Archive for the ‘China’ Category

“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 will presumably be based in the Russian-occupied Ukrainian port of Sevastopol.

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

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

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

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

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

See

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

The Trenchant Observer

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

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Obervateur Incisif
El Observador Incisivo

American big business votes for appeasement with Russia; Interview with Prime Minister Taavi Roivas of Estonia

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Outrageous Lobbying for Appeasement of Russia by American Big Business

The National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce plan to run an ad in leading newspapers on Thursday, lobbying against the imposition of tougher sanctions against Russia by the U.S. Technically, they may argue that the sanctions should not be tougher than those which may be adopted by the European Union.  But as the EU can act only by consensus of its 28 members, and never swiftly, their argument in essence is one against immediate, strong, sectorial sanctions and in favor of the pacifism and appeasement which have so far characterized the response of the West to Russian aggression in the Ukraine.

In doing so, they are acting to undermine the foreign policy of the United States, and President Obama’s threat of a month ago to impose third-stage or sectorial sanctions on Russia if Vladimir Putin did not cease his subversion and support for so-called “separatists” in the eastern Ukraine (which Putin brought into being, incidentally, after invading and annexing the Crimea). This, despite his verbal declarations designed to forestall the imposition of stronger sanctions, Putin has utterly failed to do.

In effect, big business, not content with its enormous influence over domestic legislation and the domestic implementation of laws, now wants to dictate to the president what is or is not in the national interest in the foreign policy arena.  In a word, if a policy serves the national security interests of the United States but hurts the business interests of members of the two groups placing the ads, deference should be given to the interests of big business.

Today, Peter Baker of the New York Times reported on the options under consideration by the Obama administration for adoption in response to Putin’s failure to meet the conditions laid down by the EU and the U.S. nearly a month ago. Regarding the incredibly brazen lobbying by the NAM and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, he wrote:

The drive for more sanctions comes as American businesses are growing more vocal in protesting the possibility that the United States may act on its own. While lobbying the White House and Congress quietly until now, leading business groups plan to start a wide advertising campaign voicing their concerns.

“With escalating global tensions, some U.S. policy makers are considering a course of sanctions that history shows hurts American interests,” reads an advertisement to be placed in major newspapers on Thursday. “We are concerned about actions that would harm American manufacturers and cost American jobs.”

The ad, signed by Jay Timmons, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, and Thomas J. Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, will be placed in The Financial Times, The Hill, The New York Times, Politico, Roll Call, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. A copy was provided on Tuesday by someone not directly affiliated with either sponsoring organization.

Linda Dempsey, the vice president for international economic affairs at the manufacturers association, would not discuss the ad campaign but said American businesses would be unduly harmed if Washington proceeded with sanctions that were not matched by Europe.

“Unilateral sanctions by the United States end up with other countries and their industries filling the void,” she said. “The harm and the real impact of those unilateral sanctions is on U.S. industries and U.S. workers. It’s not that we’re out of the market for a year or two. We could get out of the market for decades.”

See Peter Baker, “Doubting Putin, Obama Prepares to Add Pressure,” New York Times, June 24, 2014.

In Europe, big business is exercising similar pressures on the governments of François Hollande and Àngela Merkel, and others.

The pressure from two of the most important associations of large U.S. businesses is analogous to American big business placing ads in the major newspapers to leave or not leave Afghanistan, or to support or not support U.S. allies in Asia which are confronted with aggressive Chinese actions in disputed territorial waters in the East and South China Seas.

A more direct analogy would be that if China were to seize by force one or more islands currently administered by Japan, the lobbying organizations would place ads in the leading national papers urging the U.S. not to respond forcefully to the Chinese actions unless the EU were acting in lockstep with United States, because of the detrimental impact such unilateral action would have on U.S.-Chinese business interests, and the unfair advantage that would be given to European companies operating in China if the EU did not adopt the same or similar measures.

What this means, in practice, is that U.S. actions would be dictated by the weakest link in the 28-nation chain of EU member states.

How the United States could ever lead the Atlantic Alliance and other nations if it could never act on its own, independently of the actions of the EU, is a question that both defies explanation and points to the most urgent need of U.S. foreign policy at the present moment in relation to Russia and the Ukraine–to adopt strong, serious sanctions against Russia, unilaterally if necessary, and to lead the Atlantic Alliance in responding to Russian aggression.

These big business groups and their members should be forcefully reminded that they have a duty not to actively undermine the national security interests of the United States, so long as they benefit from the protection of its laws and diplomatic representations. They should not be permitted to do so without negative consequences.

Their current lobbying campaign is so disloyal and unpatriotic that every American should take careful note of the companies that are supporting actions in favor of appeasement, and modify their consumer and business decisions accordingly.

The fact of the matter is that, following the Russian invasion and annexation of the Crimea and in view of its continuing invasion and subversion of the eastern Ukraine, the U.S., Europe and the world face the most serious crisis of international law and institutions since 1945.

For U.S. big business to come in and presume to tell the president how the U.S. should act under these circumstances is simply unforgivable.  It should produce legislative consequences which require U.S. big business to shoulder a larger portion of the economic burden of defense and other expenses required to pay for the national security of the United States.

Interview with Prime Minister Taavi Roivas of Estonia

To get a clear-eyed view of the seriousness of the present situation with Russia as a result of its aggression against the Ukraine, read closely (using Google translator if necessary) today’s interview by Nicola Abé of Der Spiegel with Taavi Roivas, the Prime Minister of Estonia.

See Nicola Abé (Interview), “Estlands Premier Roivas: “Europa muss den Schlummermodus abschalten,” Der Spiegel, 25. Juni 2014 (19:10 Uhr)

Der estnische Ministerpräsident Taavi R  ivas fordert mehr Nato-Truppen im Baltikum. “Wir brauchen eine klare Abschreckungswirkung.”

Roivas stated forcefully that Europe must awake from its current state of slumber, and recognize the threat from Putin and Russia. Among other things, NATO should move its troops to the front-line states like the Baltic countries, where their presence might actually have a deterrent effect against any potential military action. It makes no sense to have them stationed in the middle of Europe in countries which were once front-line states, but are no more, he said.

The Trenchant Observer

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Observateur Incisif
L’Observateur Incisif

Obama’s six crises and collapsing foreign policy: Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, and China’s actions in the East and South China Seas

Friday, June 20th, 2014

Developing

President Barack Obama now faces six simultaneous crises, amid the collapsing edifice of his foreign policy. They are:

1. Russia and the Ukraine

Russia’s invasion of the eastern Ukraine continues, calling the West’s bluff that it would impose sectoral sanctions.

The fact that Russia is acting through special operations and irregular foces has no bearing on its responsibility under international law for these actions. They amount to an “armed attack” under the terms of Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, creating a right self-defense on the part of the Ukraine, and a right of “collective self-defense” on the part of other states, up to and including the use of force, to repel the invasion.

Economic and other sanctions are similarly justifiable as measures of self-defense, and also as “countermeasures” in response to illegal intervention in the internal affairs of Ukraine.

But where legal authority for action to stop the Russians is abundant and clear, the political will of the countries in the West to act effectively is almost non-existant. Instead, appeasement and a new form of “hybrid” pacifism have taken hold.

Putin knows his antagonists. As the one-month deadline for stopping support of the “separatists” in eastern Ukraine draws near, the EU and the U.S. are already backing down, talking now of further “targeted” sanctions–not sectoral sanctions. Today Obama added seven individuals to the list.

If there were any doubt in Putin’s mind about Obama’s decisiveness, the latter’s meek and temporizing responses to the advances of ISIS in Iraq should have put those doubts to rest.

Russia continues its invasion of eastern Ukraine, sending additional tanks and other equipment across the border right now.

Having concentrated control of foreign policy in the White House, President Obama does not have the decision making capacity to deal with multiple crises at the same time, or indeed the decisiveness to take timely and effective action in any one of them.

We have devoted great attention to Russia’s invasion and annexation of the Crimea, and its ongoing invasion of the eastern Ukraine, because these actions and the pacifism and appeasement with which they have been met in the West directly threaten the collapse of the institutions and norms established to uphold the maintenance of international peace and security.

In the hierarchy of grave crises, the Russian invasion of the Ukraine remains the most serious, because it threatens to destroy or eviscerate the necessary tools of international law and institutions which are essential for the resolution of other crises, including those which are presently all raging at the same time.

When the question seems to be where to send the fire brigade, actually the more fundamental question is how can you keep the fire brigade functioning, and operating effectively?

See:

Brett Logiurato, “Ukraine Wants A Ceasefire — Russia Is Sending A Bunch Of Tanks Into Ukraine,” Business Insider, June 20, 2014 (1:16 p.m.).

To be continued…

2. Iraq

The armed forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have captured Mosul, and are driving south toward Baghdad. Kurdish Peshmurga forces have occupied Kirkuk. The tribes in the Sunni triangle are collaborating with ISIS. The newly elected Parliament is to convene and elect a new prime minister.

Iraq has requested the U.S. to conduct airstrikes against ISIS forces. Obama has disatched under 300 soldiers to help protect the U.S, Embassy, and also approximately 300 special forces troops and advisers to help the Iraqi military.

If the ISIS advance is not stopped, particularly toward Shiite shrines in the south, Iran may intervene militarily to defend the shrines and the al-Maliki Shiite government.

Tellingly, one of Obama’s first moves was to go to Congressional leaders to see what actions might be politically acceptable, instead of huddling with all of his top national security officials to decide what actions are required by the exigencies of the present military and political situation in Iraq.

3. Syria

Syria has been reported by the international chemical weapons agency, charged by the Security Council with overseeing Syria’s surrender and destruction of all of its chemical weapons, as having recently used chemical weapons (chlorine gas) against its population on a number of occasions.

Such actions would appear to cross Obama’s “red line” on chemical weapons use. What is he going to do about it? His “red line” seems to have been written in the sand.

4. Afghanistan

The Afghan presidential run-off election on June 14 was, according to the leading candidate, Abdullah Abdullah, the subject of massive fraud in the eastern portions of the country, the traditional base of his opponent, Ashraf Ghani.

The actions the U.S. takes in the coming days may have a decisive impact on the transparency and outcome of the election. If a satisfactory way out of the present crisis is not found, the legitimacy of the new government and the prospects for its survival after U.S. forces withdraw in 2015 could be greatly diminished.

In thinking about Afghanistan, U.S. policymakers should keep one image firmly fixed in their minds: that of tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers laying down their arms and fleeing from battle as ISIS forces approached in Mosul, and elsewhere.

A full-blwn crisis has erupted.

5. Iran

A settlement of the nuclear dispute with Iran is far from assured. The six-month interim agreement will expire on July 20. The talks could not bear fruit, raising again the possibility of a military strike by Israel against Iran’s buclear installations.

6. China and territorial claims in the South and East China Seas

In the last week China has begun moving oil rigs into disputed territorial waters. This is highly provocative, and has the potential to generate an arms race with its neighbors in the region, including Vietnam, Japan and Korea.

The U.S. needs to actively intervene in this crisis to ensure it does not lead to military incidents in the region, or an arms race. The ultimate risk is that Tokyo could be driven to deploy nuclear weapons. Few doubt that it has the capability to do so.

Can President Obama and his administration handle all of these crises simultaneously, and successfully?

We shall see, and very soon.

The Trenchant Observer

If you accept the May 25 elections, Mr. Putin, then order a “full-stop” to aggression in the eastern Ukraine

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who sent special operations forces into eastern Ukraine to spark and coordinate “separatist” rebellions by the use of force, continues to play his duplicitous and treacherous “double game” in the Ukraine.

If he hoped to retain a shred of credibility in saying he would respect the results of the May 25, 2014 national elections in the Ukraine, he would have had to call a “FULL STOP” to further violence by pro-Russian forces.

Instead, the subversive forces which he launched into action under the leadership and coordination of Russian special operations forces (including so-called “little green men”) continue to seize control of government buildings by the use of force, in a region they seek to turn into a pro-Russian dictatorship which holds sway by fear, intimidation, assassinations, and the public display and use of armed force.

Far from acting as if Russia will respect the results of the Ukrainian elections, these Russian special operations forces and intelligence operatives, whose true identities have been unmasked, are engaged in violent suppression of the exercise of fundamental human rights, including the right to freedom of the press, the right to physical integrity and to be free from the arbitrary use of force, and the right to participate in government and to vote in free and fair elections, particularly in the Donetsk and Luhansk areas.

Because the taking of a human life constitutes murder when it occurs outside the framework of domestic and international law, these Russians and Russian agents are, in clear moral and legal terms, committing murder against the Ukrainian security forces (and others) who are legitimately seeking to restore public order in the eastern Ukraine.

While Putin was announcing he would “respect” the results of the May 25 elections, Russian agents were murdering innocent Ukrainian soldiers, including in one ambush where some 17 were killed.

Now Putin strides on the world stage to claim that the invasion and annexation of the Crimea were justified under international law, and that he has no interest in further irredentist actions.

His response is due to the firmness of the West in threatening further, “Stage Three” sanctions, the enhanced deployment of NATO capabilities along the borders of NATO countries which border Russia, and the likelihood of NATO now stationing combat forces in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, and Romania. He may also be responding to pressures from China, which certainly does not want to see any secessionist movements succeed which might inspire Uighur or Tibetan separatists.

Putin has a losing hand, and seems to be slowly recognizing that reality. Perhaps he thinks the West and the civilized nations of the world will quickly forget about his invasion and annexation of the Crimea.

That is not a good long-term bet, as the bedrock principles of the U.N. Charter prohibiting the use of force and annexation of conquered territories may be tenaciously held and defended over the longer term. One need only think of Cyprus or East Timor to grasp the point.

In view of the above, it is now a time for vigilance against potential actions by a treacherous Russian leader, whose mendacity is evident in every statement he makes, including those intended to give a conciliatory impression in the West.

If you are going to respect the May 25 election results in the Ukraine, Mr. Putin, begin respecting the election now by calling off your special operations forces and intelligence operatives and their agents in the eastern Ukraine.

ORDER THEM TO DESIST FROM FURTHER VIOLENCE, SEIZURE OF GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS, AND ACTIONS TO DISRUPT THE HOLDING OF THE ELECTIONS ON SUNDAY.

ORDER A FULL-STOP, MR. PUTIN. NOW.

The Trenchant Observer

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Observateur Incisif
El Observador Incisivo

Munich II: The meeting in Geneva between the U.S., the EU, the Ukraine and Russia

Friday, April 11th, 2014

It is a very bad idea for the U.S. and the EU to meet with Russia on April 17 to discuss the Ukraine’s fate, even with the Ukraine also participating.

Under international law, Russia has no right to make demands about the internal constitutional arrangements of another sovereign state. The U.S. and the EU likewise seem to have forgotten that since the Yalta conference decided the fate of European countries as World War II was still raging, the United Nations Charter was adopted in December of 1945, and for nearly 70 years international law and legal institutions have progressively developed to govern world affairs, from arms control agreements to the regulation of trade through the World Trade Organization.

To sit down with the aggressor which has invaded and annexed the Crimea, and which has 40,000 combat-ready troops on the border poised to invade eastern Ukraine, is the height of folly. It is like going to negotiate with a criminal over illegal demands when the criminal has a gun pointed at your head.

The incompetence of the Obama administration in foreign policy seems to have no limits, as does that of the Europeans and NATO.

The meeting should be called off, period.

Certainly it should be called off if the 40,000 troops on the Russian border with Ukraine are not withdrawn prior to the meeting.

In 1938, Great Britain and France sold Czechoslovakia down the river at Munich, after earlier urging Czechoslovakia to enter into mediation with Germany. That deal was consummated on September 30, 1938, at the Munich conference. The meeting in Geneva on April 17 risks becoming the opening stage of a Munich II settlement, bringing once again “peace in our time”–but war looming far into our future.

When this riff of incompetence, pacifism and appeasement is over, the world will be a much more dangerous place.

National budgets will divert monies from health and education to defense. Nuclear arms will proliferate among a number of countries, from Saudi Arabia to Japan, as well as Iran. Instead of international order and striving to maintain international peace and security in the world, as mandated by the U.N. Charter, nations will increasingly look to weapons and armies which will have a growing voice in determining national boundaries, and the outcome of territorial disputes (e.g., as between Japan, China, Korea and nations in the South China Sea).

Nations may no longer feel bound to abide by the international law provisions that establish order in the world in matters of trade, finance, and international security.

The tragedy is unfolding before our eyes. The mere fact that the West has agreed to this ill-conceived conference in Geneva to resolve “the Ukrainian crisis” suggests that that the likelihood of resisting appeasement and upholding international norms against military aggression and annexation of the territory of another sovereign nation is subject to the most serious doubt.

What should be done?

The West should adopt strong economic sanctions before any meeting with Russia, both to punish Russia for threatening further aggression, and to create very powerful pressures on Russia to return the Crimea, restoring matters in the Crimea to the status quo ante, prior to the Russian invasion and annexation.

And if the Russians don’t withdraw their combat-ready forces from the border region, the meeting should simply be called off.

The Trenchant Observer

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Observateur Incisif
El Observador Incisivo

February 22, 2014: U.N. Security Council unanimously approves Resolution 2139 (2014) on humanitarian access in Syria (with full text of Resolution)

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

“Unanimously approved, Security Council resolution demands aid access in Syria,” U.N. News Centre, February 22, 2014

For the text of the resolution, and statements by delegations, see the Security Council Press Release, U.N. doc. SC/11292, February 22, 2014.

The full text of the Resolution itself follows:

U.N. Security Council Resolution 2139 (2014)

“The Security Council,

“Recalling its resolutions 2042 (2012), 2043 (2012) and 2118 (2013), and its presidential statements of 3 August 2011, 21 March 2012, 5 April 2012 and 2 October 2013,

“Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria, and to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations,

“Being appalled at the unacceptable and escalating level of violence and the death of well over 100,000 people in Syria, including over 10,000 children, as reported by the UN Secretary-General and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict,

“Expressing grave alarm at the significant and rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Syria, in particular the dire situation of hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped in besieged areas, most of whom are besieged by the Syrian armed forces and some by opposition groups, as well as the dire situation of over 3 million people in hard-to-reach areas, and deploring the difficulties in providing, and the failure to provide, access for the humanitarian assistance to all civilians in need inside Syria,

“Emphasizing the need to respect the UN guiding principles of humanitarian emergency assistance and stressing the importance of such assistance being delivered on the basis of need, devoid of any political prejudices and aims, commending the efforts of the United Nations and all humanitarian and medical personnel in Syria and in neighbouring countries, and condemning all acts or threats of violence against United Nations staff and humanitarian actors, which have resulted in the death, injury and detention of many humanitarian personnel,

“Expressing grave concern at the increasing number of refugees and internally displaced persons caused by the conflict in Syria, which has a destabilising impact on the entire region, and underscoring its appreciation for the significant and admirable efforts that have been made by the countries of the region, notably Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, to accommodate the more than 2.4 million refugees who have fled Syria as a result of the on-going violence, while acknowledging the enormous political, socioeconomic and financial impact of the presence of large-scale populations in these countries, and underscoring the need for all parties to respect and maintain the security and civilian character of camps for refugees and internally displaced persons,

“Welcoming the pledges totalling $2.5 billion at the Second International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, hosted by Kuwait on 15 January 2014, and expressing its appreciation to Member States and regional and subregional organizations that have pledged to provide humanitarian assistance to people in need in all parts of Syria, including internally displaced persons, as well as to refugees in neighbouring host countries, and calling on all Member States to ensure the timely disbursement of pledges and continued support in line with growing humanitarian needs,

“Calling on all parties to immediately end all violence which has led to human suffering in Syria, save Syria’s rich societal mosaic and cultural heritage, and take appropriate steps to ensure the protection of Syria’s World Heritage Sites,

“Strongly condemning the increased terrorist attacks resulting in numerous casualties and destruction carried out by organizations and individuals associated with Al-Qaida, its affiliates and other terrorist groups, and reiterating its call on all parties to commit to putting an end to terrorist acts perpetrated by such organizations and individuals, while reaffirming that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed,

“Expressing its regret that its presidential statement of 2 October 2013 (S/PRST/2013/15) has not delivered as expected and has not yet translated into meaningful progress on the ground, and that humanitarian aid delivery continues to be impeded throughout Syria, while condemning all cases of denial of humanitarian access and recalling that arbitrary denial of humanitarian access and depriving civilians of objects indispensable to their survival, including wilfully impeding relief supply and access, can constitute a violation of international humanitarian law,

“Emphasizing that the humanitarian situation will continue to deteriorate in the absence of a political solution to the crisis, reiterating its endorsement of the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012 (Annex II of Resolution 2118 (2113)) and demanding that all parties work towards the immediate and comprehensive implementation of the Geneva Communiqué aimed at bringing an immediate end to all violence, violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international law, and facilitating the Syrian-led political process launched in Montreux on 22 January 2014, leading to a transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people and enables them independently and democratically to determine their own future,

“1. Strongly condemns the widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the Syrian authorities, as well as the human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law by armed groups, including all forms of sexual and gender-based violence, as well as all grave violations and abuses committed against children in contravention of applicable international law, such as recruitment and use, killing and maiming, rape, attacks on schools and hospitals as well as arbitrary arrest, detention, torture, ill treatment and use as human shields, as described in the United Nations Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict in Syria (S/2014/31);

“2. Demands that all parties immediately put an end to all forms of violence, irrespective of where it comes from, cease and desist from all violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights, and reaffirm their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and stresses that some of these violations may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity;

“3. Demands that all parties immediately cease all attacks against civilians, as well as the indiscriminate employment of weapons in populated areas, including shelling and aerial bombardment, such as the use of barrel bombs, and methods of warfare which are of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering, and recalls in this regard the obligation to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law in all circumstances, and further recalls, in particular, the obligation to distinguish between civilian populations and combatants, and the prohibition against indiscriminate attacks, and attacks against civilians and civilian objects as such;

“4. Demands that all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, fully implement the provisions of the 2 October 2013 statement by the President of the Security Council (S/PRST/2013/15) including through facilitating the expansion of humanitarian relief operations, in accordance with applicable provisions of international humanitarian law and the UN guiding principles of humanitarian emergency assistance;

“5. Calls upon all parties to immediately lift the sieges of populated areas, including in the Old City of Homs (Homs), Nubl and Zahra (Aleppo), Madamiyet Elsham (Rural Damascus), Yarmouk (Damascus), Eastern Ghouta (Rural Damascus), Darayya (Rural Damascus) and other locations, and demands that all parties allow the delivery of humanitarian assistance, including medical assistance, cease depriving civilians of food and medicine indispensable to their survival, and enable the rapid, safe and unhindered evacuation of all civilians who wish to leave, and underscores the need for the parties to agree on humanitarian pauses, days of tranquillity, localised cease-fires and truces to allow humanitarian agencies safe and unhindered access to all affected areas in Syria, recalling that starvation of civilians as a method of combat is prohibited by international humanitarian law;

“6. Demands that all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, promptly allow rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access for UN humanitarian agencies and their implementing partners, including across conflict lines and across borders, in order to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches people in need through the most direct routes;

“7. Urges all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, to take all appropriate steps to facilitate the efforts of the United Nations, its specialized agencies, and all humanitarian actors engaged in humanitarian relief activities, to provide immediate humanitarian assistance to the affected people in Syria, including by promptly facilitating safe and unhindered humanitarian access to populations in need of assistance in all areas under their control, and encourages further cooperation between the United Nations, its specialized agencies and all parties concerned, including Syrian civil society organisations, to facilitate access and the delivery of assistance in the entirety of the Syrian territory;

“8. Demands that all parties respect the principle of medical neutrality and facilitate free passage to all areas for medical personnel, equipment, transport and supplies, including surgical items, and recalls that under international humanitarian law, the wounded and sick must receive, to the fullest extent practicable, and with the least possible delay, medical care and attention required by their condition and that medical and humanitarian personnel, facilities and transport must be respected and protected, and expresses grave concern in this regard at the removal of medical supplies from humanitarian shipments;

“9. Also demands that all parties take all appropriate steps to protect civilians, including members of ethnic, religious and confessional communities, and stresses that, in this regard, the primary responsibility to protect its population lies with the Syrian authorities;

“10. Further demands that all parties demilitarize medical facilities, schools and other civilian facilities and avoid establishing military positions in populated areas and desist from attacks directed against civilian objects;

“11. Strongly condemns the arbitrary detention and torture of civilians in Syria, notably in prisons and detention facilities, as well as the kidnappings, abductions and forced disappearances, and demands the immediate end of these practices and the release of all arbitrarily detained persons starting with women and children, as well as sick, wounded and elderly people and including UN personnel and journalists;

“12. Urges all parties to take all appropriate steps to ensure the safety and security of United Nations personnel, those of its specialized agencies, and all other personnel engaged in humanitarian relief activities, without prejudice to their freedom of movement and access, stresses that the primary responsibility in this regard lies with the Syrian authorities and further stresses the need not to impede these efforts;

“13. Stresses the need to end impunity for violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights, and reaffirms that those who have committed or are otherwise responsible for such violations and abuses in Syria must be brought to justice;

“14. Strongly condemns the increased terrorist attacks resulting in numerous casualties and destruction carried out by organisations and individuals associated with Al-Qaida, its affiliates and other terrorist groups, urges the opposition groups to maintain their rejection of these organizations and individuals which are responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law in opposition-held areas, calls upon the Syrian authorities and opposition groups to commit to combating and defeating organizations and individuals associated with Al-Qaida, its affiliates and other terrorist groups, demands that all foreign fighters immediately withdraw from Syria, and reaffirms that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed;

“15. Emphasizes that the humanitarian situation will continue to deteriorate in the absence of a political solution, welcomes in this regard the Geneva Conference on Syria launched in Montreux on 22 January 2014, and demands that all parties work towards the comprehensive implementation of the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012 leading to a genuine political transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people and enables them independently and democratically to determine their own future, and further stresses that rapid progress on a political solution should include full participation by all groups and segments of Syrian society, including women, and represents the only sustainable opportunity to resolve the situation in Syria peacefully, and that the implementation of this resolution is key to meeting the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people;

“16. Urges all Member States to contribute or increase their support to the United Nations’ humanitarian appeals to meet the spiralling needs of people affected by the crisis, and to provide this support in coordination with the relevant United Nations agencies, and to ensure that all pledges are honoured in full, and further urges all Member States, based on burden sharing principles, to support the neighbouring host countries to enable them to respond to the growing humanitarian needs, including by providing direct support;

“17. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council on the implementation of this resolution by all parties in Syria, in particular paragraphs 2 through 12, in 30 days of its adoption and every 30 days thereafter, and upon receipt of the Secretary-General’s report, expresses its intent to take further steps in the case of non-compliance with this resolution;

“18. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.”

The Trenchant Observer