “separatists” in the Donbass with sophisticated air defense systems, arms and materiel, and special operations and irregular forces under Moscow’s direction and control;

(2) Decide upon, on an urgent basis, and immediately begin forward deployment of large numbers of NATO troops to Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland and Romania;

(3) Provide the Ukraine with military assistance and sophisticated equipment, and not just ready-to-eat meals and socks, beginning immediately.

Replacement of Russian Itizen By Ukrainian Deputy as “president” of the “Donetsk People’s Republic”

Connecting the dots, the resignation of the self-denominated president on the “Donetsk People’s Republic, Alexander Borodai, by his Ukrainian deputy, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, corrects the obvious weakness in a probable Kremlin strategy of having the President of the Donetsk People’s Republic appeal to Russia for “humanitarian intervention” (unilateral and by miltary means) in order to protect the population of Donetsk and Luhansk (Lugansk, in Ruusian) from the attacks and humanitarian consequences of the Ukrainian forces’ efforts to retake these two “separatist” strongholds.

Wikipedia describes the bew president as follows:

Aleksandr Zakharchenko
Александр Захарченко (in Russian)
Олександр Захарченко (in Ukrainian)

Aleksandr Vladimirovich Zakharchenko (Russian: Александр Владимирович Захарченко, Ukrainian: Олександр Володимирович Захарченко; born 1976, is the current Prime Minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic that declared its independence from Ukraine on 12 May 2014. He succeeded Alexander Borodai on 7 August 2014 who became his Deputy Prime Minister.

For revealing information on the backgrounds and close ties to Russia of other “separatist” leaders, see

Harriet Salem, “Who’s Who in the Donetsk People’s Republic,” VICE News, July 1, 2014.

Perhaps in Moscow they have realized that the international law argument supporting intervention to protect cultural nationals will not receive any support fromother counties, and decided to use a “humanitarian intervention” justification in the event regular Russian forces intervene in the Donbas (Donbass in Russian, referring to the Donets Basin).

U.N. Security Council Meeting (August 8, 2014)

Meanwhile, Russian diplomatic efforts to build support for “humanitarian intervention” continue, while it is unclear whether America’s multilateral diplomacy reaches beyond the U.N Security Council.

The Security Council met this morning, on August 8, 2014, to discuss the situation in the Ukraine.

The wecast, in English, is found here.

The webcast, in the original language of each speaker, is found here.

The speech of the representative of the United Kingdom, is found here.

The U.N Security Council Press Release of August 8, 2014 (Doc. SC/11516), containg sumaries of the briefings and the interventions by the representatives, is found here.

The Trenchant Observer

Ukraine: Chinese report on Russian military exercises aimed at humanitarian assistance

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

(1) An interesting article appeared in the Chine news wire Xinhuanet latee Wednesday night (in China), describing the mikitary exercises underway in three districts and involving a large number of aircraft, citing Itat-Tass, the report highlighted the fact that the mikitary exercises were aimed at providing humanitarian assistance,

See “Russia steps up peacekeeping exercise,” Xinhuanet, English.news.cn, August 6, 2014 (22:42:26).

The Trenchant Observer

“Krystallnacht” in Mosul and the Islamic Caliphate

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

Developing

Just as “Krystallnacht” (Chrystal Night), on November 9-10, 1938, signaled loudly to the World Hitler’s and Nazi Germany’s policy of persecution of the Jews in Germany (already including Austria and the Sudetenland) and the horrors yet to come, the so-called Caliphate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (al-Shams), also known as ISIS or “Da-ish”, has threatened to kill Christians in Mosul who do not covert to Islam or pay a tax imposed on non-Muslims for protection, revealing current horrors underway and heralding those yet to come.

Such action is wholly outside the bounds of international law and modern civilization.

It brings to our consciousness a new dimension of the ISIS jihadists, which is apparent genocide committed against Christians and other non-Muslims.

See “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 9 December 1948,” here. Articles II and III of the Convention provide:

Article II

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Article III

The following acts shall be punishable:
(a) Genocide;
(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
(d) Attempt to commit genocide;
(e) Complicity in genocide.

Louisa Loveluck in The Telegraph reports the following:

Christian families streamed out of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Saturday after Islamist fighters said they would be killed if they did not pay a protection tax or convert to Islam.

The warning was read out in Mosul’s mosques on Friday afternoon, and broadcast throughout the city on loudspeakers.

“We offer [Christians] three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract – involving payment… if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword,” the announcement read.

It said Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who the group has now named Caliph Ibrahim, had ordered Christians who did not want to stay and live under those terms to “leave the borders of the Islamic Caliphate”.

In recent days, Islamic State fighters had reportedly been tagging Mosul’s Christian houses with the letter N for “Nassarah”, the term by which the Koran refers to Christians.

Islamic State fighters robbed departing Christians of their belongings, (Fadi, a teacher) said, leaving them to face destitution in grim camps for the displaced. Deprived of their cars and cash, many Christians were forced to walk to safety.

–Louisa Loveluck, “Christians flee Iraq’s Mosul after Islamists tell them: convert, pay or die,” The Telegraph, July 19, 2014 (7:16PM BST).

“Iraqi Christians leave city en masse after Islamist militants threatened to kill them unless they converted to Islam or paid a ‘protection tax”.”

The echo of Krystallnacht (and earlier Biblical events) was stunning, with the ISIS jihadists marking Christians’ houses with the letter N for “Nassarah”.

As international peace and security in many parts of the world breaks down, simultaneously, from the Ukraine to Gaza to Iraq and Syria and Libya, the civilized nations of the world must not forget and must act urgently to prevent acts of genocide against Christians and other non-Muslims in the new Islamic Caliphate of ISIS.

As these disparate events show, and the founders of the United Nations well understood, international peace and security is something that is indivisible.

One cannot allow the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity on a massive scale by Bashar al-Assad in Syria, without opening the gates of hell.

One cannot allow Russia to invade a European state, and annex part of it, without greatly weakening the deterrent force of the U.N. Charter’s prohibition
of the threat or use of force across international frontiers.

One cannot look at a single crisis alone, without missing the broader picture of the general weakening of international peace and security that is currently underway.

Civilized nations must now act, on an urgent basis, to halt Russian aggression in the Ukraine, to stop potential genocide within the Islamic Caliphate, to halt the war crimes and crimes against humanity of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, to stop the fighting in Gaza, and to ensure that territorial disputes in the East and South China seas are resolved exclusively by peaceful means.

To achieve these goals, it is imperative that the international community uphold and reaffirm the fundamental principles of the U.N. Charter and U.N. conventions prohibiting the threat or use of force or violating the fundamental human rights of all human beings.

This they must do not through endless formulaic repetitions of words, of oft-repeated dilplomatic incantations, but rather through real actions aimed at rapidly changing the situation on the ground in different arenas.

The Trenchant Observer

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, while initially destined for Pacific ports, could ventually 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

Shift in funding source spells dim future for BBC World Service

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

The decline in the quality of BBC World Service radio programs has been underway for some time, with the elimination of one of its two best news programs, “The World Today,” some time ago. The remaining top program, “Newshour”, has lost some of the editorial judgment it used to have, and it is not unusual to hear one of its reporters ranting at a government official somewhere in the world rather than analyzing and reporting the news.

In 2011, the World Service quit broadcasting in Mandarin Chinese.

The total budget for the BBC World Service for 2014/2015 is reported to be 245 million pounds, which is a pittance compared to the value of the operation in demonstrating the value of freedom of the press and providing independent news coverage beyond the headlines.

Its value is most appreciated, perhaps, by those living in countries without a free flow of information. Stations like the BBC World Service, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, or the Voice of America may provide the only source of independent news reporting in a number of countries ruled by dictatorships and authoritarian regimes.

Now, the funding of the BBC World Service has shifted from a subsidy from the Foreign Office to funds provided from the proceeds of British television user fees. It should therefore come as a surprise to no one if in the future the interests of those paying the fees produce a cut-back in foreign language programs and even the English language program of the BBC World Service.

It is amazing that in a shrinking world the lights by which we see its contours and details are going out. For a pittance.

See

(1) Belinda Goldsmith (London), “Committee fears for BBC World Service under new funding,” Reuters, March 31, 2014.

(2) Judy Dempsey, “Stop the Decline of the BBC World Service!” Carnegie Europe, July 3, 2014.

The Trenchant Observer

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

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