Archive for the ‘France’ Category

Russian invasion of Ukraine viewed as increasingly likely

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

In Europe, some commentators see a Russian invasion of the Ukraine by regular forces as increasingly likely.

See

Richard Herzinger (Korrespondent für Politik und Gesellschaft), “KOMMENTAR—UKRAINE-KRISE: Was Putin mit einem Einmarsch riskieren würde,” Die Welt,
10. August 2014.

“Es ist zu befürchten, dass die russische Armee die ukrainische Grenze überschreiten wird. Wie würde der Westen darauf reagieren? Noch ist Zeit, Putin deutlich zu machen, was auf dem Spiel steht.”

See also,

“Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine possibly imminent; Russia lays out “facts” to justify “humanitarian intervention”, masses combat-ready troops on Ukrainian border,” The Trenchant Observer, August 6, 2014.

On Sunday, August 10, negotiations were underway for a joint humanitarian mission that meets the Ukrainian government’s demands that it be under international control, unaccompanied by military forces, and access the Donbass region exclusively through Ukraine-controlled border posts.

Whether this is more than a Russian ploy, aimed at securing a “cease-fire” that would protect the “separatists” by freezing the conflict in place, or serve as a diversion prior to an overt invasion, remains to be seen.

See

(1) Pilar Bonet, “Rusia participará en una misión humanitaria internacional en Ucrania; El ministro de Asuntos Exteriores ruso, Serguéi Lavrov, dice que negocia con el Gobierno de Kiev, la ONU y la Cruz Roja,” El Pais, 10 de Agosto, 2014 (21:06 CEST).

(2) “Kämpfe in der Ostukraine; Kiew lehnt Feuerpause ab – Separatisten sollen weiße Flaggen hissen,” Suddeutsche Zeitung, 10. August 2014 (16:07 Uhr).

“Der Kampf um Lugansk und Donezk geht weiter: Die Ukraine lehnt eine Feuerpause ab, sie fordert die Kapitulation der Rebellen. Der Westen fürchtet, Russland könne eine Waffenruhe zum Einmarsch nutzen – getarnt als humanitäre Mission.”

The Trenchant Observer

Reports that Merkel is negotiating a settlement with Putin that would recognize Russian annexation of the Crimea, in violation of peremptory norms of international law

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Forbes describes reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin are working on “a closed-door peace plan” that would recognize Russian annexation of the Crimea in exchange for securing the border between Russia and the Ukraine. According to Forbes,

Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian president Vladimir Putin are reportedly working on a closed-door peace plan that involves securing the border and acceptance of Russia’s March 17 annexation of Crimea, a former Ukrainian autonomous region in the Black Sea. Germany is keen on ending this ordeal. Russia supplies 40% of Germany’s imported natural gas.

–”How The Ukraine-Russia Crisis Might End,” Forbes, August 5, 2014 (4:23PM).

If there is any substance to the reports, Merkel would be well-advised to bring in her international lawyers from the foreign ministry, who might be able to educate her regarding the fact that any such agreement, to recognize the acquisition of territory acquired by the illegal use of force in violation of Article 2 paragraph 4 of the U.N. Charter, would be null and void under the international law principle of jus cogens.

Jus cogens is mandatory or peremptory law, from which there can be no derogation by agreement. It is universally recognized that Article 2(4) is a norm of jus cogens under international law.

On a political level, it is distressing in the extreme that due to President Barack Obama’s inability to lead the Atlantic Alliance, Merkel and other European leaders feel free to engage in free-lancing by negotiating directly with the aggressor, Vladimir Putin, instead of adopting a united front among NATO, the EU, the U.S., and other allies.

The results are clear to see.

So far, Putin has been able to achieve his objectives in pursuit of policies characterized by xenophobic nationalism and aggression, war propaganda in the mold of the Third Reich and Joseph Stalin, and the coordination of thugs, mercenaries and irregular Russian forces in the eastern Ukraine who have systematically violated the fundamental human rights of the inhabitants of the region.

If Merkel thinks she can cut a deal with Putin that recognizes the military invasion and annexation of the Crimea, she had better study some basic principles of international law before proceeding further. She might also reflect on the fact that Article 25 of the German Grundgesetz or Constitution requires Germany to comply with norms of customary and general international law, including jus cogens norms.

The Trenchant Observer

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Observateur Incisif
El Observador Incisivo

Remembering World War I: European leaders should spend one week in simulated trench warfare, instead of going to banquets and giving noble speeches filled with hyprocrisy

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

Developing

Newspapers Republishing Articles from 1914

Some of the leading European newspapers are republishing articles, originally published in 1914, regarding the run-up to and beginning of World War I one hundred years ago this month.

See

Germany

Die Zeit (Hamburg)

Die Welt (Berlin)

Südeutsche Zeitung (München) Latest story, Münchner Neueste Nachrichten vom 5.8.1914: “Achtung! Russengift”, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 5. August 2014 (19:14 Uhr).

Franfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Frankfurt. Todayś story, “Heimfahrt durch Frankreich:
Nach der Kriegserklärung bahnt sich eine deutsche Journalistin ihren Weg durch Frankreich. Die Verbindungen ins Reich werden gekappt. Ein Wettlauf gegen die Zeit, den die Autorin am 4. August 1914 in der Frankfurter Zeitung schilderte,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 4. August 2014.

Great Britain

The Guardian (London). Latest story, “How the Guardian reported the first world war: England declares war on Germany, ” Originally published in the Manchester Guardian on 5 August 1914. The Guardian, August 5, 2014.

United States

Leading U.S. newspapers have also published retrospective articles, though not on a daily basis as in Europe.

Commemorations of the Centennial of World War I

European leaders and royalty have been popping up in first one place and then another to commemorate the beginning of the war, offering noble words about the lessons learned.

The festivities celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Allied landing in Europe on June 6, 1944, have also formed part of the series of celebrations, banquets and speeches this summer.

Many of the speeches are filled with noble words while the policies of the governments represented by the speakers remain filled with hypocrisy, pacificism and appeasement in the face of Russian invasion of the Ukraine and its purported “annexation” of the Crimea.

By their silence on the question of rolling back the Russian invasion of the Crimea, these governments reveal, even after the imposition of the first “stage three” sectoral sanctions against Russia, that they are not willing to stand up and take forceful action to reverse Russian aggression, and to halt the wave of virulent xenophobic nationalism and aggression that has swept Russia as a result of the operations of Vladimir Putin’s war propaganda machine.

Suggestion: European Leaders Should Spend One Continuous Week in Simulated Trench Warfare

The Observer respectfully suggests a different kind of paying respect to the millions of human beings who perished in World War I, while honoring some of the lessons learned from that experience.

The suggestion is:

European leaders should each, and together, spend one continuous week in trenches designed (with modern audio visual technology) to reproduce the experience of trench warfare as fought during World War I.

Then we might see at least a curtailment of the hypocrisy signified by the combination of noble words and pacifist actions.

François Hollande’s Hypocrisy: Noble Words, Actions of Appeasement

Then we might see French President François Hollande shamed enough by his decision to deliver two Mistral-class attack warships (with theater command-and-control software and capabilities) to Russia, to withhold his noble words about what the world should or should not do in the face of aggression. One of the warships is to be named “The Sevastopol”, after the city on the Crimean peninsula which is the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Sevastopol, we should not forget, is–under international law–located in Ukrainian territory that is under Russian military occupation as a result of the latter’s invasion of the Crimea in late February, 2014.

While initial plans were to base these warships in the Far East on the Pacific, there is nothing to prevent them from being based in Sevastopol, where their usefulness as helicopter carriers and command-and-control centers for aggrssive military action might be far greater. One suspects that the original basing plans may have been related to the political acceptability in Europe of the original purchase.

Moreover, at this very moment the Russian invasion is continuing with irregular forces in the eastern Ukraine, as Valdimir Putin masses troops on the border in a menacing threat of invasion.

See Hollande’s comments on August 4, 2014 at Liège, at a conmemoration of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I:

(Use Google Translate for text in other languages)

Meurtrie et niée dans sa neutralité, lors des deux grands conflits du 20ème siècle, la Belgique connait la valeur de la paix. Parce qu’elle est elle-même la réunion de plusieurs communautés, elle sait aussi l’importance du compromis. C’est la double raison pour laquelle la Belgique s’est engagée, avec ferveur, dans la construction européenne. L’Europe, c’était pour la Belgique et pour l’ensemble du continent, l’idée folle – mais la guerre était bien plus folle encore ! – de créer un modèle de coopération et de progrès.

Convenons que l’Europe n’est plus perçue ainsi aujourd’hui. Le risque majeur qui menace, c’est le retour des égoïsmes nationaux, des séparatismes, des replis xénophobes. Il nous appartient donc, et je saisis l’occasion de la commémoration de Liège, d’envoyer un message de paix et de l’affirmer comme une volonté.

J’ai évoqué la neutralité, deux fois bafouée, de la Belgique. Mais aujourd’hui, la neutralité n’est plus de mise. Comment rester neutre lorsqu’un peuple, non loin d’Europe, se bat pour ses droits et pour son intégrité territoriale? Comment rester neutre lorsqu’un avion civil est abattu en Ukraine? Comment rester neutre devant des massacres de populations civiles, comme en Irak, comme en Syrie, où les minorités sont persécutées ? Comment rester neutre quand un pays ami comme le Liban voit son intégrité territoriale menacée ? Comment rester neutre quand à Gaza, un conflit meurtrier dure depuis près d’un mois ?

Nous ne pouvons pas rester neutres. Il y a une obligation d’agir. C’est l’Europe qui doit en prendre les responsabilités avec les Nations Unies. C’est le message que nous devons retenir aussi de cette journée. Nous ne pouvons pas être simplement des gardiens de la paix, des évocateurs du souvenir. Nous ne pouvons pas simplement évoquer le culte de la mémoire. Nous sommes aussi devant nos responsabilités. Ici, à Liège, au mois d’août 1914, il y a exactement un siècle, des hommes ordinaires sont devenus illustres par leur courage et leur vaillance. Aujourd’hui le temps est aussi à être illustre, par les actions que nous sommes capables de mener. Ces hommes, il y a un siècle, au fond de leur cœur, espéraient qu’un jour tous les pays d’Europe seraient rassemblés. Cent ans après, cette utopie est réalité. L’Europe est là, mais l’Europe doit faire encore davantage car la paix n’est jamais sûre. Elle exige une vigilance, un combat, une organisation, une défense de son propre continent.

Voilà pourquoi l’Europe doit toujours être en mouvement, ne doit jamais être lasse et ne doit surtout jamais être fatiguée de la paix.

–Président Franois Hollande, “Allocution au Mémorial de Cointe” (Liège, Belgique), Èlysée, Présidence de la Républicque, Publié le 04 Août 2014

Russia, today, is engaged in ongoing aggression against the Ukraine through special operations, intelligence and irregular forces.

Let Hollande and his peers spend a week in the simulated World War I trenches.

Then let’s hear what Hollande, and Europe, have to say about Russia’s invasion of the Crimea and the Ukraine–and about French plans to deliver Mistral-class warships to Russia while it continues its aggression.

The Trenchant Observer

Ukraine — EU imposes serious sanctions on Russia: Council Regulation (EU) No 833/2014 of 31 July 2014 —- with link to full text

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Developing

Finally, five months after the invasion of the Crimea, the European Union has adopted serious sanctions against Russia.

See

“Council Regulation (EU) No 833/2014 of 31 July 2014 concerning restrictive measures in view of Russia’s actions destabilising the situation in Ukraine,”
OJ L 229, 31.7.2014, p. 1–11 (BG, ES, CS, DA, DE, ET, EL, EN, FR, HR, IT, LV, LT, HU, MT, NL, PL, PT, RO, SK, SL, FI, SV), reproduced in EUR-Lex (text) and found here.

The sanctions currently allow existing contracts for military equipment and arms to be executed, including the delivery to Russia by France of two Mistral-class attack warships. One is to be named “The Sevastopol”. Both are initially planned to be based in the Far East, but could eventually be based in Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula, which is Ukrainian territory now illegally occupied by Russian military forces.

This military occupation is the result of an invasion by Russian forces in violation of Article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter, which prohibits “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”.

Article 2 paragraph 4 is a norm of peremptory international law (jus cogens) from which no derogation, even by agreement, is permitted.

That means that if France were to finally see the light and cancel the contracts with the Russian Federation, a state which is currently invading another European country, any arbitration panel would be highly unlikely to uphold the penalty clauses in the contracts for the Mistral-class warships.

It strains credulity to think that any arbitral tribunal would ever uphold penalty clauses for failure to deliver warships to a country which had invaded, purported to annex, and currently occupied the territory of another state, and particularly when the warships could eventually be stationed in the conquered territory of the invaded state.

Delivering warships to Russia, under these circumstances, would be tantamount to aiding and abetting an aggressor state in its continuing illegal occupation of the conquered territory of the Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.

The Trenchant Observer

The spiritual dimension: Muslims find refuge, shared sense of humanity, in Christian church in Gaza

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

Among the terror and warfare that seem to increasingly claim the world’s attention, we often lose sight of the deep religious values and sense of humanity shared by the three religions of The Book–Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. These values are also shared by other religions.

It is this sense of shared humanity, the value expressed in the sentiment, “I am my brother’s keeper,” that joins all human beings in one shared experience, one shared existence, on this speck of matter, the Earth, which may appear as but a tiny point of light in one remote corner of an expanding Universe of over 170 billion galaxies, in the portion that is “visible” to humans and their telescopes. Our own Galaxy, the Milky Way, has some 200-400 billion stars.

Men and women of all major religions believe that there are powerfunl spiritual forces (or a powerful spiritual force) and a spiritual dimension in the Universe. After the shattering experience of World War II, the representatives of the world’s nations came together to articulate the values and aspirations of mankind, which found expression in the United Nations Charter (1945) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

As war rages in the Gaza strip, in Iraq and Syria, in Afghanistan, in the eastern Ukraine, and elsewhere, we are reminded of the spiritual dimension of our lives, of our shared humanity, by a news story describing how a Christian church in Gaza has taken in Muslims fleeing the current violence there.

See AFP, “Muslims pray in Christian Church as bombs fall in Gaza, Dawn, July 26, 2014.

In Gaza City, one Muslim resident named Mahmud reported that it was a bizarre new experience to be saying his daily prayers in a church “beneath the gaze of an icon of Jesus Christ.”

But since the war in Gaza began, he has had no choice but to worship in a Christian house of God, where he took refuge after Israeli air strikes pummelled his neighbourhood in the north of the Palestinian territory.

“They let us pray. It’s changed my view of Christians — I didn’t really know any before, but they’ve become our brothers,” said (Mahmud), 27, who admitted he never expected to perform his evening prayers in a church.

“We (Muslims) prayed all together last night,” he said. “Here, the love between Muslims and Christians has grown.”

There is something special about this moment. The humanity of individual human beings shines through the bombs and destruction from which Muslims and Christians together seek refuge in a Christan Orthodox church, in Gaza.

Gaza’s Christians have dwindled in number to around 1,500 out of a predominantly Sunni Muslim population of 1.7 million.

The Christian community, like elsewhere in the Middle East, has been shrinking due to both conflict and unemployment.

But the sheer terror of this shared experience appears to have fostered the feeling of brotherhood.

“Jesus said, love your neighbour, not just your family but your colleague, your classmate — Muslim, Shiite, Hindu, Jewish,” said Christian volunteer Tawfiq Khader.

“We open our doors to all people.“

One recalls the same sense of shared humanity expressed in Jean Renoir’s classic film, “La Grande Illusion”.

As we prepare to remember the 100th anniversary of the onset of World War I in 1914, the setting for Renoir’s film (one of the 10 greatest films ever made), we need to connect the dots.

The deepest obligations of all governments are to protect the fundamental human rights of their citizens–and all human beings, to avoid recourse to war to secure national objectives, and to act forcefully to maintain, or re-establish, international peace and security.

That is our common human enterprise, informed by the spiritual forces represented by all religions, in this vast universe.

Nations must act, forcefully, to halt wars of aggression.

Nations must act, forcefully, to halt and prevent the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

We, as individual human beings, can contribute to the achievement of these goals by drawing on the spiritual power that resides within each of us, and which links us to others through religions and the spiritual dimension of the Universe, and which calls on us to act in this world to defend humanity’s deepest values.

The Trenchant Observer

The Ukraine: Continuing Russian aggression, and the actions the circumstances require

Friday, July 25th, 2014

How the West and other civilized nations should respond–at this point–to Russian aggression in the Ukraine

Advice for foreign policy decision-makers in Europe and the United States:

1. Speak first of real “sanctions”, not “targeted sanctions”.

Jettison the illusions that the latter will change Russia’s course of action. Call the latter “targeted individual measures”, not “sanctions”– which is a highly misleading term when used to refer to “pinprick” measures in this context.

2. Immediately provide the Ukraine with military assistance.

Provide Ukraine with modern military equipment with which the armed forces can defend themselves and their country. Supply modern aircraft with advanced air-defense systems, at least one for every plane shot down by Russia or Russian-supplied missiles.

Provide other substantial military assistance, including sophisticated modern weapons.

3. Prepare contingency plans to respond to any nuclear threats by Putin.o

Prepare military contingency plans to be used in case Putin resorts to threats of using nuclear weapons. He and Mededev have made such veiled threats in the past. Putin has undertaken a course which could put his regime at risk.

See Maksym Bugriy (The Jamstown Foundation) “Nuclear Deterrence in the Context of the Ukrainian-Russian Conflict,” Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 11 Issue: 135, July 24, 2014 (06:48 PM).

Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine has led to a hot war where four nuclear powers support opposite sides (Russia and the U.S., as well as NATO members Great Britain and France).

Prepare for all contingencies.

4. Immediately halt delivery of all military equipment and technology to Russia.

Immediately halt all deliveries of military equipment and training of Russian forces (e.g., on how to operate Mistral-class warships, currently underway in France).

Avoid the political temptation to block only future contracts and deliveries. This is a matter of national security for all of the countries of NATO and the EU, as well as other civilized countries.

This is not an issue of honoring contracts, but rather of implementing the peremptory government decisions necessary for national defense.

The U. N. Charter authorizes measures of collective self-defense under Article 51, in response to armed attacks in violation of the prohibition of the threat or use of force contained in Article 2 paragraph 4 of the Charter.

These norms are universally recognized as jus cogens, i.e., peremptory norms from which there can be no exception by way of agreement. They override all other treaty norms, and any penalty clauses in the French contracts for the delivery of two Mistral-class warships to Russia, for example. Consequently, an international court or arbitral panel would be unlikely to uphold the penalty provisions in these contracts.

5. Move large numbers of NATO troops to Eastern European states that border Russia.

Lead NATO in reaching firm decisions to move NATO forces to forward bases in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, and Romania. Begin initial deployments immediately.

6. Select a strong EU foreign minister who can lead responses to Russian aggression.

Eschew normal political bargaining and elect Radoslaw Sikorski, or someone with his qualities (extensive experience as foreign minister, strong record on standing up to Russia and of successful negotiations) to be the new EU foreign relations chief. The Italian candidate, Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini, is hopelessly compromised because of her dealings with Russia after the invasion of the Crimea, in addition to her lack of experience, and should not receive further consideration.

Avoid selection of a compromise candidate who represents the lowest common denominator in Europe.

Sikorski was taped in a private conversation allegedly speaking disparagingly of American relations with Poland. U.S. Assistant Secretary od State State Victoria Nuland in a much more significant official though private communication, said, “F… the EU!” Call it even, and elect Sikorsky. He has demonstrated great abilities as foreign minister of Poland, and is uniquely qualified to lead the EU in meeting the challenge of Russian aggression in the Ukraine.

7. Stop threatening and start implementing sectoral sanctions.

Stop threatening serious sanctions in illusory attempts to influence Putin’s and Russia’s actions, and start implementing sectoral, stage-three sanctions immediately.

The threats have not worked, and they are extremely unlikely to work in the future. Empty threats only confirm Putin’s belief that he can “outfox” the West, and that he can continue to act with virtual impunity.

The “rational actor fallacy” should be avoided. The authoritarian state of Russia, caught up in the extreme emotions of xenophobic nationalism and unchecked military aggression, is not likely to act as a single rational mind calculating both long-term and short-term benefits. What drives Putin and his coterie is greed and the unquenchable thirst to remain in power.

Instead of talking about imposing “additional costs” on Russia, a formulation which implicitly rests on “the rational actor fallacy”, the West should be speaking of halting Russian aggression and reversing its effects.

The focus should not be on attempting to change Putin’s behavior through threats of future sanctions, but rather on changing NATO and EU minds so that forceful actions can be taken now to stop Putin and Russia.

8. Publish detailed white papers.

Publish detailed white papers detailing Russian acts of aggression in the Crimea and in the eastern Ukraine.

9. Publish detailed legal memoranda.

Publish detailed legal memoranda setting forth Russian violations of international law, including in particular Article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter, and justifying measures taken in response under Article 51 of the Charter and other provisions of international law.

10. Lobby governments not to abstain on votes in the General Assembly.

Actively lobby all governments, including in particular the BRICS and other countries which abstained on General Assembly Resolution A/RES/262 approved on March 27, 2014. Make it clear to these countries that their votes in the General Assembly affect the vital national security interests of Europe, NATO, and the United States, and that they will weigh heavily in considering bilateral issues and concessions. In short, make it clear to them that they will pay a significant price in the future if they vote against or abstain on resolutions such as G.A. Resolution 262 (March 27, 2014).

11. Stop “telephone diplomacy” and meeting publicly with Russian officials.

Stop the constant telephone calls to Putin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and other Russian officials, and stop public meetings with them. These actions have led to an excessive informality, and the cutting out or by-passing of other officials and experts in government decision processes. These two consequences have undermined the interests of the Western countries. Such informal conversations and meetings allow Putin to finely gage the resolve of leaders from different countries, and to use this information to divide them, particularly whenever the threat of the imposition of really serious sectoral sanctions becomes real.btrg

In a word, get serious and take forceful action in response to the Russian aggression in the Ukraine. Take actions that are commensurate with the gravity of Russian violations of international law that have been committed and and are still underway.

These violations constitute grave threats to peace and the national security interests of each nation concerned.

The Trenchant Observer

Keeping our eyes on the ball: Sectoral sanctions must be imposed against Russia, NOW, for its invasion, purported “annexation”, and continuing occupation of the Crimea

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Developing

What is needed at this point to stop Russian aggression and reverse its effects are serious third-stage sanctions against Russia itself, including important sectors of its economy.

There will be a cost for Europe and the United States to pay.

Do the leaders of these countries think, however, that liberty and the freedom which they currently enjoy in democratic societies can be maintained without any sacrifice, without paying any price at all?

Do the members of the EU and the U.S. imagine for an instant that Hitler’s aggressions and annexations might have been stopped by “targeted sanctions” directed against less than 100 German individuals, and some banks and companies?

If the pacifists and the appeasers in Europe and the United States can always find new reasons not to respond seriously to Russian aggression against the Ukraine, we should not be surprised, because it is easier to constantly shift attention from one detail to another in the never-ending quest to avoid looking at the elephant in the room, at the harsh, bold facts, to wit:

(1) Russia has invaded the Ukraine and purported to “annex” the Crimea, including the city of Sevastopol, in fagrant violation of Article 2 paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter, which prohibits “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence” of any state.

The presence of Russian troops and naval forces in the Crimea as a result of this invasion and occupation represents an ongoing violation of Article 2(4) of the Charter. Individual states are authorized under Article 51 of the Charter to use all necessary and proportionate measures necessary to repel this aggression, including economic sanctions and other measures up to and including the use of force.

(2) Russian invasion of the eastern Ukraine, which is continuing with the supply of weapons and fighters, constitutes a separate and ongoing violation of Article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter, giving right to the adoption of measures of collective self-defense, from economic sanctions up to and including the use of force.

The invasion of the eastern Ukraine by special operations, intelligence and other irregular forces is continuing, under overall Russian direction and control. The latter fact is manifest to any outside independent analyst who puts together all of the pieces of the new Russian form of “stealth warfare”.

(3) The shooting down of Malaysian Flight MH17 over territory of the Ukraine controlled by so-called “pro-Russian separatists” is merely a continuation of a pattern of military actions by “separatists” who all evidence suggests are coordinated and directed by Moscow.

The repercussions of the downing of Flight MH17 are international, and bring home to nations whose citizens on that flight were murdered by Moscow-backed separatists that there is a hot war going on in the heart of Europe, caused and continued by one nation, the Russian Federation.

Calls from Western leaders for a “ceasefire” and negotiations between the “separatists” and the Ukrainian authorities are so unprincipled as to be almost criminally naive.

These calls are being made by leaders of the countries which have chosen appeasement as the response to Russian aggression.

Any calls for a cease-fire which are not directly tied to an immediate end of the Russian aggression should simply be ignored.

The Ukraine has the inherent right as part of its sovereignty and political independence to reestablish public order within its territory. It should be allowed to do so without meddling by outside powers, or measures recommended as acts of appeasement in the face of threats of intensified aggression by Russia.

Some serious third-stage sanctions should be imposed against Russia now, for its continuing illegal occupation of the Crimea.

One economic sanction that would be supported by powerful logic would be a ban of business with any company or individual in the Crimea (except as may be authorized by the Ukrainian government), and a ban on any trade or business or financial transactions with any company doing business with any companies or individuals in the Crimea, as outlined above.

What is needed at this point to stop Russian aggression and reverse its effects are serious third-stage sanctions against Russia itself, including important sectors of its economy.

There will be a cost for Europe and the United States to pay.

Do the leaders of these countries think, however, that liberty and the freedom which they currently enjoy in democratic societies can be maintained without any sacrifice, without paying any price at all?

They would do well to reflect on the sacrifices their parents and grandparents made, paid in blood and tears and not just money, when deciding how to act now to halt Russian aggression and to roll back its recent territorial conquests.

Do they think that the problem of Russian xenophobic nationalism and irredentism will be solved without the Crimea being returned to the Ukraine?

International law is absolutely unequivocal in its position that the Russian “annexation” of the Crimea is without legal effect, and does not change its status as territory of the Ukraine illegally occupied by Russian forces.

Do the members of the EU and the U.S. imagine for an instant that Hitler’s aggressions and annexations might have been stopped by “targeted sanctions” directed against less than 100 German individuals, and some banks and companies?

The situation is similar now with Putin.

It is time now to contain Russian irredentism and aggression with forceful actions. Such actions are explicitly permitted under international law.

Russian aggression will not be stopped by empty threats or words. Only forceful actions, beginning with real economic sanctions, have any chance of producing the desired effects.

The Trenchant Observer

Obama hides behind European appeasers on sanctions; France blocks defense sector measures

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Developing

For recent news and commentary, see:

(1) Jennifer Rubin, “Truth telling at the U.N., obfuscation at the White House,” Washington Post, July 20, 2014.

(2) Carsten Luther, “MH17-ABSCHUSS: Keine Sanktion ist zu hart, Die Zeit, 22. juli 2014 (19:29 Uhr).

Der Abschuss von MH17 über der Ostukraine ist noch nicht endgültig aufgeklärt. Trotzdem darf der Westen nicht wieder den Fehler machen, zu lange auf Russland zu warten.

The Presidency of France is not what it used to be. Former President Nicholas Sarkozy is under criminal investigation for interference in judicial proceedings against him, notably for calling a high judge for details of how a corruption case against him was going.

Francois Hollande, the current president, has become an appeaser of Vladimir Putin, breaking the latter’s isolation from the West by extending invitations to Putin to attend the 70th anniversary celebrations of D-Day at Normandy, and dinner at the Elysee Palace, while simultaneously announcing his government’s decision to proceed with delivery of two Mistral-class helicopter transports and amphibious attack vessels to Russia, with the first delivery due this fall.

Now he is blocking the adoption of EU sanctions banning the export to Russia of military arms and equipment. The deal for the two warships is valued at $1.8 billion dollars.

In the last few days, Hollande has apparetly indicated that he would be willing to suspend the delivery of the second warship, but not the first.

That puts the price of France’s integrity and good name at somewhere under $1 billion.

That is what the United States and the rest of Europe get, today, in return for the Allied liberation of France in 1944 and 1945, and the Marshal plan which enabled it and the rest of Europe to emerge from the aftermath of World War II and achieve the prosperity that it knows today.

Cynics say they always knew France had a price, and that it is not unusual for French commercial interests to trump security and political interests, but that they simply didn’t know that the price could be so low.

In the United States, Barack Obama, under pressure from big business groups not to adopt unilateral sanctions against Russia that are not matched by the EU, sits and waits for Europe to take the lead.

Above all, the reigning illusion that pinprick “targeted measures” against a small number of individuals and highly-calibrated “targeted measures” against a few companies and banks will cause Putin and the Kremlin to change course retains its grip on political leaders’ imaginations, in Washington as in Europe.

The evidence that such “pinprick” measures potentially might change the course and foreign policy of a powerful state under the authoritarian control of Vladimir Putin and his coterie is utterly lacking, whereas the failure of this approach with respect to the Crimea and the eastern Ukraine is clear for all to see.

The pacifists in Washington and Europe remain in the delusional grip of beliefs that by empty threats and words they can change Putin’s course. They want to give him “one last chance” to halt his support of the so-called “separatists” in the eastern Ukraine.

They have made many such peremptory threats and “one last chance” requests for Putin to desist from his aggression in the Ukraine. Each time, the former KGB operative has cunningly offered them just the verbal concessions necessary to take the wind out of the sails of any movement to impose serious sectoral sanctions, i.e., sanctions against the Russian state and not just individuals or a few companies.

They also shrink from placing the one most obvious candidate on their sanctions list: Vladimir Putin himself.

Nor are they even thinking of rolling back the Russian invasion and annexation of the Crimea.

Given the transparent nature of their decision-making processes, their pacifism and appeasement manifested in a permanent lack of resolve, and their unwillingness to take even the most obvious measures to protect NATO members bordering Russia–e.g., by moving NATO troops from the safe heartland of Europe to forward bases in Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania–the leaders of Europe are like children in the woods with the Big Bad Wolf, Vladimir Putin.

Anyone who expects good results to emerge from this constellation of dispositions and forces will surely be disappointed.

Despite her notable successes on the economic front in Europe, Angela Merkel’s legacy is likely to be defined in terms of her failure to respond to Russian aggression in the Ukraine. Hollande will likely be remembered for responding to challenges requiring great courage and statesmanship with the mentality and actions of a small-town merchant.

Instead of Winston Churchill and Charles De Gaulle, their names in the future will likely evoke memories of Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier, the English and French leaders who in Munich delivered the Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia to their fate at the hands of Adolf Hitler and the Wehrmacht of the Third Reich.

As for Barack Obama and his indecisiveness and lack of resolve, what can be said, other than that he is the most incompetent president of the United States in foreign policy at least since 1932, who is laying the groundwork for a triumphant Republican sweep of the 2016 presidential elections by running on a strong national security platform and a repudiation of the Democrats’ withdrawal from world leadership in international affairs?

The Trenchant Observer

REPRISE: The language of actions—Russia, the Ukraine, and the response of the West

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

In looking at the response of the West and other civilized countries to the downing of Malaysian Flight MH17, in all proability by pro-Russian “separatists” with air defense systems and training and possibly crews furnishd by Russia, one is struck by the West’s continued reliance on appeals to Putin and his entourage counched in reason, and the absence of concrete actions to influence his behavior.

This approach of pacifism and appeasement in responding to Russian aggression is now quite familiar to those who have followed the Ukrainian crisis since February.

It has failed utterly, and the results are clear to see: invasion and annexation of the Crimea, invasion by irregular forces of the eastern Ukraine, an increasing flow of arms, fighters, and advanced weapons systems across the border into the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, in particular, and in recent weeks the use of surface to air missiles to shoot down Ukrainian military aircraft. All evidence suggests that the downing of Flight MH17 was part of a continuation of this pattern, but one involving a critcal mistake insofar as the identity of the aircraft was concerned

These Russian actions have taken place precisely during the (extended) month the EU and the U.S. threatened to impose serious sectorial economic sanctions on Russia if it did not comply with specific demands that Russia cease its support for the “separatists” (including a halt to arms shipments and the dispatch of personnel), as well as the return of captured border posts to Ukrainian control.

These demands Vladimir Putin openly flouted, and neither the EU nor the U.S, did anything to carry out their threats to impose sectorial sanctions, as Russia not only failed to accede to their demands but intensified its interventionist activities.

The U.S. did hit key Russian companies with some sanctions, but these were limited to denying intermediate and long-term financing to the companies, while allowing financing operations up to 90 days and ordinary business with the companies to continue. No assets were frozen.

The approach of the West continues to be to threaten Putin in order to influence his future behavior, despite the overwhelming evidence that this approach has not worked–and will never work so long as serious sanctions for current and past behavior are not imposed.

What is needed, what has been needed all along, are serious actions and not words.

The following article, first published over three months ago, makes the essential points.

Nothing has changed, other than to add three months of empty threats by the West, and to add to the list of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians killed, now tragically joined by the names of innocent victims on Flight MH17 from Malaysia, the Netherlands, and other countries.

All of this has hapened as the result of Russian aggression, and the utter failure of the West and other civilized countries to do anything meaningful that might stop it and reverse its effects.

*****

“The language of actions: Russia, the Ukraine, and the response of the West,” The Trenchant Observer, April 10, 2014.

First published on April 10, 2014

According to NATO, Russia has 35,000 to 40,000 combat-ready troops on its border with the Ukraine, which could be launched into action on as little as 12 hours.

See:

“UKRAINE: Russische Soldaten laut Nato sofort einsatzbereit; Die Nato spricht von ungewöhnlichen Vorgängen an der russisch-ukrainischen Grenze; Daus westliche Militärbündnis zählt bis zu 40.000 Soldaten in dem Grenzgebiet,” Die Zeit, 10. April 2014 (17:28 Uhr).

“UKRAINE: Nato fürchtet russischen Einmarsch in die Ukraine; Russische Truppen sind an der ukrainischen Grenze stationiert; In wenigen Tagen könnten sie laut Nato alle Ziele im Nachbarland erreichen; Die Lage sei besorgniserregend,” Die Zeit, 2. April 2014 (16:04 Uhr).

These are Russian actions which deserve urgent attention.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has reassured Secretary of State John Kerry and others in the West that Russia will respect the territorial integrity of the Ukraine. These are Russian words, the same ones he used days before the Russian invasion of the Crimea.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has reassured German Chancellor Merkel that Russian troops would be withdrawn from the border. These are Russian words. The troops have not been withdrawn.

We should not place any trust in these words, which come from known liars. We should not trust either Putin or Lavrov, or anything either of them says. They have been telling blatant lies as part of the Russian propaganda campaign, and have lied directly both to John Kerry and to Angela Merkel.

As the U.S., the EU, Russia, and the Ukraine prepare to meet on April 17, Western leaders and everyone else needs to understand that the only language of genuine communication between Russia and the West is now the language of actions. Consequently, they should go to the meeting with new actions that have already been taken, and which they can use to communicate with the Russians.

Russian Actions

So far, Russian actions include:

1) The invasion and annexation of the Crimea;

2) The infiltration of agents provacateurs into the eastern Ukraine to foment disturbances;

3) Demands that the Ukraine meet Russian demands for Ukrainian constitutional reforms granting greater regional autonomy to Russian-speaking regions, backed by the palpable threat of military intervention represented by invasion-ready military forces on the border;

4) An increase in gas prices to some $100.00 above market prices, on top of an increase that wipes out the concessionary price established in international agreements which extended Russia’s lease on naval facilities in Sevastopol, where the Russian Black Sea fleet is based.

In addition, Russia has demanded payment of an additional $11 billion dollars as repayment for concessionary price discounts since the lease agreements were signed in 2010, on the theory that since the Ukraine is part of Russia these lease agreements and concessionary gas price agreements are void; and

5) Russia has now demanded payment one month in advance for future gas deliveries to the Ukraine, and threatens to halt deliveries if payment is not made.

Western Actions

So far, Western Actions have included:

1) The imposition of targeted sanctions on less than three dozen individuals from Russia, the Crimea, and the Ukraine, and one Russian bank;

2) Development of lists of additional or “stage-three” sanctions which might be imposed (e.g., if Russia invades the eastern Ukraine), including trade, financial and other sanctions which could have a very serious impact on Russia (as well as Western countries);

2) The commitment of financial assistance to the Ukraine from the EU, the U.S. ($1 billion), and the International Monetary Fund ($15 billion, contingent on financial reforms in Ukraine);

3) Deployment of additional surveillance and fighter aircraft to NATO members Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia; and

4) The scheduling of additional NATO military maneuvers in eastern NATO member states; and

5) The dispatch of 100 OSCE observers to the Ukraine, which German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is now pushing to increase to 500 observers, in compliance with an earlier OSCE decision to which Russia agreed.

Absence of Strategy and Sanctions to Compel Russia to Return the Crimea

The West has failed to adopt any sanctions or other measures designed to force Russia to undo its invasion and annexation of the Crimea.

Ominously, officials in both the U.S. and the EU, have hinted they might be prepared to continue doing business with Russia so long as it doesn’t commit further aggression by invading the eastern Ukraine, leaving it in possession of the Crimea with little more than verbal and diplomatic protests from the West.

The loudest “action” by the West with respect to undoing the invasion and annexation of the Crimea has been a failure to act. The “slap on the wrist” measures of the first- and second-round sanctions cannot be taken seriously as measures to produce a rollback.

The West has failed to adopt the extremely obvious economic sanction of prohibiting financial or other business transactions with any company operating in or doing business with the Crimea (corrected).

Actions Going Forward

Decision makers in the diplomats’ meeting with the Russians on April 17 need to communicate with Russia in the language of actions, not merely the verbal formulations of diplomacy, which insofar as Russia is concerned have neglible effect. All the diplomatic words and entreaties, and telephone calls to Putin and Lavrov, do not appear to have affected the language of actions which Russia is speaking.

Russia speaks in actions from a strong position, having invaded and annexed part of another country, in open violation of the most fundamental norms of the U.N. Charter, international law, and the postwar political, economic, and legal order.

Will the West’s responses, in the language of actions, be up to the task of halting and rolling back Russian aggression, and its ill-gotten gains?

If we connect the dots, and take noteu of the fact that Japan has in the last day reversed its policy of reducing its plutonium stocks–whether by coincidence or not–we can glimpse in an instant how critical the answer to the preceding question may be.

See Hiroko Tabuchi, “Japan Pushes Plan to Stockpile Plutonium, Despite Proliferation Risks,” New York Times, April 9, 2014.

Helene Cooper and Martin Fackle, “U.S. Response to Crimea Worries Japan’s Leaders,” New York Times, April 5, 2014.

The Trenchant Observer

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Observateur Incisif
El Observador Incisivo

Putin the aggressor, and the downing of Malaysian Flight MH17

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Developing

One man, President Vladimir Putin, and one country, the Russian Federation, are responsible for launching an invasion of the Crimea and its annexation, and the invasion by special operations and irregular forces of the eastern Ukraine, particularly in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk and the territory in between.

As the Ukrainian armed forces have tightened their noose around the so-called “pro-Russian separatists” (actually led by Russian citizens who are either current or former military intelligence officers), Russia has dramatically increased its directed flow of Russian “volunteers” (recruited and dispatched by Russia) across the border into the Ukraine.

In coordinated large-scale military operations, Ukrainian border posts and control centers have been attacked and/or taken over by “separatist” forces, throwing the border wide open. These forces appear to have included Russian special operations and irregular troops.

After the fall of Sloviansk to the Ukrainian armed forces and the retreat of the “separatists” to the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, Russia has supplied pro-Russian forces with growing numbers of heavy weapons including tanks and increasingly sophisticated air-defense systems. The latter have been used in recent weeks to shoot down Ukrainian aircraft, including a transport plane whose downing led to the loss some 41 lives. Only days ago, another plane was shot down. A Ukrainian jet was also shot down by a missile which may have been launched in Russia.

Vladimir Putin, who launched his war of aggression and annexation in blatant violation of Article 2 paragraph 4 of the U.N. Charter and its absolute prohibition of “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence” of any state, is morally and legally responsible for actions taken in the war he launched and which he continues to coordinate in the eastern Ukraine.

His efforts to maintain “plausible deniability” as he engages in the new Russian form of “stealth warfare” (e.g., “little green men” in the Crimea, subsequently acknowledged to be Russian special forces), are transparent and in vain in terms of shielding him from political and legal responsibility.

Just as he and Russia are complicit and responsible under international law for supporting the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity by Bashar al-Assad and his regime in Syria, Putin is responsible for the actions of the military and irregular forces he has launched against the eastern Ukraine in what is an ongoing and intensifying invasion and war of aggression.

Nor should we forget the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Putin and Russia in Chechnya.

He is a presumptive war criminal. A cold-blooded killer.

For the taking of a human life outside the framework of domestic and international law–which provides for self-defense and punishment-with-due-process exceptions–is, in legal and moral terms, simply murder.

Only an international or domestic court can make the authoritative finding that Putin is legally guilty of war crimes. One can only hope that some day, perhaps in the distant future, such proceedings will be held. In the meantime, we can draw our own conclusions from the evidence that is available. Certainly he deserves to be tried as an accused war criminal.

The next time Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande, or Barack Obama sits down for dinner and a glass of wine with Vladimir Putin, they should have present in their mind that they are looking into the cold blue eyes and expressionless face of a presumptive war criminal responsible for the deaths of tens if not hundreds of thousands of human beings.

We don’t know what specific orders and chain of command was responsible for the downing of Malaysian Flight MH17. However, it is worth noting that Putin has often responded to increased sanctions with an escalation (e.g., annexation of the Crimea), and increased “targeted sanctions” were imposed by the U.S. and the EU only a few days ago.

It is hard to imagine that “separatist” forces in the Ukraine, or even Russian forces operating within Russia, would be shooting down Ukrainian aircraft or presumed Ukrainian planes without Putin’s knowledge and assent.

In that sense, at a minimum, Putin’s fingerprints are on the trigger that fired the missile that downed Malaysian Flight MH17.

See

(1) Review and Outlook (Opinion), “The Downing of MH17; Putin is the one leader who quickly assigned blame for the disaster,” Wall Street Journal, July 17, 2014.

(2) Carsten Luther, “FLUG MH17: Dieser Abschuss verändert alles, Die Zeit, 18. Juli 2014.

“Indizien deuten darauf hin: Von Russland unterstützte Separatisten haben das Passagierflugzeug in der Ukraine abgeschossen. Der Konflikt erreicht damit eine neue Stufe.”

(3) Anne Applebaum, “The Malaysia Airlines crash is the end of Russia’s fairy tale,” Washington Post, July 18, 2014 (2:57 PM).

The Trenchant Observer

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Observateur Incisif
El Observador Incisivo