Archive for the ‘France’ Category

Pacifists and appeasers in EU delay entry into force of new sanctions, undermining hard actions which produced Minsk ceasefire and peace process agreement

Monday, September 8th, 2014

Latest News and Opinion

See

(1) “Sanktionen in der Ukraine-Krise: EU lässt Moskau noch einige Tage,” Der Spiegel, 8. September 2014 (2153 Uhr).

Sie sind schärfer, aber sie verzögern sich: Erst in wenigen Tagen sollen die EU-Sanktionen gegen Russland greifen. Ölkonzerne wie Rosneft und Gazprom bekommen dann schwerer Kredite. Wird der Kreml doch noch einlenken in der Ukraine-Krise?

(2) Jan Strupczewski (Brussels), “EU delays signing off on new Russia sanctions,” Reuters, September 8, 2014 (1:26 p.m. EDT).

(3) “Full text of Minsk Protocol on Ceasefire in Ukraine (August 5, 2014), The Trenchant Observer, September 7, 2014.

Return to “Threats of Sanctions” Strategy Could Cause Unraveling of Ceasefire and Peace Process Initiated in Minsk

The first ray of hope that the crisis caused by Russian invasions in the Ukraine might be brought under control and a process of de-escalation begun is now threatened by pacifists and appeasers among the leaders of EU countries who are acting to halt implementation of the specific new third-stage (stage 3) sanctions agreed by EU leaders on September 5, when they were gathered at the NATO summit in Wales.

These hard measures, together with NATO’s decisions to create a quick reaction force for the East and to insist on Alliance countries meeting a requirement that they invest 2% of the GDP in defense, produced the Minsk ceasefire agreement and the first real Russian actions leading toward de-escalation in the six months since Russia invaded the Crimea in late February, 2014.

The Minsk Ceasefire and Peace Process Agreement Reached in Minsk on September 5 provided the following:

1. Ensure the immediate bilateral ceasefire.

2. Ensure the monitoring and verification by the OSCE of the ceasefire.

3. A decentralization of power, including through the adoption of the
law of Ukraine “about local government provisional arrangements in some
areas of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts” (law on the special status).

4. Ensure the permanent monitoring of the Ukrainian-Russian border and
verification by the OSCE with the creation of security zones in the
border regions of Ukraine and the Russian Federation.

5. To immediately release all hostages and illegally detained persons.

6. A law on preventing the prosecution and punishment of persons in
connection with the events that have taken place in some areas of
Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts.

7. Continue the inclusive national dialogue.

8. To take measures to improve the humanitarian situation in Donbass.

9. Ensure early local elections in accordance with the law of Ukraine
“about local government provisional arrangements in some areas of
Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts” (law on the special status).

10. Withdraw the illegal armed groups, military equipment, as well as fighters and mercenaries from Ukraine.

11. To adopt the program of economic recovery and reconstruction of Donbas region.

12. To provide personal security for the participants in the consultations.

Prior to these decisions, both the EU and the U.S. had pursued a strategy of pacifism and appeasement in the face of Russian aggression, adopting a strategy of using future sanctions to secure Vladimir Putin’s desisting from further acts of aggression or halting those underway.

This strategy failed, in a most spectacular way, emboldening Putin to “annex” the Crimea, and then to conduct what was at first a “stealth” invasion of the eastern Ukraine, and then in August became an increasingly brazen invasion by regular Russian forces into the eastern Ukraine with thousands of troops, artillery, armored personnel carriers, and advanced air-defense systems, including the one that shot down Malaysian Flight MH17, a civilian flight), on August 17.

This failed strategy of threatening sanctions, and then failing to impose them, has led to the deaths of over 3,000 soldiers and civilians, on both sides, in the Eastern Ukraine.

It is abundantly clear that the only thing that has caused Putin finally to show signs of willingness to slow his military advances has been the very recent united response of the EU and the U.S. in imposing new and harsh sanctions on Russia, in execution of earnest and specific threats they made in early August, and the strong unity shown at the NATO summit in Wales which produced the decisions described above.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that only decisive steps by the West can cause Putin and Russia to slow and halt their aggression, the pacifism and appeasement that has taken very deep roots among the leaders of Europe and the United States is not dead. It survives, and now threatens to scuttle the progress that has been made as a direct result of unity and hard decisions to impose sanctions and take military decisions now, leaving the question of their relaxation dependent not on Russian promises which are worthless, but on Russian actions on the ground as observed in the field.

The idea, finally, has been to adopt the sanctions first, and then to relax them if and only if Russia ceases its support of the “separatists” and its direct military intervention in the Ukraine.

It is not a quid pro quo. The West is not holding off on its sanctions in order to secure promises from Putin that Russia will stop its military intervention in the future.

Rather, the EU, the U.S. and the EU are acting to change the facts on the ground, including the facts on the ground within Russia), to which Putin and Russia must respond.

By doing so they are also setting in motion powerful forces which will help to deter Putin from further military aggression through “stealth warfare” or otherwise in Eastern Europe, particularly in Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, which have large Russian-speaking minorities.

Rather, the EU, the U.S. and the EU are acting to change the facts on the ground, including the facts on the ground within Russia), to which Putin and Russia must respond.

By doing so they are also setting in motion powerful forces which will help to deter Putin from further military aggression though “stealth warfare” or or by other means in Eastern Europe, particularly in Lithuanis, Estonia and Latvia, which have large Russian-speaking minorities.

The ceasefire in the eastern Ukraine is tenuous, as is the incipient peace process meant to accompany it.

Any Western hesitation in carrying out the solemn decisions of EU leaders will appear as weakness to Putin.

Putin’s word is worthless, as worthless as that of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, who Russia counseled and supported diplomatically, militarily and financially as some 200,000 people were killed. Anyone who has looked carefully at Russia’s and Assad’s actions in Syria in the last three years knows well the Russia modus operandi of duplicity, false promises, and uncompromising military activity on the ground.

Why would anyone want to exchange concrete progress on the ground achieved through implementation of the Minsk agreement for promises and undertakings from a known liar who has broken every promise he has made about the Ukraine?

The sanctions need to be imposed now, at once, if Putin’s illusions about the weakness of the West are to be dispelled, and if the West has any hopes that not only the Minsk ceasefire, but also the Minsk peace process, might take root and lead toward a defusing of the conflict.

Finland or Slovakia may fear the sanctions’ impact on their economies, and in the case of Finland on its relations with Russia in general, since it is not a member of NATO.

However, their short-sighted concerns should not be allowed to defeat the united will of Europe and NATO, whose members have only in the last week had a glimpse of how powerful they are acting together, and the strength of the economic weapons they can deploy to halt the advance of Russian tanks.

The Trenchant Observer

Full text of Minsk Protocol on Ceasefire in Ukraine (September 5, 2014)

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has now published the full text of the Protocol for a ceasefire in the Ukraine.

See

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, “Protocol on the results of consultations of the Trilateral Contact Group, signed in Minsk, 5 September 2014, OSCE.org.

The official text is published in Russian here.

An informal English translation (as well as the signed Russian text) can be found here, at Liveleak.com.

The informal English text published by Liveleak.com is as follows:

1. Ensure the immediate bilateral ceasefire.

2. Ensure the monitoring and verification by the OSCE of the ceasefire.

3. A decentralization of power, including through the adoption of the  law of Ukraine “about local government provisional arrangements in some areas of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts” (law on the special status).

4. Ensure the permanent monitoring of the Ukrainian-Russian border and  verification by the OSCE with the creation of security zones in the  border regions of Ukraine and the Russian Federation.

5. To immediately release all hostages and illegally detained persons.

6. A law on preventing the prosecution and punishment of persons in  connection with the events that have taken place in some areas of  Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts.

7. Continue the inclusive national dialogue.

8. To take measures to improve the humanitarian situation in Donbass.

9. Ensure early local elections in accordance with the law of Ukraine  “about local government provisional arrangements in some areas of  Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts” (law on the special status).

10. Withdraw the illegal armed groups, military equipment, as well as fighters and mercenaries from Ukraine.

11. To adopt the program of economic recovery and reconstruction of Donbas region.

12. To provide personal security for the participants in the consultations.

(liveleak commentary:

Certainly reads like a victory for Kiev, the Ukrainian Oligarchs, the Russian Oligarchs, the EU government, and the US government.
Don’t see how this agreement benefits the DNR/LNR or the cause of Novorossiya in any way.
Read more at http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=91e_1410100704#0fE67hjuIefuDZvq.99

See also

“Terms of Minsk ceasefire agreement described; NATO decisions and new U.S. and EU sactions—if not sidelined at last moment—suggest toughening stance toward Putin,” The Trenchant Observer, September 5, 2014.

The Trenchant Observer

Barack Obama’s phantasmagoric world, where the choice of words defines reality

Friday, September 5th, 2014

phantasmagoria /ˌfæntæzməˈɡɔːrɪə/, phantasmagory /fænˈtæzməɡərɪ/
n
1. a shifting medley of real or imagined figures, as in a dream
2. a sequence of pictures made to vary in size rapidly while remaining in focus
3. RARE a shifting scene composed of different elements

Etymology: 19th Century: probably from French fantasmagorie production of phantasms, from phantasm + -agorie, perhaps from Greek ageirein to gather together

phantasmagoric /ˌfæntæzməˈɡɒrɪk/, ˌphantasmaˈgorical
adj

–Collins Concise English Dictionary © HarperCollins Publishers

U.S. President Barack Obama was quite successful as a candidadate in 2008 and 2012 through the modern political technique of managing the narrative.

Unfortunately, he has for five and half years applied the same tecnique to the management of his foreign policy narrative.

Tragically, he has paid much more attention to the narrative of his foreign policies and the fine intellectual distinctions he makes in his head than he has to the changing realities on the ground in a number of crises, the relationships between them, and the need for the adoption of an effective strategy and implementing actions which can simultaneously deal with all of them.

These crises include Russia and its invasions of the Ukraine, Syria, ISIS, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, Palestine, Libya, Yemen, Sudan and South Sudan, Somalia, the expansion of islamic militant groups across the northern half of Africa (Boko Haram in Nigeria is but one example), and China’s territorial claims and militant actions in the South China and East China Seas.

The evidence that Obama gives priority to the choice of words and managing his foreign policy narrative instead of developing strategy and implementing it through decisive actions is very strong.

In Afganistan, the 2009 policy review spent an enormous amount of time debating whether the goal there should be to “degrade” or to “defeat” the Taliban.

With ISIS, which did not come upon the scene overnight, there is evidence that a similar debate has been taking place, with the president only at the NATO Summit on September 4-5 declaring that the goal should be both to “degrade” and to “destroy” ISIS.

Aside from revealing the divisions within his foreign policy team, this unhappy formulation also reveals–paradoxically–that the president does not always think through the implications of the words he speaks.

From a foreign policy narrative perspective, the formulation makes perfect sense, since it can be portrayed as not reflecting a change in policy. From a strategic and action perspective, the words are pure nonsense.

Further evidence of the priority given by the President to words instead of actions is provided by the emphasis he has placed on calling ISIS by his preferred name, ISIL (“the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant”), instead of ISIS (“the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” or “the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham”).

Most recently, as the EU, NATO and the U.S. have faced the challenge of how to respond to the second Russian invasion of the Ukraine, this time in the Donbass, Obama has been very careful to characterize the movement of Russian tanks, artillery, armored personnel carriers, and sophisticated air-defense systems into the Ukraine as an “incursion” and not an “invasion”. This played right into Vladimir Putin’s hands, as he sought to confuse the issue and hide the fact that an outright military invasion had occurred and was continuing.

The pacifists and appeasers in NATO and the EU have displayed a similar diffidence in avoiding the term “invasion”, whether due to Obama’s leadership on verbal formulations or not.

An “incursion” might be allowed to stand, as in Georgia. Still, it is hard to see how the seizure of the Crimea and its annexation could be considered a mere “incursion”. It may be that, for now, the pacifists and appeasers who lead the West are simply unable to think about the Crimea.

Finally, mention must be made of Obama’s careful phraseology in stating that if Putin continues on this or that course of action, he and Russia will pay additional “costs”.

This way of looking at the world can be found in Obama’s 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance sppech where, while reserving to himself the right to use force whenever necessay to protect America, he stated that the rules of the road governing the use of force should be followed because it is in the interests of national leaders to do so.

There is no moral imperative contained in his formulations, then or now.

Obama’s leadership in verbal formulations is reflected in the adoption by other NATO and EU leaders of this terminology of “additional costs”.

At times it seems like Obama is stating–matter-of-factly–to an armed burglar in his house, who has already killed one of his children and threatens to rape his wife, that the intruder should desist or else he will have to pay “additional costs”. Lest this example sound too extreme, one should recall that some 3,000 people have killed in the fighting in the eastern Ukraine.

The language of imposing “additional costs” on the aggrssor Putin also has a more pervasive impact on how Obama and other decision makers think about what is going on in the Ukraine. It reveals that Obama, and others who adopt this terminology, have fallen victim to the “Rational Actor Fallacy”, which results from thinking within a “Rational Actor” or “Analytic” paradigm in which all government actions are viewed as the product of a rational calculus by a single, unitary rational mind or its equivalent. This paradigm is manifestly inadequare, and leads to making false assumptions about the causes and motivations of state behavior.

The significance of Obama’s focusing on the choice of words and managing the foreign policy narrative of his administration is that it leads to fuzzy and confused thinking, which can mask the presence of very grave threats to the national security of the United States, NATO members, and other states.

Russia has “invaded” the eastern Ukraine by military force in violation of the prohibition of the threat or use of force contained in Article 2 paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter.

It did so in the Crimea. It has done so now in the eastern Ukraine. Its forces remain in the Crimea and the eastern Ukraine in open and flagrant violation of that bedrock principle of the U.N. Charter and international law.

That is the reality we face, and the reality we must clearly understand, without obfuscations with words, if we are to muster the courage to take effective action to reverse the situation, and to reaffirm and reestablish observance of the most fundamental norm in the U.N. Charter and international law.

The words you choose affect the way you think, as George Orwell explained in 1946. Words which are not connected to actions, as Theodore Roosevel explained in 1907 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech (delivered in 1912), are meangingless, or worse.

To avoid floundering in a phantasmagoric world of visions that lead to lunging at shadows, or sitting immobile when a bear is coming at your throat, Obama and other leaders need to use real words to describe the realities which they see, and the actual and very real threats to which they must respond.

See

(1) Andrew Higgins, “On Ukraine, the West Sidesteps a Fraught Term,” September 4, 2014.

(2) “Russian “Invasion” or Incursion” in Ukraine? Obama and the primacy of words over actions,” The Trenchant Observer, August 28, 2014.

(3) “ISIS or ISIL? A telling tale of the primacy of words over actions in Obama’s foreign policy,” The Trenchant Observer, June 19, 2014.

(4) “The smartest person in the room, and the Afghanistan policy review,” The Trenchant Observer, October 24, 2010.

(5) The Daily Star: “The “Rational Actor” Fallacy and Stopping Syria’s Atrocities—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #8 (March 9) The Trenchant Observer, March 9, 2012.

The Trenchant Observer

The EU and NATO falter in stopping Putin; Strategy and action to contain an existential threat are urgently required

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Draft — Check back for updates

Latst News and Opinion

See

(1) Julia Smirnova, “Putin will plötzlich Frieden in der Ukraine; Kremlchef gibt vor, den Konflikt beenden zu wollen; Doch sein Plan ist ein fauler Deal,” Die Welt, 4. September 2014 (Die Welt Kompakt).

(2) Julian Hans (Korrespondent der Süddeutschen Zeitung in Moskau / Kommentar) “Krieg in der Ukraine: Putin will nicht Frieden, sondern Kiews Kapitulation,” Süddeutsche Zeitung, 5. September 2014 (07:30 Uhr).

Petro Poroschenko will dem Sieben-Punkte-Plan Moskaus nun doch zustimmen. Das ist ein bitteres Eingeständnis des ukrainischen Präsidenten: Gegen russische Truppen kann die Ukraine nicht gewinnen.

Analysis

1. Russian President Vladimir Putin knows the pacifist leaders of the West quite well and has, quite predictably, given them a thread to hang their hopes on and an excuse for not adopting really harsh sanctions against Russia this week.

The U.S. and the EU threatened in early August to impose such sanctions if Putin continued his support of his puppet “separatists” in the Donbass or sent regular Russian troops into the Ukraine.

2. He has done both of these things, and continues to do so. Russian forces are fighting Ukranian soldiers at this very moment in the Donbass and beyond. There exists inconrovertible proof of their invasion and fighting.

Putin is telling bald-faced lies when he denies these facts.

3. The pacifists and appeasers who lead the biggest countries of “Old Europe” within the EU, especially Germany but also France and England, oppose really strong further sanctions against Russia.

The socialists now hold key positions in Europe with enough influence to slow or derail the momentum for tougher sanctions.

They include German SPD Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (former chief of staff of former SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Schroeder is Putin’s business partner in the Nordstream gas pipeline project, such a good friend he traveled to St. Petersburg to celebrate his 70th birtday with Vladimir, and one of the leading Putin apologists in Germany.

They now also include the new (and inexperienced) socialist EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, pushed through by Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi (a rising socialist star) in a deal for top EU positions that had nothing to do with foreign policy.

One of her first statements after her selection was that there was “no military solution” to the Ukrainian conflict (except, of course, Putin’s military solution produced by his second invasion of the Ukraine).

Third, they include the former German SPD politician and recently re-elected President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz. He was quoted recently as saying he was opposed to the imposition of any further sanctions against Russia, as follows:

Sanktionen ausgesprochen, um eine weitere Eskalation des Konflikts zu vermeiden. Der Gesprächsfaden mit Russland dürfe “gerade in Krisenzeiten nicht reißen”, sagte der SPD-Politiker der “Hannoverschen Allgemeinen Zeitung”. “Was wir jetzt brauchen, ist kein Säbelrasseln, sondern beharrliche Diplomatie”, sagte Schulz. Europa habe bereits Sanktionen beschlossen, die die russische Wirtschaft hart träfen.

–”Ukraine-Krise: USA bereiten neue Sanktionen gegen Putin vor,” Der Spiegel, 4. september 2014 (20:28 Uhr).

4. The fundamental problem is that Europe’s most influential leaders, such as CDU Chancellor Angela Merkel and her SPD foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, have pacifism and appeasement vis-a-vis Russia in their DNA.

Europe’s pacifist leaders, like the U.S. pacifist president Barack Obama, will contemplate the limited use of force against ISIS or in Afghanistan, but can’t imagine it being necessary to contain Russia.

The result is appeasement of Putin by pacifist leaders lacking any sense of history, strategy, or their own responsibilities before history. Nor do they have any understanding of the central role of international law and institutions in organizing international society, and the particular importance of the prohibition of the threat or use of force contained in Article 2 paragraph 4 of the U.N. Charter.

5. So, they are willing to leave the Ukraine and Petro Poroshenko to face Putin alone, as the mighty Russian army is pummeling his troops in its ongoing invasion of his country.

6. Putin has offered him a “ceasefire” which amounts to a diktat for capitulation. Most of the Western leaders who are leaving him to face the Russian army on his own probably haven’t read it or fully understand its implications.

Signing the “ceasefire” agreement with Putin, if it ever comes to implementation, is likely to spell an end to Poroshenko’s hopes to build a political base in the upcoming Ukrainian elections for parliament in October.

He is handicapped to begin with, without a party. Prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk signalled his strong opposition to the ceasefire and that of his party, that of Iulia Timoshenko.

Poor Poroshenko. He begged for strong support and real military assistance from the NATO countries for months, but it has not been forthcoming.

He and the Ukraine have been left to face the Russian Bear, in all of its military might, on their own.

So we should not be surprised that he has agreed in principle to a ceasefire.  What was his alternative?

We don’t really know how Putin got him to agree to a ceasefire.

Not to be excluded from consideration is the possibility that Putin may have reminded him of what has happened to other politicians in the past, such as Viktor Yushchenko in 2004, who almost died from poisoning but survived to become president. In London, Alexander Litvinenko was not so fortunate, succumbing to polonium poisoning.

7. Poroshenko may be saved yet, however, by Putin’s ambitions and duplicity.

Whereas once Putin might have been content with a “frozen conflict” in the Ukraine that would keep it out of NATO and probably the EU, now that the Europeans have been diverted from the imposition of cutting sanctions–such as exclusion from the Western financial system or the SWIFT system of international funds transfers–bigger goals may have come into sight as Russia’s army is on the march and meeting little opposition.

Putin has achieved all of the above at neglible cost to his wealth or grip on power.

He may now decide to continue his quest for a land corridor connecting the Crimea with Russia proper. The invasion and advance toward Meriupol suggests he is thinking of that.

And later, if he conducts one or more stealth invasions in the Baltics to protect the Russian minorities there, he may be able to bring all of NATO crashing down. Even German Defense Minister van der Leyden has been quoted as saying, in an unguarded moment, that if such an invasion were to occur, NATO would be “dead”.

The defeat of NATO would be a historic triumph for Russia, and Vladimir Putin, after the humiliation of the dismemberment of Greater Russia in 1989.

8. To counter the threat from Putin and Russia, the EU, NATO and the U.S. should be thinking strategically, and devising plans to contain Russia and its nationalistic and irredentist ambitions, by military means if necessary.

Russia, so long as it is led by Putin or someone like him, represents an existential threat to NATO, the U.S. and the European Union.

9. it should be evident that Putin is full of propaganda and lies, has a duplicitous and thuggish nature, and can never be trusted.

It is as if we were negotiating with Adolf Hitler in 1938, hoping he would act nice if we just put enough effort into our diplomacy and showed sufficient understanding of his demands.

The Trenchant Observer

Putin seeks to divide EU to avoid sanctions with Ukraine “cease-fire” proposal; Russian words should be ignored, harsh EU sanctions and hard NATO decisions adopted

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

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

For late news and opinion, see

(1) Julia Smirnova (Moskau), “Bei Moskaus schlauem Planspiel verliert Kiew Den ganzen Tag herrscht Verwirrung, dann tritt der Kreml-Chef vor die Kameras und präsentiert einen Friedensplan, der wie die große Lösung aussehen soll. Doch es handelt sich um einen schlechten Deal,” Die Welt, 3. September, 2014 (19:03 Uhr).

(2) “Papier im Wortlaut: Putins Sieben-Punkte-Plan,” Der Spiegel, 3. September 2014 (20:53 Uhr).

(3) Neil MacFarquhar, “Putin Outlines 7-Point Plan for Ukraine Cease-Fire,” New York Times, September 3, 2014.

(4) Jörg Eigendorf (Kommentar), “Putins “Friedensplan” ist sein Papier nicht wert,” Die Welt, 3. September 2014.

The gullibility of the pacifists and appeasers who lead the West knows no end, and Russian President Vladimir Putin knows very well how to take advantage of it.

He and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov showed how adept they are at this game, backing ceasefires and U.N. monitors in Syria, and Kofi Annan’s six point peace plan, the Geneva I “peace conference” in June 2012, and then the follow-on Geneva II conference in January 2014, all of which came to nothing as Bashar al-Assad’s guns kept blazing with full Russian support.

Why would anyone negotiate with Vladimir Putin, a known and blatant liar who has kept none of the promises he has made regarding the Ukraine? Does anyone remember the April 17 Geneva four-party agreement by which the separatists were to lay down their arms?

How can the Europeans allow themselves to be diverted, once again, from their task of adopting the harshest possible sanctions against Russia, whose tanks and artillery and air-defense systems are today in the Ukraine firing on Ukrainian troops, and whose puppet “separatists” have been conducting a reign of terror in the regions of the Donbass, including Donetsk and Luhansk, which are under their control?

How, above all, can you even think of negotiating with the leader of Russia who denies he has invaded the Ukraine and that thousands of Russian troops are today fighting in that country?

Any deal with Putin would not be worth the lies it was founded on, the perfidious promises it consisted of, or the paper it was written on.

The “ceasefire” of which Putin speaks is a ceasefire that would constitute a huge victory for Russia, “freezing” the conflict in the Ukraine so as to guarantee that the country cannot join the EU or eventually NATO.

In Russia, it would be hailed as a great victory for Putin, and further fan the flames of the xenophobic nationalism that drives irredentist policies of military aggression.

In other words, Putin is magnanimously offering a “ceasefire” so that the Ukraine, the EU, and the West can surrender on his terms, while Russia avoids the hard bite of further sectoral sanctions.

It would be a great deal for him. But it would signify for the West the collapse of the present international legal and political order based on the United Nations Charter and the prohibition of the threat or use of force.

During this week of critical decisions by the EU and NATO, the best advice is to ignore everything Putin or Russia says with words, and watch carefully what they say with actions.

NATO should immediately abrogate its 1997 Partnership Agreement with Russia, which the latter has ripped into pieces by its invasions of the Ukraine, and immediately deploy very large numbers of NATO troops to the eastern NATO countries bordering Russia.

The EU should adopt crippling sanctions against Moscow this week, including a ban on financial transactions, and a ban on Russian access to the SWIFT system for international funds transfers.

The whole idea of a piecemeal approach to sanctions has been a failure, utterly failing to stop Putin’s military advances. Now, nothing should be kept in reserve to order to try to deter Putin from further aggression, such as his well-calibrated threat to “take Kiev in two weeks”.

Harsh sanctions should be adopted now.

The strategic goal of the West in dealing with Putin should be to contain, and if possible to deflate, the xenophobic nationalism which Putin has fanned in Russia through his campaign of war propaganda and aggression.

Any negotiations of a ceasefire with Putin should follow the adoption of further sanctions by the EU and the taking of firm steps by NATO as outlined above.

Any ceasefire should come after, not before, these measures are taken.

Like Hitler before him, Putin will not be stopped until he meets a powerful opposing force that can halt his advances. For now, that force should consist of powerful EU sanctions, the supply of military weapons and training to the Ukrainian military, the abrogation of the NATO-Russia Partnership agreement, and decisions for prompt forward-bssing of large numbers of NATO troops in Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania.

If these measures do not work, NATO must be prepared to use military force to defend its members, and the postwar legal and political order based on the United Nations Charter.

The Trenchant Observer

Putin’s War: the Russian invasion by regular troops and the West’s response—critical decisions loom (Updated August 30, 2014)

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

Updated August 30, 2014
Originally published on August 28, 2014

A new round of third-stage (Stage 3) sanctions must be really biting, with immediate effect. Otherwise, they will only stoke the fires of Russian military aggression in the Ukraine.

Latest News and Opinion

See

(1) Bertold Kohler (Kommentar), “Verbrannte Erde in der Ukraine: Putins Krieg,” Franfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 28. August 2014

Der Westen darf sich nicht länger von Putin an der Nase herumführen lassen. Der russische Präsident hat kein Interesse an der Befriedung und Stabilisierung der Ukraine. Er wünscht sich einen „failed state“ als Pufferzone zu Demokratie und Rechtsstaatlichkeit.

(2) Daniel Brössler, “Russland lässt alle Hüllen fallen,” Sueddeutsche Zeitung, 28. August 2014 (18:41 Uhr).

Wo vor Wochen zwei Flugzeuge standen, ist jetzt kaum noch Platz. Satellitenfotos vom Militärflugplatz Millerowo lassen keine Zweifel mehr. Die Russen haben an der Grenze zur Ukraine tausende Soldaten zusammengezogen. Die Nato spricht bei ihrer Präsentation im belgischen Mons von einer “hochmobilen, effektiven Offensiv-Streitmacht”.

(3) Shaun Walker (Kiev), “Ukraine: Emergency UN, Nato, EU meetings after Russian invasion claim; iNato says 1,000 Russian troops fighting in Ukraine as Kiev accuses Moscow of de facto invasion and opening second front,” The Guardian, August 28, 2014 (15.02 EDT).

August 30 EU Summit in Brussels: Further Step 3 sectoral sanctions; selection of new foreign policy chief, and new President of Council of Europe

If the EU yields to the pacifists and appeasers among its leaders, and decides to impose only mildly more serious sanctions on Russia or none at all, or delays acting once again, Vladimir Putin is likely to accelerate his strategic conquest of eastern Ukraine by seizing territory which provides a land corridor between the Crimea and Russia.

With these new facts on the ground, a new Cold War, from which there can be no return so long as Putin remains in power, will have been set in stone.

Inside Russia, any officials or advisers who may be seeking or in the future seek a reversal of Putin’s policies of military aggression and ennexation of conquered territories will be stripped of their last argument against such actions.

The stakes are enormous, and include the following :

–all arms control treaties to which Russia is an important party

–the U.N. Charter’s foundational principles governing the use of force, including the prohibition of the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.

Etc.

The two key decisions at the EU Summit, therefore, are:

First, who will be chosen as High Representative for forein affars, and for President of the European Council.

Four considerations should be given paramount importance in making the selection:

1) Does the person selected have a proven track record of dealing effectively with foreign policy issues? And does that person have the qualifications and visibility necessary for the job to be taken seriously? In short, is the person selected qualified for such a high-level position?

2) Will the person selected act independently of the political leadership of his or her state of origin in representing the interests of the European Union as a whole?

3) Does that person have the capacity and drive to transform the position into one of effective coordinator of the foreign policies of the 28 member states?

4) Will the person selected have the will, and the ability, to lead EU members in adopying sanctions and taking other measures which can slow or halt Russia’s aggression in the Ukraine and the East?

To put this is perspective, one can imagine how the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944 would have gone if each army had been calling its own shots, instead of Dwight D. Eisenhower effectively exercising leadership as Supreme Allied Commander.

It is clear that the foreign policy leadership function in the EU needs to be overhauled. Whether the person chosen is viewed as a placeholder or as a strong leader who can lead that process, will tell us a lot about the likely future coherence of EU foreign policy.

Moreover, given the current disinclination and inability of the United States to lead, the potential role of European leadership in containing Russian aggression is of critical historical importance.

Second, will the leaders at the summit decide to impose, or actually impose very harsh sectoral sanctions against Russia for its invasion, of the eastern Ukraine by both regular and irregular forces?

The importance of this decision has been analyzed above. Will the EU carry out its specific and earnest threats and actually implement measures that might slow or halt Putin’s military aggression?

Or will the leaders of EU nations at the summit fail to act, sending Putin a green light to proceed with his military advances in the Ukraine?

Timing is critical. Implementation of further “stage 3″ sanctions is extremely urgent, as Russian military forces roll into and seize more territory in the Ukraine.

It is indisputable that the policy of making threats to affect Putin’s future actions, and failing to carry them out, has not only failed utterly, but also emboldened him in escalating Russian aggression.

Will Europe finally turn away from empty threats and adopt hard measures in response to past and ongoing Russian behavior? Only such an approach has any chance of persuading Putin to pull back, either now or in the longer term.

September 4-5 NATO Summit in Wales

See Kurt Volker and Erik Brattberg,”NATO must stand up to Putin’s threat to invade Ukraine,” Washington Post, August 28, 2014 (8:02 PM).

What is needed urgently at this moment is for NATO to abrogate the 1997 partnersip agreement with the Russian Federation, in view of the changed security conditions in Europe, and Russia’s flagrant violation of the central obligations upon which the partnership is founded.

See “Abrogation of 1997 NATO Partnership Agreement with Russia urgently required — With excerpts from and link to text of Foundational Act,” The Trenchant Observer, August 26, 2014.

Decisions to deploy large numbers of NATO forces in countries bordering on Russia are urgent. The stationing of these troops in Central Europe when the threat has shifted to the East makes no sense. It amounts to NATO basing its security on the maintenance of a new Maginot Line which, like the one which failed to hslt the advance of German tanks in World War II, utterly fails to meet the requirements for nearby forces that can be rapidly deployed, and supplied, to meet any acts of aggression.

Concluding Thoughts

The arguments and analyses have all been set forth here, and elsewhere, in detail.

As the leaders of EU and NATO countries gather to meet, and take decisions which will have momentous historical consequences, each of them should spend some time alone and in prayer, however they understand that term, and ask themselves one transcendental question:

Would their fathers or grandfathers, and mothers or grandmothers, who lived through the ravages of war and the reconstruction of a Europe utterly destroyed by its depradations, be proud of the decisions they are about to take?

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.

**********

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

Abrogation of 1997 NATO Partnership Agreement with Russia urgently required — With excerpts from and link to text of Foundational Act

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

The NATO-Russia partnership agreement was signed in 1997, when the Russian Federation was viewed as a post-war friend.

That was before Russia under Vladimir Putin morphed into an authoritarian state pusuing policies of military aggression and annexation of conquered territories.

Pertinent sections of the Founding Act are reproduced below:

Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation signed in Paris, France, 27 May. 1997

I. Principles

Proceeding from the principle that the security of all states in the Euro-Atlantic community is indivisible, NATO and Russia will work together to contribute to the establishment in Europe of common and comprehensive security based on the allegiance to shared values, commitments and norms of behaviour in the interests of all states. NATO and Russia will help to strengthen the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, including developing further its role as a primary instrument in preventive diplomacy, conflict prevention, crisis management, post-conflict rehabilitation and regional security cooperation, as well as in enhancing its operational capabilities to carry out these tasks. The OSCE, as the only pan-European security organisation, has a key role in European peace and stability. In strengthening the OSCE, NATO and Russia will cooperate to prevent any possibility of returning to a Europe of division and confrontation, or the isolation of any state.

To achieve the aims of this Act, NATO and Russia will base their relations on a shared commitment to the following principles:

*development, on the basis of transparency, of a strong, stable, enduring and equal partnership and of cooperation to strengthen security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area;

*acknowledgement of the vital role that democracy, political pluralism, the rule of law, and respect for human rights and civil liberties and the development of free market economies play in the development of common prosperity and comprehensive security;

*refraining from the threat or use of force against each other as well as against any other state, its sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence in any manner inconsistent with the United Nations Charter and with the Declaration of Principles Guiding Relations Between Participating States contained in the Helsinki Final Act;

*respect for sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all states and their inherent right to choose the means to ensure their own security, the inviolability of borders and peoples’ right of self-determination as enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act and other OSCE documents;

*mutual transparency in creating and implementing defence policy and military doctrines;

*prevention of conflicts and settlement of disputes by peaceful means in accordance with UN and OSCE principles;

*support, on a case-by-case basis, of peacekeeping operations carried out under the authority of the UN Security Council or the responsibility of the OSCE.

Russia has through its invasions of the Ukraine and annexation of the Crimea torn up this Founding Agreement.

The assumptions on which was based are no longer valid.

As NATO rubs its eyes and starts to perceive the fact that Russia has become an enemy which rejects the foundational principles of the U.N. Charter and the most basic principles of international law, it should immediately suspend all activities under the partnership agreement, and give notice of abrogation of this agreement with the Russian Federation, to take effect in six months.

NATO needs to focus on and respond to current realities, and jettison illusions based on assumptions which are no longer valid, and hopes for possibilities which no longer exist,

Putin and Russia have become the enemy of the NATO countries.

The sooner that fact is recognized, and acted upon, the sooner the citizens of NATO countries will take the steps necessary to safeguard their own security.

The Trenchant Observer

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

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

In the last five days, following new incursions by the regular armed forces of Russia including one to the South toward Mariupol, and the much-anticipated Minsk meeting (in a group) between Vladimir Putin and Petro Petroshenko, nothing has changed.

The analysis and recommendations republshed below have lost none of their urgency.

*****

Originally published on August 22, 2014

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 military, 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 slightest 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