Archive for the ‘China’ Category

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

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

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

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

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

First published on March 3, 2014

The new hybrid pacifism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Impact on Nuclear Proliferation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Trenchant Observer

Ommitted: Preamble to the United Nations Charter

Context of Demonstrations in Hong Kong: The shadow of Tiananmen Square

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Updated October 5, 2014

For insightful treatments of the broader context in which the current demonstations in Hong Kong are taking place, see

(1) Orville Schell, “Will China Crush the Hong Kong Protests? Twenty-five years after China’s brutal suppression of protests in Tiananmen Square, a new generation of students is filling the streets of Hong Kong. (Orville Schell on whether China’s new leader will compromise or crack down), Wall Street Journal, October 3, 2014 (3:54 p.m. ET).

(2) Peter Lee, “Beijing Reaps Bitter Fruit in Hing Kong,” Asia Times Online, September 29, 2014.

The Trenchant Observer

REPRISE II — Putin’s wager: Russia’s rogue authoritarianism versus fundamental human rights and the existing international political and legal order

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

Russia and the Ukraine—The Big Picture

Originally published April 24, 2014

In a fatal error, Putin challenges the modern postwar international political and legal order

It is historically ironic, and from Vladimir Putin’s point of view perhaps tragic, that Russia’s crowning achievement at the Sochi Winter Games culminated precisely when the Yanukovych government in the Ukraine began to stumble and fall. On the other hand, Putin had only himself to blame.

Since then, Vladimir Putin has overreached, and made the fatal mistake of undertaking actions that put Russia permanently at odds with the world’s international political, legal and economic order.

While formally created during and at the end of World War II (1939-1945), the system has roots that go back to Hugo Grotius and the Thirty Years’ War of 1618-1648. The idea for the United Nations can be traced back to the Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907, and the Covenant of the League of Nations and the founding of the League in 1919.

Since the founding of the United Nations in 1945, the system of international law established within the framework of the United Nations Charter, including its bedrock principle prohibiting the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, has become the very fabric of international society, constituting principles that have been repeatedly accepted in countless treaties and agreements as binding norms of international law by virtually every country.

Now along comes Russia’s new Dictator to suppress within Russia fundamental human rights such as freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the right to a fair trial; to challenge the entire structure of the existing international political and legal order by invading the Ukraine, seizing the Crimea by military force and annexing it to Russia; and now threatening to invade the eastern Ukraine if the government of that country responds to Russia’s initial invasion by special forces and seizure of government buildings by force with its own necessary and legal use of force to reassert its control over its own government offices and territory.

Putin wants Russia to be able to invade the eastern Ukraine with special forces, and then to be able to decry any attempt by the Ukrainian government to restore public order as “crimes” against the Ukrainian constitution. He does so without mentioning his own crimes against the Russian constitution by suppressing civil liberties, or his own use of brutal force in putting down the rebellion in Chechnya–which included the commission of war crimes on a very large scale.

Putin and his lieutenant, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, accuse the Ukraine and the West of violating international law, as they sit on the spoils of Russian aggression in the Crimea, and openly threaten military intervention in the Eastern Ukraine if that country’s government moves with force to restore public order and the ordinary functioning of government institutions.

Like the case of Northern Cyprus, invaded by Turkey in 1967, or East Timor which was invaded and annexed by Indonesia in 1975, Russian invasion and annexation of the Crimea will never be accepted by other nations.

Nor will any further conquests in the eastern Ukraine, or of independent countries which formerly made up the Soviet Union, ever be recognized.

An invasion of the eastern Ukraine will indeed produce results, just not those Putin in his demented shortsightedness seeks to secure.

An immediate result will be stiffer sanctions from the U.S. and the EU, which moreover are likely to grow in intensity over time.

An invasion is highly likely to produce permanent enmity toward Russia in the Ukraine, and to strengthen the desire of Ukrainians, East and West, to join the European Union and, if necessary to protect their independence in the future, to join NATO as well (whatever time may be required to achieve this result).

An invasion is also likely to produce energetic responses from NATO aimed at Russia, if not immediately then at least over the intermediate term. To counter potential Russian aggression, large forces of American and other NATO-country troops are likely to eventually be moved from Germany to forward bases in Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. The current drawdown of American forces from Europe, in time, could be reversed.

Europe will probably also undertake vigorous policies to reduce its consumption of Russian gas and oil, though this may take a few years.

Putin’s wager is that his domestic repression and suppression of freedom of the press, free elections, the right to a fair trial and other fundamental human rights will be a model others will want to emulate, or at least be willing to ignore.

His wager that wars of aggression involving military invasions and the annexation of conquered territories will not matter to other countries, which will be happy to look the other way and continue doing business with Russia, is not likely to be successful in the middle or long term.

To be sure, the slowness with which democracies respond to military challenges may appear to be acqiescence or appeasement in the short term, but in the intermediate to longer term the combined economic and military strength of the U.S., NATO, Japan and their allies will be able to contain Russian military expansionism while depriving Russia of vital opportunities to join the first ranks of nations in a wired and interconnected world.

Finally, Putin’s wager overlooks the vital forces within Russia itself, symbolized by courageous dissidents such as Andrei Sakharov, or even Communist party leaders like Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. These forces have visions of Russia that are deeply at odds with Putin’s embodiment of autocratic dictatorship at home, and wars of aggression abroad.

Putin’s wager may in fact hasten the day when his greatest fears are realized, the day the Maidan comes to Red Square.

The Trenchant Observer

U.N. Security Council emergency meeting on Ukraine (August 28, 2014) —- with link to video webcast

Friday, August 29th, 2014

On Thursday, August 28, 2014, the United Nations Security Council meet in emergency session at the request of Ukraine to consider the Russian military invasion of that country.

The webcast of the 7253rd meeting of the Security Council, in English, if found here.

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

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SIDEBAR: Russian Medicare Fraud at the Russian Consulate and U.N. Mission in New York

The lies and prevarications of the Russian representative, Vitaly Churkin, are particularly noteworthy, and quite telling in terms of the blatant war propaganda one must resort to to keep one’s job in Putin’s foreign service.

Worth recalling is the fact that, in December, 2013, 49 officials at the Russian Consulate in New York and the Russian Mission to the U.N. were formally charges by U.S. officials for runnung a $1.5 million scheme of medicare fraud out of the Embassy, with charges not being brought only because of diplomatic immunity.

See Benjamin Weiser, “U.S. Says Diplomats Defrauded Medicaid,” New York Times, December 5, 2013.

Weiser reported,

The contours of the alleged insurance fraud seemed unusual enough: The participants, men and women, were accused of improperly seeking Medicaid benefits for pregnancies, births and postnatal care.

(T)hese were no ordinary Russians. They were diplomats posted to New York City, and their wives, accused of fraudulently applying for Medicaid benefits over the past nine years. Prosecutors characterized the scheme as an audacious swindle of the federal health benefits program for the needy, orchestrated by officials in the Russian Consulate in New York and its mission to the United Nations.

“Diplomacy should be about extending hands, not picking pockets in the host country,” said Prreet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, whose office announced on Thursday that it had charged 49 past or present Russian diplomats and their spouses in the $1.5 million Medicaid fraud case.

“The charges expose shameful and systemic corruption among Russian diplomats in New York,” Mr. Bharara said.

He said the State Department could seek a waiver of immunity from the Russian government to allow a prosecution to go forward. If no waiver was given, Mr. Bharara said, the State Department’s policy was to “require departure of that individual from the United States.”

The Trenchant Observer

Ukraine: Appeasement continues; Putin’s victory at Minsk; Latest news and commentary

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Each act of apeasement dishonors those who fought for, and in many cases died for, the freedoms which we now enjoy.

Developing

For the lastest on Russian military moves in the Ukraine, see

(1) “Poroschenko meldet Invasion durch russisches Militär,” Suddeutsche Zeitung, 28. August, 2014 (10:56 Uhr).

(2) Andrew E. Kramer and Michael R, Gordon, “Ukraine Reports Russian Invasion on a New Front, New York Times, August 27, 2014.

The pacifists and appeasers who lead the West seem lost.

Angela Merkel is reportedly concerned that EU and NATO actions vis-vis the Ukraine not hurt Russia’s interests. A high EU official stresses that the European Union will do what it can to meet Russia’s concerns over the EU-NATO cooperation agreement signed in June.

They don’t get it.

We are no longer living in that world.

Vladimir Putin emerged from his meeting in Minsk with Petro Poroshenko, and others including high European officials, with victory in hand.

No third-stage or “stage 3″ sanctions are going to be imposed, even after his sending regular Russian forces into the eastern Ukraine.

No one was even discussing implementing tougher “stage 3″ sectoral sanctions against Russia. These had long been threatened (with several deadlines passing without consequences) if Russia invaded the eastern Ukraine or didn’t stop its military support of the so-called “separatists”.

Putin called the West’s bluff, and won.

Then he intensified the overt Russian invasion of the Ukraine, opening another front to the South toward Mariupol.

This is his pattern. He does whatever necessary to deflect the adoption of really harsh sanctions, and after he succeeds he escalates Russia’s military intervention in the Ukraine.

He may be executing a strategic plan to join the Crimea to Russia by seizing territory to the South of Donetsk and Luhansk.

This may have been a long-term strategy for some time, but as he encounters no resistance from the West he appears to be speeding it up, as he did in the Crimea when he encountered no opposition from the West.

After Minsk, Angela Merkel has now demonstrated her pacifism and appeasement of Putin beyond the slightest doubt. However skilled in economic matters, she comes off as a naive schoolgirl when dealing with Vladimir Putin, no doubt under the strong influence of her SPD foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Steinmeier is the former chief of staff of SPD ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Putin’s business partner and leading apologist in Germany.

We can’t look to Germany any more for leadership on the Ukraine.

Nor can we look to France, given Francois Hollande’s sell-out to Moscow by guaranteeing delivery of the two Mistral-class warships to Russia.

Great Britain is a possible but dubious potential source of leadership. David Cameron comes out strutting like a rooster, saying the right things, but then withdraws to the barn at the first sign of opposition. The strongest example was when he lost an ill-prepared vote in the House of Commons to authorize military action against Syria after Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons at Ghouta in August, 2013. Instead of renewing the political fight with better preparation, he simply gave up.

The only potential leadership to stand up to Russia is in Poland and the Baltics, with support from other countries such as Norway. After the downing of Malaysian Flight MH17, the political backbone of Holland seemed to stiffen, but time will be needed to see if that change holds.

The key decision at the EU summit this weekend is going to be the choice of the new foreign affairs boss. If the Italian Federica Mogherini is voted in, Putin can break out the Champagne, as she will not be inclined to lead stiff opposition to Russian aggression.

According to late reports, however, she will be chosen.

The effect is likely to be to neuter the EU as a force that can act effectively to rein Putin in.

On the other hand, if someone like the Pole Radoslav Sikorski were to be selected, Europe could expect strong and experienced foreign policy leadership, particularly with respect to Russia.

As for the United States, Barack Obama has been on vacation while Russia was launching an invasion of the eastern Ukraine with regular Russian soldiers.

What more can be said?

Can one imagine John F. Kennedy leaving Washington for a two-week vacation at Hyannisport during the Cuban Missile Crisis?

Given the hopeless incompetence of Barack Obama and his White House foreign policy team, the only hope for stronger leadership from the U.S. would be if Hillary Clinton and other Democratic leaders were to pull off the gloves and start setting forth a much more robust set of foreign policy options and policies. Were they to do this strongly enough, and soon enough, it could push the Obama administration toward stronger policies of containment toward Russia.

It would also position these Democratic leaders to better withstand a hard charge from Republican critics of Obama’s policies and foreign policy failures.

Unless the direction of current U.S., EU, and NATO actions changes sharply, and quickly, future historians are likely to write of “the summer of appeasement of 2014″, the story of how the leaders of the West failed to effectively stand up to Putin’s policies of military aggression and annexation.

They will be writing, and living, in a different world.

The Trenchant Observer

Overt Russian military invasion of the Ukraine underway; West must impose harsh stage 3 sanctions immediately

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Developing

Putin has challenged directly the existing international political and legal order, upon which, incidentally, the world’s economic order rests.

Either Putin and Russia win, or the West and the other civilized countries of the world win.

It is that stark and simple.

The Russian invasion of the eastern Ukraine by regular Russian forces in underway. Russian artillery manned by Russian soldiers is today firing on Ukrainian troops from within the Ukraine.

See

(1) Michael R. Gordon, “Russia Moves Artillery Units Into Ukraine, NATO Says,. New York Times, August 22, 2014.

(2) NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, “Statement”, August 22, 2014. See NATO, “NATO Secretary General condemns entry of Russian convoy into Ukraine,” August 22, 2014.

(3) “Russische Soldaten sollen in Ukraine kämpfen; Russische Streitkräfte haben laut Nato-Angaben die ukrainische Armee beschossen. Das Militärbündnis warnt vor einer Eskalation, am Abend tagt der UN-Sicherheitsrat, ” Die Zeit, 22. August 2014 (Aktualisiert um 20:59 Uhr).

The Russian “humanitarian aid” convoy of up to 280 trucks has entered into the Ukraine without Ukrainian authorization.

While posing a direct threat to the Ukraine, the larger function of the truck convoy may turn out to have been to serve as a decoy, distracting the West’s attention from the direct invasion of the Ukraine by the Russian mikitary, moving at night across the border along unnarked dirt tracks or through open fields.

The invasion is pretty much on target for the 46th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia on August 20, 1968. It signals the outbreak of an outright war between Russia and the Ukraine.

What can the West and other civilized nations do?

First, they must impose really harsh stage 3 (third-stage) sanctions against Russia.

Only the execution of prior threats will give any future threats the slighest credence.

These measures must include immediate cancellation of all defense contracts, including the French delivery of two Mistral-class warships to Russia, and a cessation of French training of Russian sailors to operate them which is currently underway in France.

The imposition of these sanctions is the only step that might contribute to ending the war.

Failure to impose these threatened sanctions now will undermine all those in Russia who may be arguing for an end to the invasion and in favor of maintenance of economic relations with the West.

Second, large and serious military assistance to the Ukraine should commence at once.

Third, accelerated decisions regarding the forward-basing of NATO forces in Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania; and termination or at least total suspension of the NATO-Russia partnership agreement, which Russia has flagrantly breached.

Europe and America must wake up, take a hard look at the realities of the Russian invasion, and react accordingly.

NATO, which was founded to deter Soviet aggression in Europe, must now prove that there are reasons for its continued existence. If it does not react now, it will be too late when the Russians begin further “stealth invasions” in the Baltics.

It is time to turn away from the path of appeasement, and to start defending the values of the West, including the U.N. Charter and the rule of law–on both the international and the domestic levels.

Putin has challenged directly the existing international political and legal order, upon which, incidentally, the world’s economic order rests.

Either Putin and Russia win, or the West and the other civilized countries of the world win.

It is that stark and simple.

As was the case with Adolf Hitler.

The Trenchant Observer

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 Citizen 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