Archive for the ‘elections’ Category

Ukraine Update: Renewal of sanctions, “progress”, and one-sided implementation of Minsk II Agreement (with full text in English)

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

“Diplomacy is the art of saying ‘Nice doggie’ until you can find a rock.”

Will Rogers

It is quite amazing how the ceasefire called for in the Minsk II Agreement of February 12, 2015 seems to start to hold just before the EU has to vote again to uphold and extend the sanctions against Russia, which were adopted by the EU following the Russian invasion and “annexation” of the Crimea in February and March 2014, and the Russian invasion of the Donbas or eastern Ukraine beginning in April 2014.

Vladimir Putin’s goal appears to be as clear as his ongong violations of the Minsk II agreement’s terms: to block the extension of sanctions.

If he succeeds, he will have won a great victory over the Europeans, whose policies like those of the U.S. were dictated by pacifists and appeasers at least up until the adoption of Stage 3 sanctions against Russia on September 5, 2015. They came into force on Septemer 12, 2014.

Now if he can show “progress” toward implementing the Minsk II provisions, Putin and the pacifists and appeasers within the EU can push for an easing of sanctions.

Because all 28 members of the EU must vote affirmatively for the extension of sanctions, Putin needs only one vote to block their renewal.

So the push is on to show “progress”, with both the EU and the U.S. exerting pressure on Kiev to adopt constitutional amendments that would enshrine the special status of the Donetzk and Luhansk provinces controlled by so-called “separatists” in the Ukrainian constitution.

And the ceasefire seems to be taking hold.

If these moves lead to a blocking of sanctions, Putin will have achieved a great victory. Even if they don’t, the pattern of Ukrainian compliance with Minsk II in the face of constant violations of not only the ceasefire but other key provisions of Minsk II by the “separatists” puppets of Vladimir Putin and by Russia itself will continue.

Does anyone recall that all foreign fighters are to be withdrawn from the Donbas by December 31, 2015 under the terms of Minsk II?

Has or will there be any “progress” on that front?

See “Minsk II Agreement of February 12, 2015 (with full texts in English and Russian) February 13, 2014 (updated and revised).

The Russian Interfax news agency translation into English of the full text is reproduced at the end of this article.

Does anyone remember or care about the fact that Russia seized the Crimea by military force in February 2014, and continues to occupy what is sovereign territory of the Ukraine, under international law, by military force?

For the moment, all observers and decision-makers need to keep their eye on the ball and the big game in the Ukraine: the extension of all sanctions against Russia, including in particular third stage or Stage 3 sanctions.

Could anyone imagine, for an instant, that full implementation of the Minsk II Agreement would become remotely manageable or possible without them?

On the pressures by the EU and the U.S. on Kiev to adopt constitutional amendments giving special autonomous status to the Donbas, see

Claudia von Salzen (Kommentar),”DER KONFLIKT IN DER UKRAINE: Zerreißprobe in Kiew; Im Ukraine-Konflikt halten die Europäer an einem gescheiterten Abkommen fest. Das Land wird zur Verfassungsänderung gedrängt, während Russland keine Zugeständnisse macht,” Die Zeit, 1. September 2015 (Erschienen im Tagesspiegel am 1. September 2015 11:20 Uhr).

The Trenchant Observer


Full text in English of Minsk II Agreement of February 12, 2015

Translation provided by Russian Interfax news agency, as published in the International Business Times, February 12, 2015.

“1. An immediate and comprehensive ceasefire in certain areas of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions and its strict implementation starting at 0000 (Kiev time) on 15 February 2015.

2. Withdrawal of all heavy weapons by both sides at equal distances in order to create a security zone to be at least 50-km-wide from each other for 100mm or bigger calibre artillery systems, a 70-km-wide security zone for MLRS [multiple launch rocket systems], and a 140-km-wide security zone for Tornado-S, Uragan and Smerch MLRS and Tochka-U tactical missile systems:

– For the Ukrainian troops: from the factual contact line;

– For the armed formations of certain areas of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions: from the contact line according to the Minsk memorandum of 19 September 2014.

The withdrawal of the abovementioned heavy weapons shall begin no later than on the second day after the ceasefire and shall end within 14 days.

The OSCE will facilitate this process with the support of the Tripartite Contact Group.

3. Ensure effective monitoring and verification of the ceasefire regime and the withdrawal of heavy weapons by the OSCE from the first day of the withdrawal, with the use of all necessary technical means, including satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles, radar systems and so on.

4. On the first day following the withdrawal, to start the dialogue on the modalities of holding local elections in accordance with Ukrainian legislation and Ukraine’s law “On the special procedure of local self-governance in some districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions” as well as on a future regime of these districts on the basis of this law.

Immediately, no later than in 30 days since the date of the signing of the given document, to adopt a Verkhovna Rada [Ukrainian parliament] resolution to specify the territory to which the special regime applies in accordance with the law of Ukraine “On the special procedure of local self-governance in some districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions” on the basis of the line set by the Minsk memorandum of 19 September 2014.

5. Ensure pardon and amnesty by putting into force a law that would ban persecution and punishment of individuals in connection with the events that took place in some areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.

6. Ensure the release and exchange of all the hostages and illegally held individuals on the basis of the “all for all” principle. This process should be completed no later then on the fifth day after the withdrawal.

7. Ensure safe access, delivery, storage and distribution of humanitarian aid among those who need it on the basis of an international mechanism.

8. Definition of the modalities of a complete restoration of socio-economic ties, including social transfers, such as pension payments or other payments (receipts and income, paying the utility bills on time and renewing taxation within the framework of Ukraine’s legal field).

To meet these objectives, Ukraine will restore control over the segment of its banking system in the areas affected by the conflict, and an international mechanism to facilitate these transfers may be set up.

9. Restoration of full control over the state border in the whole zone of the conflict on the part of the Ukrainian government, which should begin on the first day after local elections and finish after an all-inclusive political settlement (local elections in separate districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions on the basis of Ukraine’s law, and constitutional reform) by the end of 2015, providing the implementation of clause 11 – in consultations and with the agreement of representatives of separate districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions within the framework of the Tripartite Contact Group.

10. Withdrawal of all foreign armed formations, military hardware and mercenaries from Ukrainian territory under the OSCE’s supervision. Disarmament of all illegal groups.

11. Realization of constitutional reform in Ukraine, with the new constitution to enter into force by the end of 2015, and assuming as a key element the decentralization (taking into account the peculiarities of certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as agreed with representatives of these districts), and the enactment of permanent legislation on the special status of certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions in accordance with the measures specified in the footnotes, until the end of 2015 (see footnotes)

12. Issues related to local elections shall be discussed and agreed with representatives of certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions within the framework of the Tripartite Contact Group on the basis of the Ukrainian law “On the temporary procedure for local self-government in certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions”. Elections shall be held in compliance with the relevant OSCE standards and monitored by the OSCE ODIHR [Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights].

13. Intensification of the activities of the Tripartite Contact Group, including by means of establishing working groups to fulfil the respective aspects of the Minsk agreements. They will reflect the composition of the Tripartite Contact Group.


Such measures in accordance with the law “On the special procedure of local self-governance in some districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions” include the following:

– Freedom from punishment, persecution and discrimination for individuals connected to the events that took place in certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions;

– Right to self-determination of language;

– Participation of local governing bodies in the appointment of heads of prosecution bodies and courts in certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions;

– The state will provide support to the socio-economic development of certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions;

– Assistance from the central executive bodies with cross-border cooperation between certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions and regions of the Russian Federation;

– Creation of people’s police detachments by the decision of local councils with the aim of maintaining social order in certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions;

– The powers of local council deputies and public servants elected during pre-term elections called by the Ukrainian Supreme Council via this law cannot be prematurely terminated.

This document has been signed by the participants in the Tripartite Contact Group:

[OSCE] Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini

Second President of Ukraine L. [Leonid] Kuchma

Russian Ambassador to Ukraine M. [Mikhail] Zurabov

A. [Aleksandr or Oleksandr] Zakharchenko

I. [Igor or Ihor] Plotnitskiy [Plotnytskyy]”

U.S. presidential primaries: Donald Trump as incendiary wildcard, and Hillary Clinton as hyper-advised calculating robot

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as dream candidates—for the other side

Sometimes it seems that the Republicans and the Democrats have found the perfect candidate — for the other party!

Donald Trump is a dream candidate for the Republican presidential primaries, and Hillary Clinton is a dream candidate for the Democratic primaries — each for the other party.

Donald Trump will alienate so many voters in the Republican party and those leaning Republican that it will be hard for the Republican nominee (even Jeb Bush) to win them back. He makes the Republican Party look like the stridently anti-Mexican and anti-immigrant party of Donald Trump.  Good luck with the Hispanic vote in the general elections! Even Jeb Bush, whose wife is of Mexican origin and who speaks fluent Spanish, will have a hard time overcoming the identification in voters’ minds of the Republicans as the anti-immigrant party.

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton is a dream candidate for the Republicans, for several reasons.

First, she has incredibly high unfavorability ratings among the general electorate, who believe she cannot be trusted. The ongoing saga about her private e-mail server as Secretary of State, and other matters the House Special Committee is looking into, particluarly her role in the Banghazi affair, are certain to keep the issue of her candor and trustworthiness before voters’ eyes.

Second, by so dominating the Democratic primaries through building a massive machine and warchest, seeming to have locked up the support of major Democratic donors, she has sucked the air out of the room ncessary for other potential candidates to launch viable campaigns.

She seems most likely to win the nomination, and most likely to lose the general election — if the Republicans can put up a reasonable candidate and can unite their party after the primaries, or in the not unlikely event that she faces criminal chargs over her handling of classified information, or some other scandal, perhaps related to the Clinton foundation, drags her down.

Hillary and Machine Politics, 2015 style

Hillary personifies the new machine politics of the Democrats in 2015. She is the head of the machine, infinitely calculating, never saying anything that the machine of messaging and narratives and policy positions does not tell her to say. Even her new spontaneity must be viewed as a decision by her machine of countless advisers and pre-tested focus groups that she needs to inject spontaneity and candor into her campaign. There is an inherent contradiction here.


Michael Gerson, “Hillary Clinton’s Nixonian mindset is on full display,” Washington Post, August 17, 2015 (8:04 PM).

Jan Fleischhauer, “Warum die Amis Hillary Clinton nicht mögen; Hillary Clinton will die erste US-Präsidentin werden. Doch jeder Satz von ihr klingt, als ob ein Beraterteam ihn vorher getestet hätte. Die meisten Bürger wollen aber im Weißen Haus einen Menschen aus Fleisch und Blut – keinen Sprechautomaten,” Der Spiegel, 11. August 2015 (17:49 Uhr).

It is hard to see in Hillary the leader of the nation after her performance during the Benghazi affair. When four Americans including the ambassador to Libya were killed in Benghazi on September 11-12, 2012, she as Secretary of State did not go forth to reassure the country, but rather sent U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to the Sunday morning talk shows to present a highly ambiguous and misleading account of what had happened.  

Rice downplayed the link to al Qaeda and related terrorist groups. Candor would have contradicted Barack Obama’s presidential campaign narrative that Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda had been defeated, and that terrorism was under control. Obama, and Clinton, knew at the time this was not the case, which is why the CIA had a “black” operation in Benghazi whose known tasks included monitoring the activities of Ansar al-Sharia and other terrorist groups in the region–whose names were scrubbed from Susan Rice’s talking points.

The Citizens United decision and electoral politics

Isn’t there a new generation of leaders ready to take on the challenges of the incredibly perilous times in which we live?

If money did not rule politics in the U.S. as it has since the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United in 2010, wouldn’t we have a better chance of seeing and hearing these candidates, who might also be able to launch viable campaigns?

Like the Supreme Court decisions in the Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) case upholding slavery, and Lochner v. New York (1905) which held labor legislation limiting working hours to 10 hours per day and 60 hours per week unconstitutional as violative of the “liberty of contract” implicit in the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, the Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission (2010) ruling has upended the Constitution, giving the wealthy and super-wealthy the power to use their money as “free speech” to drown out the free speech of others and to subvert the electoral system established by the Constitution.

The only remedy for this situation is a constitutional amendment reversing Citizens United, or its unlikely reversal by the Supreme Court itself. Neither will happen in time to affect the 2016 race, if ever.

The Trenchant Observer

Top articles on Putin, the Ukraine, and Russia

Friday, April 17th, 2015

Check back for updates

Some of the best articles by the Trenchant Observer on Putin, the Ukraine, and Russia include the following:

(1) “Russian propaganda and Western reporters who can’t think: Putin’s great rise in popularity, as revealed by polls,” March 14, 2015.

(2) “Nemtsov assassination represents a stark warning to the opposition: ‘Criticize Putin, especially on the Ukraine, and you may die,’” (Updated March 6, 2015)

(3) “Putin’s triumph over the pacifists and appeasers of the West, and the ferocious opponents he may face in the future,” (revised February 25, 2015).

(4) “Ukraine Update: Overview and signficance of the continuing Russan invasion,” March 5, 2015.

(5) “Minsk II Agreement of February 12, 2015 (with full texts in English and Russian), February 12, 2015.

(6) “Russia’s utter and continuing violation of international law in the Ukraine: U.N. General Assembly Resolution A/RES/25/2625 (1970) on Principles of International Law and Friendly Relations Among States,” February 8, 2015.

(7) “The virus of nationalism and military aggression: Adolf Hitler in Vienna, March, 1938; Vladimir Putin in Sevastopol, May 9, 2014,” June 30, 2014.

(8) “Steinmeier-Lavrov Meeting in Moscow: “Sergej Wiktorowitsch, Du, du liegst mir im Herzen, Du, Du machst mir viel Shmerzen, weisst nicht wie gut ich dir bin,” November 18, 2014.

The Trenchant Observer

Russian propaganda and Western reporters who can’t think: Putin’s great rise in popularity, as revealed by polls

Saturday, March 14th, 2015

They say that robots or software robots can prepare news to be distributed much like a newspaper does.

Evidence is mounting that robots or robot-like reporters are already filing reports for leading newspapers, and making editorial decisions on headlines and what goes into a particular edition of a newspaper.

Now El Pais from Madrid has published a news story that states that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s popularity has soared to 88%, one year after the military invasion and purported “annexation” of the Crimea.


Agencias (Moscu), “Putin alcanza una cifra récord de popularidad del 88%. Crimea quiere nombrar al presidente ruso ciudadano de honor un año después de anexión El Zpais, 11 de marzo 2015 (19:28 CET).

El Pais is one of Europe’s leading newspapers, and it is nothing short of scandalous that it would print this story with this headline.

Is El Pais taking a direct feed from Russian newswires, giving their propaganda the impramatur of a leading international newspaper, and then publishing the “news” story? It cites the poll results as reported by the ITAR-Tass Russian news agency.

Is it the policy of El Pais to republish news stories from Russian wire services, or are its editors just asleep at the wheel?

In fact, many newspapers in many countries have been publishing these and similar poll numbers, as if they had any significance, much as the election “results” announced by the “separatists” in Donetsk and Luhansk and earlier in the Crimea that were reported, as if they meant anything.

See “The meaningless “sham” elections in “separatist”-held areas of the Ukraine on November 2, 2014, The Trenchant Observer, November 2, 2014.

Think for a minute. Russia is a dictatorship where there is no freedom of expression in the state-owned and state-related media, and opponents of Putin are harrassed, arrested, expelled from the country, or, as in the February 27, 2015 assassination of Boris Nemtsov, simply killed.

If you were a Russian and a polling company called you for your opinion, on the phone, or even if you were asked questions in a survey questionnaire administered in person, would you say you approved of President Putin and his policies? What’s the downside?

If, on the contrary, you say you disapprove of Putin and his policies, what is the upside? As for the downside, might you not be a little concerned that, in a police state, your answers could be used to hurt you, in one way or another?

See Saeed Ahmed, “Vladimir Putin’s approval rating? Now at a whopping 86%,” CNN February 26, 2015 (Updated 1256 GMT).

Ahmed reports,

So how is it that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s popularity is at a whopping 86%?

That’s the conclusion of a poll conducted this month by the Levada Center. Last month, Putin’s approval rating was at 85%.

The Levada-Center describes itself as an independent, non-governmental polling and sociological research organization.

And it has found that Putin’s approval ratings have been holding steady in the mid-80s since around May last year, which incidentally is when the Ukraine/Crimea conflict bubbled up.

What gives?

The answer is simple, says Ben Judah, author of “Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell In and Out of Love with Vladimir Putin.”

“That figure is made up,” he told CNN last month.

“An opinion poll can only be conducted in a democracy with a free press,” he explained. “In a country with no free press, where people are arrested for expressing their opinions, where the truth is hidden from them, where the media even online is almost all controlled by the government — when a pollster phones people up and asks, ‘Hello, do you approve of Vladimir Putin,’ the answer is overwhelmingly yes.

“So what that opinion poll is, is not a poll of approval but it’s a poll of fear.”

Regarding the recent poll, The Guardian adds one significant detail: “The state-run VTsIOM pollster reported on Friday that 88% of Russian approved of Putin’s job performance – an all-time record.” So, we are talking about the results of a poll conducted by a state-run polling agency, which El Pais picked up from a Russian ITAR-Tass wire story.

The Russian poll results are meaningless. Fatally flawed. Devoid of significance. Useful only for their propaganda effect.

In a dictatorship, the polls are meaningless, as meaningless as the election results. That is the news story.

Please tell the editors of El Pais.

If citizens and officials in the West are to accurately understand what is going on in Russia and the Ukraine, and the world, Western media are going to have to do a much better job of filtering out Russian propaganda.

To do that, they need reporters and editors who can think on their feet.

Moreover, a good starting point for them would be to never rely on news sources that are well-known for their mendacity. That would include most Russian news wires and newspapers.

The Trenchant Observer

Minsk II Agreement of February 12, 2015 (with full texts in English and Russian)

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

Updated, revised and corrected on February 13, 2014

(Originally published on February 12, 2015)

The Telegraph has published the full English text of the Minsk II accord of February 12, 2015 The text is found here.

The full text in English, with the points numbered and the individual signatories listed, has also been published in the Financial Times. The text is found here.

The full text in Russian, published by the OSCE, is found here.

The Minsk Ii Agreement of February 12, 2015 holds out the hope for a ceasefire from February 15, and a path toward peace in the eastern Ukraine.

However, it is a minefield, and all the cards for its successful implementation lie in Vladimir Putin’s hands.

There are, to be sure, positive aspects to the agreement, including the resumption of social payments, banking facilities, and the duty to pay taxes under Ukrainian law in rebel-controlled areas.

Nonetheless, perhaps the most striking aspect of the agreement is that the obligation to withdraw all foreign fighters and equipment is not tied to any timetable or deadline, while the obligation to restore the border to Ukrainian control is subject to conditions which require the agreement of local separatist leaders, with a deadline for restoring Ukrainian control of the border that extends until the end of 2015.

It will be quite difficult to verify the withdrawal of Russian fighters so long as the border is not returned to Ukrainian control, pending agreement on elections, and legal and constitutional reforms. Should they be so inclined, Putin and the so-called “separatists” (his puppets) will as a result have endless opportunities to quarrel about implementation.

In effect, German Chancellor Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko have achieved more promises from President Vladimir Putin, who continues to deny that Russia even has troops, tanks, armor and soldiers in the Ukraine–despite overwhelming proof to the contrary.

More significantly, they have agreed to give Russia until the end of 2015 to comply with the most fundamental norm of the U.N. Charter, Article 2 paragraph 4, which prohibits “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”

This provision is a norm of jus cogens or mandatory international law, from which there can be no exception by way of agreement. As such, the provisions in the Minsk II agreement which suspend the binding effect of Article 2 paragraph 4 of the Charter would appear to be void ab initio, with no legal effect.

Consequently, Russia remains under an international legal obligation, not subject to conditions, to immediately withdraw its forces, tanks, artillery and other equipment from the territory of the Ukraine.

These provisions subject to conditions amount to no more than political commitments from an aggressor state which is not known for its veracity or carrying through on its promises, and the victim  of its aggression, and the latter’s supporters, in an agreement concluded at the end of the barrel of a gun.

Moreover, the agreement does not address the Russian conquest and purported “annexation” of the Crimea, which under international law remains Ukrainian territory under Russian military occupation.

Without the United States, NATO, and the European Union participating in the Minsk Summit of February 11-12, this was probably the most Merkel, Hollande, and Poroshenko could have extracted from Putin at this time.

The agreement probably represents the end of the road in terms of what can be achieved by verbal diplomacy not backed by more forceful instruments of national power. The next time negotiations are undertaken, e.g., to ensure compliance with this agreement, they should be led by the U.S., NATO, and the EU, not France and Germany.

Echoing Neville Chamberlain after he and Eduard Daladier of France signed the infamous Munich Pact in September, 1938, the German and French leaders might well say that they have achieved “peace in our time”.

Unfortunately, Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande were so obtuse as to not even secure Vladimir Putin’s signature on the document, failing to understand the political significance of such an act.

The agreement should be signed by Putin, Merkel, Hollande, and Poroshenko, even at this late hour. Putin’s signature would add greatly to the pressures, both at home and abroad, for him to comply with its terms.

Perhaps the Minsk II agreement will produce a ceasefire that will hold for a time, and save lives. That would be good. Perhaps Putin will abandon his plan for producing a “frozen conflict” in the Ukraine that will prevent that country from ever joining NATO, or even the European Union, and even lead him to drop the idea of building a “land bridge” to the Crimea. That would be really good.

But if one considers Russia’s pattern of duplicity and lies, from supporting Bashar al-Assad in Syria as he broke every agreement he ever made, beginning in 2011, to Russia’s own monstrous lies and deceptions regarding the Ukraine during the last year, including its own violation of the April 17, 2014 Geneva Agreement, the September 5, 2014 Minsk Protocol, the September 19, 2014 Minsk Memorandum, as well as the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and Article 2 paragraph 4 of the U.N. Charter itself,  there would appear to be few grounds for hope that such a change might occur.

What Putin has achieved at Minsk II is to deflect the pressure in the U.S. for immediately sending “lethal weapons” in significant quantities to Kiev, and the decisions of individual EU member states to do likewise. He has also succeeded in providing both Americans and EU members who oppose imposing really harsh, sectoral sanctions—now—for Russia’s recent and continuing invasion of the eastern Ukraine, many new arguments to delay or defeat their adoption.

In a word, the only real winner at Minsk II appears to have been Vladimir Putin.

What the U.S.and the EU should do now is to draft very harsh sectoral sanctions (which can be imposed immediately by the U.S. acting alone—while the EU seeks to develop its consensus), and to begin gathering and staging the supply of “lethal weapons” to Kiev so that the decision can be executed immediately upon its adoption. They should maintain intense pressure on Putin, not with words or threats, but with actions and facts on the ground (e.g., preparing really harsh sectoral sanctions, including expulsion from the SWIFT international payments system, actually shipping lethal arms to staging areas in NATO countries for quick delivery to Kiev if such a decion is made) so that he might actually turn away from his present course of war in the Ukraine.

We can hope for the best in terms of Putin’s implementation of the Minsk II agreement, but need to prepare earnestly to act quickly and energetically through economic and other means if he doesn’t adhere to its terms, in order to bring Russia’s aggression against the Ukraine, including its military occupation of the Crimea, to an early end.

Finally, the definitive and authoritative document should at all costs be circulated to Merkel, Hollande, Poroshenko and Putin, so that their signatures are affixed to it. As noted, it is of paramount importance that the signature of Vladimir Putin appear on the final document, if there is to be any hope that he might actually adhere to its terms.

In domestic law, an agreement that leaves essential terms open to be agreed in the future is known as an “illusory contract”, is not binding, and in fact is not a contract at all.  It may become binding, however, if in the course of its performance those essential terms are supplied.

Let us hope that the Minsk II agreement may become more than illusory as its essential terms are filled in during the course of its performance.

That is a hope, however, not a binding agreement that resolves the conflict—which is driven by Russian military aggression. It’s not something you would want to bet the farm on.

The Trenchant Observer

Obama seeks to block publication of Senate torture report; Pillar of democracy at stake

Saturday, December 6th, 2014

Background — See

(1) “Sicherheitsbedenken: US-Regierung bremst Veröffentlichung von CIA-Folterbericht,” Der Spiegel, 6. Dezember 2014 (19:55 Uhr).

Der US-Senat wollte umfassende Informationen über geheime Foltermethoden der CIA publizieren. Nun blockiert die Regierung in Washington in letzter Sekunde die Veröffentlichung – und begründet dies mit Sorge vor neuer Gewalt im Nahen Osten.”

(2) Reuters (Washington), “Kerry urges caution over timing of releasing U.S. torture report,” Reuters, December 5, 2014 (7:40pm EST).

(3) Matthew Lee and Ken Dilian, “Kerry to Feinstein: Consider timing of CIA report,” Associated Press (AP), December 5, 2014 (6:26 PM EST).

(4) “Obama: ‘We tortured some folks…It’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had. And a lot of those folks (our law enforcement and our national security teams) were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots.’” (full transcript), The Trenchant Observer. August 1, 2014.

(5) “Torture and torture memos pose serious obstacle to confirmation of Carolyn Krass as CIA General Counsel,” The Trenchant Observer, December 20, 2013.

One of the fundamental pillars of any democracy is the right of the people, those who in the U.S. elect the president and members of the Senate and the House, to know what actions the government has carried out with their money and in their name.

To the extent secret laws, secret courts, and doctrines that prevent the adjudication of the constitutionality and legality of the government’s actions prevent the people, the electorate, from learning what actions the government has taken and what crimes it has committed, the very edifice of democracy is eroded as the structure that remains becomes a hollow shell.

Now we hear the wholly specious argument, from Secretary of State John Kerry no less, that publication of the Senate’s Torture Report must be “delayed” because it will cause violence in the Middle East and South Asia, and will expose American hostages to risks and other Americans to being taken as hostages by extremists. (See Reuters aarticle above.) Release of the Report has already been delayed, for years.

Let there be no confusion over the high probability that further “delaying” the publication of the Torture Report will mean blocking its release. When the Republicans take over control of the Senate in January, it appears very likely they will block dissemination of the Report, if it has not already been distributed.

Kerry’s plea for delay has all the markings of an artful maneuver by Obama to block publication of the Torture Report while claiming he favors its release.

The statement by Kerry’s press spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, that he had called Senator Diane Feinstein, Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to ask for delay, came on Friday–well-timed to avoid coverage in the leading U.S. newspapers over the weekend.

So, the fault here according to the Obama administration is that those who want to learn and publish the facts regarding torture by the U.S. government, or extraordinary rendition to “black” prisons in places like Poland, in flagrant violation of human rights treaties, the laws of war, and customary international law, will endanger the country’s interests and its citizens abroad. The enemy, in short, is the truth.

It doesn’t seem to occur to President Obama or elected officials who acquiesce in such government secrecy that it is the government’s actions and crimes themselves that cause the damage to the nation’s interests. While the Islamic State and other groups are growing by the day, it doesn’t occur to these leaders that the torture itself has imposed an immeasurable cost on the idea of America in the world, and the country’s interests.

With John Brennan sitting as Director of the CIA, and the failure of the Obama administration to prosecute those responsible for policies and acts of torture, in flagrant violation of the U.N. Convention Against Torture, America has never made a clean break with torture.

The simple fact that  one of the key figures in the torture program has never been prosecuted for torture as required by the U.N. Convention Against Torture, and publishes op-eds in newspapers like the Washington Post every time the there is a threat that the truth about the actions he led might come out, reveals how far America is from making a clean break with its policies of torture in the past.


(1) Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., “Today’s CIA critics once urged the agency to do anything to fight al-Qaeda,” The Washingtonn Post, December 5, 2014.

(2) “Key CIA official involved in Bush torture program criticizes “Zero Dark Thirty” for inaccurate depiction of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’,” The Trenchant Observer, January 7, 2013.

One can understand Rodriguez’ anguish over crimes he apparently was complicit in, believing he was acting in accordance with the orders of the highest officials in the country, without agreeing with his arguments and conclusions. He poses serious questions. The best answer to them is publication of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Report on Torture.

Publication of the Senate Report can begin to correct the government policies that led to torture and that tolerate the non-prosecution of those responsible for torture. If we are ever to diminish the hatred toward America felt by jihadists and many others in the world, it will not be by continuing to hide our crimes behind a wall of secrecy–which only confirms the worst fears and suspicions of the jihadists and those they seek to recruit–but rather by letting the light of truth uncover these crimes and point us down a path that will ensure that they will never happen again.

Barack Obama, in his typically cute way, is seeking to avoid personal responsibility for blocking publication of the report (actually only it’s Executive Summary), seeking through Kerry to block its release while putting out the word that he favors publication.

This is utterly disingenuous on his part.

This is what it’s like to live in a national security and surveillance state where the most important decisions for the life of a democracy are left in the hands of unelected intelligence officials who are themselves complicit in the commission of the crimes to be reported. CIA Director John Brennan is the leading case in point.

Who is in charge of the government, President Barack Obama and the Congress, or John Brennan and the other intelligence chiefs?

If Obama wants to publish the Executive Summary of the Senate Report, he should do so, taking broader considerations into account than those in the narrow purview of secretive intelligence operatives.

Moreover, as soon as possible after publication of the Executive Summary, the full report should be published.

The only redactions that should be accepted are those that are critically important to protecting present sources and methods, and not those aimed at avoiding embarrassment or the revelation of complicity in crimes.

The Trenchant Observer

Human rights abuses by Putin’s puppets: The seventh report of the OHCHR on the human rights situation in the Ukraine (with link to full report)

Friday, November 21st, 2014


By launching a war of aggression in the Crimea and the eastern Ukraine, in flagrant violation of Article 2 paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter, Russian President Vladimir Putin is directly responsible for the deaths, both military and civilian, that have occurred in the Ukraine.

The latest (Seventh) report by the U.N. OHCHR on the human rights situation in the Ukraine (see below) makes for chilling reading.

Behind all the lies and distortions of Putin and his war propaganda machine, lie the grisly facts regarding what has been happening in the Donbass and the Crimea following the Russian invasions of these regions.

The so-called “separatists” in the Donbas were led by Russian special forces and intelligence agents from the very beginning, when they lauched a highly sophisticated and coordinated campaign to seize government buildings and then to organize the establishment of so-called “People’s Republics” in the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk. When the Ukrainian government sought to put down this “rebellion”, as permitted by domestic and international law, regular Russian military forces intervened directly, engaged them, and pushed them back.

On September 5, 2014, in an effort to forestall the imposition of harsher “stage 3” sectoral sanctions by the EU and the U.S., Russia and the leaders of the two “People’s Republics” signed an agreement with the Ukrainian government to implement an immediate ceasefire and follow a 12-step process for the restoration of peace and stability in the region.

The resulting Minsk Protocol of September 5 and the ceasefire and other measures it provided for, including a withdrawal of foreign fighters and a sealing of the frontier with Russia, has broken down.

Full compliance with its provisions remains, however, the best hope for ending the war and reestablishing peace in the Donbas.

For insights into the atrocities and other violations of fundamental human right committed by the so-called “separatists” in the Donbas and in the Crimea, see

United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Serious human rights violations persist in eastern Ukraine despite tenuous ceasefire – UN report,” November 20, 2014.

For the full text of the 49-page Report, wich is summarized below, see

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Report on the human rights situation in Ukraine,” 15 November 2014. The text is found here.

See also “U.N. report describes widespread violations of human rights in areas of Ukraine under Russian or Russian puppet control,” The Trenchant Observer, October 9, 2014.

The OHCHR summary of the Report states the following:

GENEVA (20 November 2014) – Civilians have continued to be killed, unlawfully detained, tortured and disappeared in eastern Ukraine, and the number of internally displaced people has risen considerably despite the announcement of a ceasefire on 5 September, according to a new UN human rights monitoring report released Thursday.

“Violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law persist,” the report states. “The situation in the conflict-affected area is becoming increasingly entrenched, with the total breakdown of law and order and the emergence of parallel governance systems in the territories under the control of the [self-proclaimed] ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and the [self-proclaimed] ‘Luhansk people’s republic’.”

“The continuing presence of a large amount of sophisticated weaponry, as well as foreign fighters that include servicemen from the Russian Federation, directly affects the human rights situation in the east of Ukraine,” the report adds. “Guaranteeing the protection of those who live within the conflict-affected area must be of the highest priority. A peaceful solution must be found to end the fighting and violence, to save lives and to prevent further hardship for those people living in the eastern regions.”

According to the UN Human Rights Office, from mid-April to 18 November, at least 4,317 people were killed and 9,921 wounded in the conflict-affected area of eastern Ukraine. Since the ceasefire began, from 6 September up to 18 November, 957 fatalities were recorded – 838 men and 119 women, although some may have been killed prior to the ceasefire, with the data only recorded later. The number of internally displaced people (IDPs) has also sharply increased from 275,489 as of 18 September to 466,829 on 19 November, according to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine.*

The report itself, the seventh produced by the 35-strong UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, covers the period between 17 September and 31 October 2014. The report states that serious human rights abuses by the armed groups continued to be reported, including torture, arbitrary and incommunicado detention, summary executions, forced labour and sexual violence as well as the destruction and illegal seizure of property.

The report itself, the seventh produced by the 35-strong UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, covers the period between 17 September and 31 October 2014.
The report states that serious human rights abuses by the armed groups continued to be reported, including torture, arbitrary and incommunicado detention, summary executions, forced labour and sexual violence as well as the destruction and illegal seizure of property.

Reports on the use of cluster munitions in both urban and rural areas must be urgently and thoroughly investigated, the report states, as must all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law.

“Accountability and an end to impunity are at the core of ensuring peace, reconciliation and long term recovery,” the report stresses, adding that crimes must be promptly investigated, perpetrators held accountable and victims provided with an effective remedy, as well as with the required help and support.

It notes that secret and illegal places of detention continue to be in operation, with individuals detained incommunicado and allegations of torture and ill-treatment. Thousands of individuals remain missing. Ad hoc graves continue to be found and exhumed to establish the identities of those buried in them and to allow their bodies to be handed over to relatives.

There were also worrying accounts of the conduct of prisoner exchange processes, including reports that individuals were actually deprived of their liberty for the purpose of the exchange, the report says.

Severe curtailment of the economic, social and cultural rights of people in Ukraine is also of grave concern. One particularly pressing concern is the threat of interrupted treatment of nearly 60,000 HIV-positive and around 11,600 multi-drug resistant tuberculosis patients in all regions, due to non-completed tenders for the purchase of essential life-saving medicine.

“Discontinuation of treatment is life-threatening for more than 70,000 patients and may lead to the uncontrolled spread of epidemics,” the report warns. “Provision of essential medicines is one of the core obligations of the State to ensure the satisfaction of the minimum essential level of the right to health.”

The situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea is marked by reports of increasing human rights violations and protection challenges, especially for vulnerable minority and indigenous groups, and most notably for the Crimean Tatars.

issioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein welcomed the decree, which he hoped would place a greater, sustained emphasis on the promotion and protection of human rights in the country. However, he stressed that good laws and policies need to be accompanied by a genuine political commitment to implement them.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein … Zeid expressed deep dismay at the lack of significant progress on accountability for violations and abuses perpetrated so far, and for continued violations of the ceasefire.

“The list of victims keeps growing. Civilians, including women, children, minorities and a range of vulnerable individuals and groups continue to suffer the consequences of the political stalemate in Ukraine,” Zeid said.

“Respect for the ceasefire has been sporadic at best, with continued outbreaks of fighting and shelling resulting in an average of 13 people a day being killed during the first eight weeks of the ceasefire,” he added. “All parties need to make a far more whole-hearted effort to resolve this protracted crisis peacefully and in line with international human rights laws and standards.”

* Figures contained in this paragraph have been updated beyond the period covered by the report. The casualty figures are estimated by OHCHR and WHO; and the figures for displacement by the State Emergency Service of Ukraine.

The Trenchant Observer

The meaningless “sham” elections in “separatist”-held areas of the Ukraine on November 2, 2014

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

“Une dictature est un pays dans lequel on n’a pas besoin de passer toute une nuit devant son poste pour apprendre le résultat des élections.”

“A dictatorship is a country in which one doesn’t need to spend a whole night at one’s workplace in order to learn the result of elections.”

–Georges Clemenceau

For background relevant to the sham “elections” being held in Donetsk and Luhansk and other areas in the Donbas under the control of Moscow’s puppets, the so-called “separatists” of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” and the “Luhansk People’s Republic”, see

(1) “Historical context for current Russian aggression in the Ukriane; The sham “referendum” on May 11, 2014 in the eastern Ukraine,” The Trenchant Observer, May 12, 2014.

(2) “Despite Concerns about Governance, Ukrainians Want to Remain One Country; Many Leery of Russian Influence, as Putin Gets Boost at Home,” Pew Research Global Attidudes Project, May 8, 2014.

The observations made in the articles above apply equally to the so-called elections being staged by the “separatists” in the Donbas.

They are neither free, nor fair, nor “elections” in the true meaning of that term, as defined in international human rights treaties and official guidelines of organizations such as the OSCE.

The fact that Russia announced it would recognize the election results before they were held simply underlines how accustomed the Russian government is to fixed elections. It was like a puppeteer approving of its own puppet’s actions. Any objective observer would have waited to see if the elections were fraudulent, and whether the internationally recognized standards for the holding of free elections had been met, before approving anything.

Moreover, the “elections” are being held in express violation of the terms of the Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014, which called for them to be held on December 7 under the terms of a special law which was in fact enacted by the parliament and the government of the Ukraine.

No one should be fooled by the staged “elections” of groups who seized power by force, have held on to it with the help of Russian troops, arms and materiel amounting to an ongoing invasion, and in which the opponents of the “separatists” have been ruthlessly repressed by the use of terror.

News organizations should be careful not to repeat any numbers or “results” of the “elections”, because they are meaningless, like the results of old Soviet elections were meaningless. The most they should say is that the de facto rulers of these regions announced “x” results.

The real story in the Donbas today is the repression of the right to participate in government and in free and fair elections, which has been denied to the population under the dictatorial control of the “separatists”.

The following excerpts from the May 12 article cited above, following the independence referenda in the Donbas on May 11, apply equally to the elections of November 2, 2014:

As for the refendum itself, the following observations are in order:

There was no legally constituted electoral commission. There were no electoral rolls used to control who voted. There was no electoral body to which to appeal charges of corruption. There was no presence at voting tables of different parties. There were no independent international observers.

There was no mechanism to ensure the “results” announced by “separatists” (who gained their de facto positions through Russian aggression and the use of force) bear any resemblance to the number of ballots actually cast in favor of the proposal on the referendum.

There was no opportunity for opponents of a “yes” vote to be heard in the media, and those who might have spoken out for a “no” vote reported that they were subject to great intimidation and fear. A number of politicians who opposed the “separatists” were assassinated.

See David Blair (Donetsk) and Roland Oliphant,”The ‘disappeared’ whose voices will be silent in vote on self-rule in Ukraine’s east; Pro-Russian separatists continue to hold a number of prisoners against their will, in a campaign against dissent,” The Telegraph, May 10, 2014 (7:18PM BST).

The question on the May 11 ballot was essentially so ambiguous as to be meaningless.

The so-called referendum failed to meet the lowest standards of even the most blatantly corrupt of Soviet and Russian sham elections.

Why Western news media would give any weight to referendum “results” secured under these conditions defies understanding.

The real story was about these factors which rendered the “results” meaningless. But by reporting the numbers again and again, Western media helped give credence to the erroneous belief that the election results had any significance at all, other than to check the box in Vladimir Putin’s step-by-step stretegy in his war of aggression against the Ukraine.

The under-reported real story about the May 11 “referendum”

There is a real story about the gross violations of internationally protected human rights that are underway in the eastern Ukraine, including the right to political participation and free and independent elections, the rights to freedom of the press and freedom of speech, and the right to public order in which the physical integrity of each human being is protected from violation by others, including the rights which protect individuals from the depredations of armed thugs acting in concert with foreign special operations forces who have invaded the country.

The story in the eastern Ukraine is about these human rights violations, and Russian involvement, and not merely about the various steps of Putin’s plan of aggression aimed at subversion of the rights of Ukrainian citizens to the political independence, territorial integrity, and sovereignty of their country.

The Trenchant Observer

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

Friday, October 31st, 2014

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


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

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

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

A move on Mariupol would be consistent with Vladimir Putin’s modus operandi. With each setback, he has escalated the conflict in the Ukraine. The EU just reviewed and decided not to lift the “Stage 3” sanctions adopted on September 5 (implemented on September 12). The October 26 legislative election results in the Ukraine represented a stinging rebuke to Putin’s efforts to prevent that country from moving toward Europe. On October 24, Putin gave a speech in Sochi in which, within the delusional bubble he has created in Russia, he almost sounded reasonable. He argued in favor of international law and institutions, for example (if only we could overlook the facts that he has invaded the Ukraine twice and “annexed” the Crimea!).

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

That other direction could be a move on Mariupol.


Originally piblished on October 3, 2014.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

What is to be done?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Trenchant Observer

In the fog of aggression and war: Putin’s coup d’etat in Russia

Monday, October 20th, 2014

Many developments within Russia, particularly since February, 2014, have signaled the consolidation of a dictatorship of military and security services under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin.

The process began well before February, with new restrictions on NGO activities including a requirement that they register as an agent of a foreign state if they received international funding. The censorship and forced closure of independent TV channels and newspapers has advanced to the point where the state has a virtual monopoly on the mass dissemination of information.

State media have operated as propaganda instruments for the Putin regime, fanning xenophobic nationalism and unabashed enthusiasm for military aggression against the Ukraine, first in the Crimea and then in the eastern Ukraine.

Putin’s consolidation of his authoritarian dictatorship has accelerated sharply since the invasion of the Crimea in late February, and even more with the introduction of regular Russian troops into the eastern Ukraine or Donbas region in August, 2014.

In Russia, freedom of the press has been largely extinguished. Civil society is shrinking and increasingly gasping for air. Leading opponents of the regime have been arrested, placed under house arrest, or as in the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky virtually exiled.

Even the Russian NGO comprised of mothers of soldiers has been branded as subversive and is now subject to being disbanded, after inquiring too persistently and too loudly into the deaths or disappearances of Russian soldiers in or near the Ukraine.

Ben Judah has just published in Politico an arresting account of what has been going on in Russia while Vladimir Putin was invading the Ukraine and annexing the Crimea.


Ben Judah, “Putin’s Coup: How the Russian leader used the Ukraine crisis to consolidate his dictatorship,” Politico, October 19, 2014

Given the consolidation of a dictatorship in Russia, the fact that the “rule of law” is the furthest thing from the minds of the separatists in the Donbas, Putin’s puppets, should come as no surprise.

The Trenchant Observer.