Archive for the ‘France’ Category

France and Germany should cede leadership on diplomacy with Russia to Council of Europe, NATO

Friday, February 6th, 2015

When you stop and think about it, France and Germany have no business now representing Europe and NATO in talks with Putin and Russia over Ukraine. Who appointed them in the first place?

The original deal they brokered with then Ukrainian president Yanukovitch in February, 2014 briefly appeared to offer a negotiated solution to the crisis in the Ukraine resulting from massive demonstrations on the Maidan.  But the Maidan never accepted the deal, military and security officials defected from Yanukovitch, and the latter fled first to the eastern Ukraine and then to Russia as his government collapsed. Contrary to Russian propaganda, there was no “coup”.

Since that initial apparent success, the four-party negotiations including Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande, Petro Poroshenko, and Vladimir Putin, or their foreign ministers, have produced only illusory results.

Look at the map of the Ukraine showing areas occupied by Russian troops and their puppet “separatists” to grasp the point.

France is an unlikely mediator for Europe and the EU. Hollande should be known as Mr. Mistral, as he repeatedly betrayed the interests of NATO and its members as he sought to push through the delivery to Russia of “The Vladilovstok”, the first of two Mistral-class attack warships with highly advanced theater command capabilities.

He broke the isolation of Putin by inviting him to dinner at the Elysee Palace in Paris in June (relegating Barack Obama to dinner at a Parisian restaurant the same evening), after inviting him to the D-Day celebrations in Normandy, and also made a free-lance surprise trip to meet with Putin at the airport in Moscow in December, breaking his renewed isolation in bilateral relations after August.

Hollande would sell out Europe in favor of French interests, including delivery of the Mistral warships, at the drop of a hat.

Germany has not been so craven, but it is clear that Angela Merkel is fairly clueless on defense strategy and policy, while she is shackled by her grand coalition alliance with the SPD including her foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The SPD is no longer the party of Willy Brandt, former mayor of Berlin and Chancellor who was a stalwart in standing up firmly against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Rather, its leaders have become pacifists and appeasers of Russia. After Russia “annexed” the conquered territory of the Crimea in March, 2014, former SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder traveled to St. Petersburg to celebrate his 70th birthday with Vladimir Putin, his Russian business partner in the Nordstream gasline joint venture. After his government authorized the deal, Schroeder literally stumbled over himself to join Nordstream as he was leaving office. Former SPD Chancellor Helmut Scmidt, now in his 90’s, has also come out in support of appeasement with Russia, even following the “annexation” of the Crimea.

Steinmeier is a former chief-of-staff of Schroeder.

At every turn, no matter what Putin has done, no matter what agreements Putin has flouted, no matter how many tanks and armored columns and Russian troops and irregulars and intelligence and special forces operatives Putin has sent into the eastern Ukraine, no matter how tough Angela Merkel has been in her conversations and meetings with Putin, Steinmeier has always offered Putin yet another opportunity at dialogue, and yet another opportunity to meet.

The fact that Merkel and Hollande are now in Moscow, after refusing to meet with Putin in Astana, Kazakhstan last month due to a lack of prospects for any agreement, demonstrates the lengths to which France and Germany will go to try to appease Putin.

Their trip to Moscow today recalls Edouard Daladier’s and Neville Chamberlain’s trips to Munich in September, 1938, resulting in the infamous Munich Pact which blessed Adolf Hitler’s seizure of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia.

The EU deserves better representation. It is not even clear how Germany and France came to assume the role of speaking for Europe in the first place.

That role should now be directly assumed by Donald Tusk and the Council of Europe, and by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. It should definitely not be delegated to the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, who lacks experience and has a history of being overly friendly to Russia, even after the invasion of the Crimea.

Europe and NATO need new interlocutors with Putin. France and Germany are not suited to the task for the reasons set forth above, and in view of the complete failure of their diplomatic efforts with Putin to date.

The Trenchant Observer

European and American leaders repeat grave mistakes in efforts to appease Putin on Ukraine

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

Updated February 5, 2015 (7:45 p.m. ET)

See

(1) Julia Smirniva (Moskau), “Die verzweifelte Suche nach Frieden für die Ukraine Die deutsche Kanzlerin, Frankreichs Staatschef und der US-Außenminister flogen zu Gesprächen nach Kiew. Die ukrainische Regierung erwartet Hilfe in der Krise – es steht viel auf dem Spiel,” Die Zeit, 5. Februar 2015.

(2) ANTON TROIANOVSKI (Berlin), PHILIP SHISHKIN (Kiev), and GREGORY L. WHITE (Moscow), “Western Leaders Scramble to Calm Conflict in Ukraine
Moscow Warns Any Military Aid Will Be Seen as Threat to Russian Security,” Wall Street Journal, February 5, 2015 (Updated 12:27 p.m. ET).

UPDATE

Once you’ve checked your principles at the door, principles like the U.N. Charter’s prohibition of the threat or use of force across international frontiers, or the jus cogens principle of international law that territorial gains achieved by military conquest can never be recognized, then everything is possible.

With no moorings, everything seems possible and anything may seem to make sense.

Even a desperate trip by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, recalling the desperate trips to Munich by Edouard Daladier of France and Neville Chamberlain of Britain in September, 1938, may for a moment seem to make sense.

The Chamberlain and Daladier trips led to the the signing of the Munich Pact on the evening of September 29 / 30, 1938. In that agreement the West, breaking existing treaty commitments to Czechoslovakia, betrayed the Czech government of Edward Benes by ratifying Adolf Hitler’s seizure of the German-speaking Sudetenland, which was part of Czechoslovakia.

Now Merkel and Hollande will go down in history as the appeasers who would give sovereign powers over Ukrainian territory to Vladimir Putin, at the barrel of a gun. Just like in 1938.

Karl Marx was right when he said history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce.

Putin does not keep his agreements. This is not a secret. It means that even if “successful” the farcical diplomacy of appeasement now underway by Merkel and Hollande, with Barack Obama actively participating from the sidelines, can gain only a few weeks of peace.

In the words of Neville Chamberlin after the signing of the Munich Pact, an agreement in Moscow might bring “peace in our time”.

But, as in Europe in the 1930’s, such “peace in our time” would not be likely to last for any significant period of time. The last agreement the Russians made in Berlin on January 21, 2015, to withdraw armor from an agreed demarcation line in the eastern Ukraine, didn’t last a day.

END OF UPDATE

Original article

The American and European tragedy of pacifist leaders seeking to appease Putin, desperately begging him to be nice, continues unabated.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande will fly off to Moscow on Friday to make personal appeals for mercy to Putin, the Dictator and Aggressor who has invaded the Crimea and purported to annex it, and who is now intensifying his invasion of the eastern Ukraine.

To “pressure” Putin to stop his broadening war against the Ukraine, the European foreign ministers have agreed “in principle” to add 19 individuals and nine entities to the sanctions list, These reportedly include five Russian officials and one Russian entity.

To date, there are 132 individuals and 28 entities on the sanctions list.

Putin has not been impressed, nor will he be by the fool’s errand Merkel and Hollande will undertake in traveling to Moscow on Friday.

Neither the EU nor the U.S. has been willing to supply “lethal” weapons to Kiev, for fear of antagonizing the aggressor.

Putin’s contempt for them is demonstrated by his charge that any such supply of weapons would be a major escalation of the conflict.

Moreover, the idea of negotiating anything with Putin, given the fact that his word is worthless, is absurd.

The April 17, 2014 Geneva agreement, the Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014, the Minsk Memorandum of September 19, 2014, the January 21, 2015 Berlin agreement between Russia and the Ukraine to withdraw heavy armor from a demarcation line agreed in the Minsk Memorandum, the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, and the United Nations Charter (paragraph 2 paragraph 4 probiting the use of force) are all solemn agreements Putin has brazenly violated, and continues to violate.

The current pacifists and appeasers who lead the U.S. and Europe are hopelessly incompetent in dealing with Russian military aggression. They have tried appeasement and it has failed. But they don’t seem to get the point.

They continue to talk to the terrorists, the Russians, those responsible for over 5,400 killed in the Donbas since April, with words, with telephone calls and meetings and even desperate, ill-advised trips to see the Aggressor in his lair in Moscow.

They have nothing but words to offer. They are unwilling to even provide Kiev with arms in fulfillment of the idea of collective security and pursuant to their legal right of “collective self-defense” under Article 51 of the U.N. Charter.

They are unwilling to act to defend the postwar political and legal order, or even the European Union and NATO.

They are fools, on fools’ errands.

America and the West must await new leaders who are willing to abandon the road of appeasement, and who are prepared to act energetically to contain Putin and Russia in the New Cold War, which is already fully in progress.

The West awaits, and requires, new leadership.

For starters, the negotiations with Putin and Russia should be taken away from France and Germany–who appointed them?–and put under the joint leadership of the Council of Europe under Donald Trusk and NATO.

The Trenchant Observer

Latest news on fighting in the eastern Ukraine

Friday, January 30th, 2015

Developing

See Pilar Binet, “La escalada bélica se agrava en Ucrania y se ceba con los civiles; Fracasa la nueva ronda negociadora con Rusia y los grupos separatistas,” 30 De enero 2015 (20:57 CET).

The Trenchant Observer

Leftist victory in Greece threatens continuation of EU sanctions against Russia

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Developing

See

(1) Julia Smirnova und Boris Kalnóky, “Mit Tspiras hat Russland einen neuen Verbündeten; Die neue griechische Regierung verfügt über bemerkenswert enge Kontakte nach Moskau; Premier Tsipras fordert schon lange ein Ende der Sanktionen, Außenminister Kotzias ist ein Fan von Putins Guru,” Die Welt, 28. Januar 2015.

(2) Daniel Friedrich Sturm, “POLITIK LAUT GABRIEL: Bundesregierung ist gegen neue Russland-Sanktionen Die EU-Außenminister dürften bei ihrem Treffen am Donnerstag vor allem intern nach einem Konsens suchen. Die vorgeschlagene Verlängerung der Sanktionen ist laut Vizekanzler Gabriel längst nicht sicher,” Die Welt, 28. Januar 2015.

(Vizekanzler Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) sieht wenig Spielraum für neue Sanktionen gegen Russlan.)

It appears that, as a result of the election of a leftist government in Greece on Sunday, January 25, Vladimir Putin may now have secured a blocking veto within the 28 members of the EU.

EU countries at present can only adopt economic sanctions by unanimous consent.

Consequently, a Greek veto could block renewal of the sanctions against Russia, which come up for re-authorization between March and September, 2015. This would occur even as Putin continues his illegal occupation of the Crimea and his ongoing military invasion and intervention in the eastern Ukraine, with Russian troops, armor and material.

This latest development demonstrates that Merkel’s and the EU’s austerity demands on Greece were too harsh, producing unexpected and sharply counter-productive consequences.

Even if the sanctions are eventually renewed, the battle within the EU is likely to be limited to re-authorizing existing sanctions, rather than adopting new and harsher sectoral sanctions in response to Puutin’s latest military moves in the Donbas, particularly against Mariupol.

Our current political leaders don’t seem to understand a fundamental truth: Everything is connected. We need leaders of great strategic vision, but have none.

The new Tspiras government, as a party, has been a strong critic of EU santions against Russia. Its top keaders are reported to have close ties to Moscow.

The EU voting requirement urgently calls out for a constitutional change, if Europe is ever to become an effective actor in the world. Yet even if there were support for changing the voting requirements–highly dubious at present– it could take years to adopt and implement any such changes.

Mr. Putin turns out to be a much better chess player than the pacifists and appeasers who lead the West. Many of them, including Barack Obama, don’t seem to have looked at the chessboard in over a month.

Moreover, it seems never to have occurred to them that they need to develop a strategy to take a queen, and even a king.

The Trenchant Observer

Russian-Ukrainian war update: Putin’s perfidy in full view, as war intensifies

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

For a comprehensive overview of the current military situation in the Eastern Ukraine, see

MICHAEL WEISS, JAMES MILLER, “LANDBRIDGE TO CRIMEA: PUTIN IS WINNING THE UKRAINE WAR ON THREE FRONTS,” The Daily Beast, January 26, 2015.

Putin’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, signed an agreement in Berlin with the Ukraine on January 21, 2015, to withdraw heavy armor from the demarcation line agreed in the Minsk Memorandum.

At the same time, Russian troops and armor were moving into the eastern Ukraine and launching a new offensive by the so-called “separatists”, including attacks on Mariupol, the gateway city for the conquest of a land-bridge linking Russia and rebel territory in the Donbas to the Crimea.

Russia’s perfidy at Berlin recalled its perfidy at Geneva on April 17, 2014, when it agreed to halt the takeover of government buildings in the eastern Ukraine, as they intensified.

Both agreements were no more than propaganda ploys. Russia under Putin can never again be trusted. Negotiated agreements are meaningless.

Putin agreed to the Minsk Protocol on September 5, 2014 in an effort to weaken or forestall the EU “stage 3″ sanctions agreed also on September 5, and finally put into force on September 12, 2014.

Putin has repeatedly and brazenly violated the Minsk Protocol, which is at the moment all but a dead-letter.

It could be useful if it were included in a new U.N. Security draft resolution which would be put to a vote.

Putin’s military aggresion must be stopped now, and rolled back.

Weapons and training for the Ukraine can help stop further advances by Russian troops and their “separatist” puppets, together with new and much harsher sectoral economic sanctions.

Over time, as these sanctions are intensified — if they are — they can also bring Russia to negotiating a way out of its current occupation of the Crimea, conquered by force in violation of Article 2 paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter.

Whether the pacifists and appeasers who lead the United States and Europe can put aside their illusions and deal effectively to halt the greatest military threat to Europe since 1945 is, at best, an open question.

Whether Barack Obama, who has checked out from leading the foreign policy of the U.S., can find his way back to the office and engage on foreign policy, is also an open question.

The future of NATO, and perhaps eastern Europe, hangs in the balance.

The Trenchant Observer

Putin attacks Mariupol, may seek land corridor to Crimea

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

Developing

See

(1) Julia Smirnova, “Mariupol wäre für die Separatisten wertvollster Ort; Die Angriffe auf Mariupol markieren eine neue Eskalation des Kriegs in der Ostukraine. Greifen die prorussischen Milizen nach der wirtschaftlichen Schlüssel-Metropole des Südostens?,” Die Welt, 25. Januar 2015.

(2) “Raketenangriff auf Mariupol: CDU und Grüne fordern neue Sanktionen gegen Russland; Beim Raketenbeschuss auf die ukrainische Stadt Mariupol wurden mindestens 30 Menschen getötet, womöglich mit Unterstützung russischer Truppen. Erste deutsche Politiker fordern noch schärfere Sanktionen gegen den Kreml,” Der Spiegel, 25. Januar 2015 (16:10 Uhr).

(3) Pilar Bonnet, “La violencia en Ucrania se dispara al nivel previo al inicio del diálogo; Treinta civiles muertos y 97 heridos en un ataque con misiles a Mariúpol, El Pais, 24 de enero 2015 (22:47 CET).

(4) Konrad Schuller (Berlin), “Ukraine-Krise: Niemand hat die Absicht, eine Stadt anzugreifen: Nach dem Raketenangriff auf Mariupol droht eine neue Eskalation der Gewalt in der Ostukraine. Vieles spricht für einen Angriff der Separatisten. Russland könnte die Kontrolle von Mariupol sehr nutzen, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 25. Januar 2015.

(5) Tom Parfitt (Zhelanne), “Tank troops fight to contain rebel expansion in eastern Ukraine: War escalates as 27 civilians killed in rocket attack and Kiev accuses Moscow of sending more soldiers and hardware across the border,” The Telegraph, January 24,2015 (48PM GMT).

Vladimir Putin may now be moving decisively to take Mariupol, opening the way for seizure of a land corridor linking the Russian-occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions of the Ukraine with the Russian-conquered and occupied Crimea and city of Sevastopol.

This would solve Russia’s huge logistical problem of supplying the Crimea with goods and materiel, which at present can be done only by sea.

Russia and the “separatists” earlier took down the border between the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and Russia, permitting Putin to move armor, fighters and materiel into the Donbas at will.

The strategic logic underlying such a move on Mariupol has been laid out here, and has been clear at least since April, 2014.

With the EU, NATO, and the U.S. not considering any further sanctions or NATO actions against Russia, despite Putin’s current intensification of its aggression in the eastern Ukraine, and with some 9,000 Russian regular forces in the Region (not counting Russian irregular forces), it is hard to see any deterrent force that could stop Putin and Russia from taking such actions.

Angela Merkel even put forth the idea of a broad customs union with the EU and Russia and its friends this week, that being her response to further Russian aggression in the Ukraine, and Putin’s immediate violation of the Berlin agreement of January 21 between Russia and the Ukraine to withdraw their heavy weapons from the demarcation line established by the Minsk Memorandum of September 19, in implementation of the Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2015.

Merkel could not have given Putin a brighter green light for further military aggression.

Putin, on the other hand, may just be probing, to see if he meets any resistance to his attack on Mariupol. If he doesn’t, as occurred when he was taking over the Crimea, he may then act decisively to expand the territories under Russian control, from Mariupol to the Crimea.

Meanwhile, Europe, the EU, NATO, and the U.S. are asleep, under the leadership of the same pacifists and appeasers who to date have utterly failed to contain Russian militarism and aggression in the Ukraine, and beyond.

Stay tuned. Events of great historical importance are underway, as the system of international security established under the United Nations Charter in 1945 is beginning to buckle and collapse.

The Trenchant Observer

Negotiating with terrorists: Merkel’s proposal for a broad economic zone with Russia and its friends

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

See

“Ukraine-Krise: Bundesregierung lockt Russland mit Handelszone; Zur Belohnung gäbe es eine Wirtschaftskooperation: Die Bundesregierung hat laut Medienbericht dem russischen Präsidenten Wladimir Putin eine Handelszone angeboten, um ihn zum Einlenken im Ukraine-Konflikt zu bewegen,” Der Spiegel, 23 Januar 2015 (9:25 Uhr).

How could Vladimir Putin have the slightest respect for Angela Merkel and the EU?

He just signed an agreement with Ukraine in Berlin on January 21 to withdraw heavy weapons from the demarcation line established in the Minsk Memorandum of September 19, reached pursuant to the Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014.

At the same time he was sending additional Russian troops and armor into the eastern Ukraine and launching attacks against the Ukrainian forces in a major offensive. His puppet, Aleksandr Zakharchenko announced he would not talk to Kiev and that the separatists were launching major offensives to liberate all of Donetsk and Luhansk provinces of Ukrainian forces, flouting the Berlin agreement, the September 19 memorandum, and the Minsk Protocol itself.

The response of pacifist Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Angela Merkel was to propose to Putin a large duty-free area joining the EU and Putin’s customs union.

The only possible conclusion to be drawn from the foregoing is that Steinmeier and Merkel are not only pacifists and appeasers, but also idiots.

How stupid do the Europeans think they have to be in order to win favor from the mighty aggressor and dictator, Vladimir Putin?

Is it a good idea to negotiate with terrorists?

Is it a good idea to negotiate with aggressors who are at that very moment intensifying their aggression and invasion of the eastern Ukraine?

With these clowns leading Europe, one can expect the sanctions regime against Russia to start falling apart as early as March, and Putin to intensify his invasion of the Donbas and to broaden it further to other regions, including the establishment of a land corridor to the Crimea.

Against clowns like Steinmeier, Merkel and the Europeans, why not?

What is holding him back?

They don’t seem to understand.  Appeasement doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked with Putin for the last year. It won’t work with him this coming year. Or ever.

Will European leaders ever get it?

If not, will their peoples ever get it?

If they don’t, why not simply hold a formal ceremony dissolving NATO, and surrendering to Mr. Putin whatever territory he wants?

Forget international law and the United Nations Charter. Forget human rights in the Donbas and Russia, and anywhere else for that matter. Those are things that Steinmeier and Merkel obviously do not believe are worth fighting for.

If Merkel sees it differently, she has but one alternative: fire Steinmeier, appoint a strong foreign minister, and if necessary call elections to decide whether Germany will follow a policy of appeasement or one of containment of Putin and Russia.

Stop talking to the Russians with words.

Speak to them with actions, including great intensification of sectoral economic sanctions against them.

For starters, ban them from using the SWIFT international payments system, and act forcefully to move the venue for the 2018 FIFA World Cup to some country other than Russia.

Appease and surrender, or get real about effective containment of Russia.

The Trenchant Observer

Poroshenko interview in NZZ; agreement to withdraw heavy weapons from Minsk September 19 demarcation line

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

Developing

Vladimir Putin acting, through his foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, reached an agreement in Berlin this week under which Russian “separatists” in eastern Ukraine would  withdraw heavy weapons from the demarcation line agreed to on September 19 pursuant to the terms of the Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014.

Meanwhile Petro Poroshenko stated in an interview with the Neue Zurchner Zeitung that two tactical battalions of Russian soldiers had moved into the Donbas region of the Ukraine, and that according to his intelligence officials some 8,000-9,500 Russian soldiers were inside of Ukrainian territory in the Donbas.

Russia is also reported to have some 500 tanks in the eastern Ukraine.

The day after the agreement, news reports spoke of a sharp increase in the fighting.

See

(1) Christian Weisflog, “Petro Poroschenko im Interview
«Starke Armee ermöglicht politische Lösung»,” Neue Zurchner Zeitung, 20. Januar 2015, 15:13 Uhr.

(2) David Blair, “Russia sends 9,000 troops into Ukraine, says Petro Poroshenko; This deployment of Russian forces would be the biggest since the crisis began,” The Telegraph, January 21, 2015 (6:27PM GMT).

(3) “Ukraine und Russland vereinbaren Abzug schwerer Waffen; Beim Krisentreffen in Berlin haben sich die Außenminister auf die Einhaltung einer Demarkationslinie geeinigt. Frank-Walter Steinmeier sieht ‘wahrnehmbare Fortschritte’,”, Die Zeit, 22. Januar 2015 (Aktualisiert um 03:53 Uhr).

(4) “UKRAINE-KRIEG: Kämpfe laut Nato so intensiv wie vor Friedensabkommen
Seit September haben die Kämpfe nach Angaben der Nato deutlich an Intensität gewonnen. Insgesamt wurden seit April 5.000 Menschen getötet, teilte die OSZE mit, Die Zeit, 22. Januar 2014 (17:29 Uhr).

(5) David M. Herszenhorn, “Ukraine Cedes Donetsk Airport to Rebels as Fighting Continues,” New York Times, January 22, 2015.

Analysis

1. With respect to the Ukraine, Putin has never kept his word or honored his agreements, such as the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, the Minsk Protocol, or the April 17 Geneva agreement.

2. Deceit and surprise military moves are part of his modus operandi.

3. The January 21 agreement in Berlin may be yet another subterfuge to confuse his opponents while he launches another assault on the Donbas, or broadens the war beyond that region.

4.  The West, including the EU, NATO and the U.S. should now adopt a new round of real, hard sanctions and military decisions ondeploymentson the eastern front.

5.  Putin never backs down in the face of threats.

6.  He and Russia must be contained. Economic sanctionsshould be sharply strengthened. NATO should immediately deploy troops to the eastern front, and suspend or abrogate the 1997 NATO-Russia partnership agreement.

The West faces an existential threat from Putin and Russia.

It is time to wakeup and abandon the pacifism and appeasement demonstrated to date, and to begin to defend the democratic civilization of Europe, the U.S. and other countries.

It is time to take effective action that will lead Russia to end its occupation of the Ukraine.

It is time to uphold the international legal, political, and economic order of the U.N. system, the U.N. Charter norm prohibiting the threat or use of force across international frontiers, and the human rights of the citizens of the Donbas and the Crimea.

The Trenchant Observer

 

Obama absent from Charlie Hebdo march in Paris: Tone-deaf, incompetent Obama administration brings shame on America

Monday, January 12th, 2015

Developing

See

(1) Uwe Schmitt, “Darum fehlte Obama beim Millionenmarsch in Paris; Die ranghöchste Repräsentantin der USA beim Trauermarsch war die Botschafterin. Viele Kritiker der US-Regierung meinen, Präsident oder Vizepräsident hätten in Paris mitmarschieren müssen,” Die Welt, 12. January 2015 (22:14).

(2) Editorial, “Our flag was not there: Obama and America shamefully skip Paris march against terror
The U.S. fails to join the whole world in standing by France,” NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Sunday, January 11, 2015, 7:42 PM A A A

(3) Dan Friedman, Adam Edelman, Ginger Ann Otis, “Eric Holder, top U.S. officials no-shows at Paris unity rally; The U.S. attorney general, in Paris for a terrorism summit with French President Francois Hollande, did not join world leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for the march and rally that drew a million people days after 12 were shot at satirical paper Charlie Hebdo. Others such as Obama and Vice President Biden were also not in attendance,” New York Daily News, January 11, 2015 2:18 PM ( Updated January 12, 2015, 9:50 AM).

(4) Alain Salles et Yves-Michel Riols, Le monde défile à Paris contre la terreur djihadiste,” Le Monde, 12 Janvier 2015
(à 12h53; Mis à jour à 15h31).

There are some moments for a world leader when it is important to stand up and be counted. Such a moment occurred on Sunday in Paris.

Some 44 world leaders attended the massive demonstration of support for the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper in Paris, on January 11, 2014, in what was the largest demonstration in France since World War II. On January 7, its leading cartoonists and editors were gunned down at its offices in a massacre that claimed 12 lives.

This was the French equivalent of 9/11.

The number one absentee was Barack Obama.

If ever there was an occasion where the President’s presence and solidarity were needed, this was it.

Obama, sitting atop an incompetent foreign policy team in the White House which micromanages and controls every aspect of the nation’s actions and policies in the world, didn’t see the significance of going.

Or even of sending Vice President Joe Biden to Paris.

Or even of charging outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, who was in Paris, to represent the United States in expressing its condolences and its support.

The highest U.S. official to attend the demonstration was the American ambassador to France.

To be sure, the President delivered a beautiful speech on freedom of expression at the U.N. General Assembly in 2012.

See “Words and Deeds: President Obama delivers eloquent defense of free speech and democracy at U.N. General Assembly (with text and video links),” September 29, 2012.

Obama has spoken many beautiful words on foreign policy issues. But his actions are what will be judged by historians looking at his record.

It is actions that count, not words.

And no amount of self-justifying, after-the-fact explanations can change the facts: Barack Obama was not there.

Nor was Vice-President Joe Biden.

Not did even Attorney General Eric Holder, who was in Paris, represent the administration at the demonstration.

One suspects that some kind of crude political calculation, at whatever level, was behind these decisions to effectively shun the Charlie Hebdo demonstration. Perhaps Obama and his team were afraid of offending someone.

This, after all, was the reason given by the New York Times for not reprinting the cartoons from Charlie Hebdo, despite the fact that without seeing the cartoons it is hard to understand what the whole debate over giving offense is all about. Many other leading newspapers, whether out of fear of giving offense or simply fear itself, similarly decided not to republish the cartoons.

One fact remains: Obama did not go to Paris, or send any other high level representative of his administration to represent the United States at the demonstration on Sunday.

There are two years and eight days until the next president of the United States is to be sworn in, and before there is likely to be any hope for competence in the execution of U.S. foreign policy.

It is going to be a long wait.

The Trenchant Observer

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier convenes four-party talks in Berlin on Minsk Protocol, as Russia intensifies invasion of the Donbas

Friday, January 9th, 2015

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier plans to meet with the foreign ministers of Russia, France and Ukraine in Berlin on Monday to see if progress can be made on implementing the Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014. He does so immediately following strong comments by German Chancellor Angela Merkel that sanctions against Russia will not be lifted untul major progress is made on implementation of all 12 points in the Minsk Protocol.

One of those points calls for withdrawal of Russian forces and equipment from the eastern Ukraine.

Another calls for restoration of Ukrainian control of the border.

In the meantime, Russia has sent another so-called ‘humanitarian” convoy into the Donbas–bypassing any border, OSCE or IRC control or verification of the contents, while OSCE observers report that Russia has just sent another 300 “little green men” (Russian special forces) into the Donbas. There are also reports of new Russian armor moving into the Donbas.

So, there you have it. Merkel attempts to stake out a strong position upholding sanctions against Russia until the Minsk Protocol is implemented. (Did someone forget to mention the illegally conquered Russian-occupied piece of the Ukraine known as the Crimea?)

The next day, Steinmeier announces a meeting with the foreign ministers of Russia, France and the Ukraine to seek to make progress on implementation of the Minsk Protocol, so Francois Hollande of France, Vladimir Putin of Russia, Angela Merkel of Germany and Petro Poroshenko of the Ukraine can meet to negotiate the same subject. The latter  talks were originally scheduled for January 15 in Astana, Kazakhstan, but have become uncertain since Merkel said she would not attend unless real results were to be achieved.

The talks in Berlin on Monday are an apparent effort to guarantee sufficient results so that the summit may be held.

The problem is that the Germans should not be meeting with the Russians while they are intensifying their invasion of the Donbas, a point which Merkel seems to grasp. With France–which is calling for a lifting of sanctions–at the table, it is hard to see how anyone but Vladimir Putin could benefit from these diplomatic discussions, whether in Berlin or Astana. His goal is to sow dissension among the Europeans, and to block renewal of the sanctions in March.

Steinmeier speaks as if it is the foreign ministers who have to overcome the obstacles to full implementation of the Minsk Protocol. But it is Putin who has created the obstacles, and who alone can remove them. It not not a collective effort, as Steinmeier seems to believe.

The European Union and the U.S. have imposed sanctions against Russia….They have also called on the Kremlin to implement the Minsk peace agreement between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels signed in September.

That includes the withdrawal of Russian heavy weaponry from eastern Ukraine, an effective border supervised by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the freeing of prisoners by rebel groups.

“Minsk must remain the compass for any further steps. But it’s a long and rocky road towards a complete implementation of the Minsk agreement,” Mr. Steinmeier said. “We want to undertake a fresh attempt to get the obstacles out of the way. It would be wrong not to try it.”

–Nick Shchetko (Kiev) and Andrea Thomas (Berlin),”Fighting Flares Up in Eastern Ukraine; Six Government Soldiers and Two Civilians Killed in Renewed Violence Ahead of Peace Talks,” Wall Street Journal, Updated Jan. 9, 2015 12:00 p.m. ET.

We are in a realm in which the only communication that counts is through actions, not words The foreign ministers of the four countries don’t need to travel to Berlin to tell Putin he must stop intensifying his invasion of the Donbas before any further talks are possible. Instead of a summit with Putin in Astana, Merkel and Poroshenko should hold a summit with Hollande to bolster his resolve to uphold the sanctions in March.

The Minsk Protocol has already been negotiated. It is foolish in the extreme to entertain the possibility of renegotiating the points it covers. It is simply time for Putin to comply with its provisions.

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

Once that has been done, if Putin wants the sanctions to be lifted, we can address the issue of the Crimea, and what can be done about it.

The Trenchant Observer