Archive for the ‘France’ Category

Distracted by Iraq and the World Cup: Pacifism and Appeasement continue to dictate West’s “non-response” to blatant Russian aggression in the eastern Ukraine (revised and updated June 18, 2014)

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

Last Revised and Updated June 18, 2014

Distracted by Iraq and the World Cup, the leaders of the West seem to have forgotten about the Ukraine in general, and their earnest threat of “third-stage”, sectoral sanctions against Russia, in particular.

“Nothing New in the West” remains the order of the day as the U.S., and EU and NATO member countries remain gripped by pacifism and appeasement–and pure cowardice–in failing to respond in a serious manner to the ongoing Russian invasion of the eastern Ukraine.

Russia continues its policy of blatant aggression against the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of the Ukraine. The West, as was the case in Syria, fights back with words and not deeds, with empty threats that have no credibility because they are never carried out. It is always “too little, too late”, as if a man who is knifed in the gut responds to his aggressor with a slap to the cheek.

Meanwhile, the international political and legal order is falling apart, from Europe to the Middle East.

The state of Iraq is crumbling, after tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers threw down their arms and fled from battle, with Sunni regions falling to the advancing forces of ISIS, an al-Qaeda-type organization. Iraqi Kurdish Peshmurga forces have moved into Kirkuk to fill the vacuum, further threatening the dismemberment of the country into Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish regions.

With the West’s attention distracted by both the World Cup tournament in Brazil (Angela Merkel was in Brazil for Germany’s victory on Monday) and the rapid advance of the ISIS forces in Iraq, Putin and Russia continue to play their “double game” of saying one thing and doing another. In recent days, a column of Russian armor, including three tanks, has crossed the Russian border into the Ukraine. So-called “separatists” have used a surface-to-air MANPAD missile to bring down a Ukrainian military transport, causing the deaths of 49 Ukrainian solders.

A hot war is going on in the eastern Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin has demonstated once again his utterly perfidious character. He moves like a leopard around the Ukraine, waiting for the moment when the attention and unity of the West falters in order to attack and pounce upon his prey.

So long as Putin remains in power, the West will never be able to trust Russia again.

The United States has a clueless president, whose foreign policy currently consists almost entirely of words. His first response to any crisis is to issue a well-crafted statement. “All options are on the table,” he reflexively states, and he will consider the options that are brought to him by his national security team.

The options that are always all on the table, always seem to suffer a curious fate. After the doors are closed, a space in the floor opens up, the top of the table opens downward, and those options disappear into the void below, never to be seen again.

Without analyzing the situation, Obama announces that no American boots will be deployed on the ground in Iraq. Reluctantly, he sees himself pushed by his national security advisers to do something. The present circumstances are urgent, in view of the collapse of the Iraqi army and the advance of ISIS toward Baghdad, after taking Mosul.

Obama dithers. When he finally gets around to taking some action, it is usually too little and too late to be effective.

After Russia invaded the Crimea, the U.S. sent “non-lethal” military
aid to the Ukraine consisting of MRE rations (meals ready to eat). The first-round of targeted economic sanctions imposed on a small number of individual Russians was a bad joke.

All of the mistakes, shortcomings and failures of Obama’s foreign policy are now manifesting their consequences, like chickens coming home to roost.

Syria, Iraq and the Middle East are collapsing in front of our eyes. Russia is invading the eastern Ukraine, after invading and annexing the Crimea. Everywhere the United States is failing to lead, by not acting independently when this is urgently required–even with military force, if necessary–and by not effectively leading the Atlantic Alliance, including both NATO and the EU.

Obama’s foreign policy lies before us in a shambles, like a heap of shards of broken glass. His West Point speech of two weeks ago has already been overtaken by events.

Democrats with knowlege of foreign and defense policy are afraid to speak out publicly against the president, whether because they don’t want to hurt Democratic election prospects, hope for future posts or consulting work in government, don’t want to prejudice their positions within the organizations in which they work, or are simply apprehensive about taking strong stands against the government in the new surveillance state.

Some leading members of the foreign-policy elite seem themselves to be as clueless as Barack Obama. The president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard N. Haass, for example, suggested on the Charlie Rose program last night (June 13) that, to counter the growth and advances of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the U.S. should consider joining with Bashar al-Assad and Russia to attack the ISIS forces. Michael R. Gordon, the distinguished military affairs correspondent of the New York Times, had the presence of mind to point out that joining with a mass murderer like al-Assad would be inconsistent with American values, and not likely to engender support.

Without any discernible American strategy, and few key officials with any sense of history, foreign events appear to pop up out of nowhere and to take the Obama administration utterly by surprise.

Absent a policy anchored in enduring American and Western values, such as dedication to defending human rights and democracy and respect for international law, any policy or action seems possible, in a present which seems to have expanded almost infinitely, obliterating the past while encompassing all possibilities for present and future action.

What can be done?

1. Stage-three, sectoral sanctions should be immediately imposed by the United States against Russia, while the U.S. should lead in exercising real, intense pressure on EU countries to join in adopting similar sanctions.

This would necessarily include cancellation of France’s sale of two Mistral-class warships to be delivered to Russia in the fall. Training of Russian sailors, scheduled to begin shortly, should be canceled sine diem, and not reconsidered until after Russia disgorges the Crimea and returns it to the Ukraine.

2. NATO should announce the immediate deployment of additional ground troops to Poland, Romania and the Baltics, and move foward urgently, and loudly, in developing plans for the permanent stationing of large numbers of NATO troops in these countries.

3. Western leaders should immediately stop all telephone calls and meetings at the deputy foreign minister level or above with Russian leaders and officials. Telephone diplomacy has failed. It only enables Putin to discern differences between Western countries and devise actions that divide them, e.g., in order to defuse the threat of sectoral sanctions.

4. The U.S. and its allies should undertake military and other action in Iraq, immediately, in order both to halt the advance of ISIS forces toward Baghdad and to forestall Iranian military intervention in Iraq in the coming days.

5. While these steps are being taken, the U.S. should develop a real strategy, using all forms of American power, to both defeat ISIS and to secure a non-sectarian government in Iraq, as coalitions are formed to choose the next prime minister following the recent elections.

6. The U.S, should exercise its influence in Afghanistan as necessary to ensure that the vote count following the presidential run-off election today (June 14) is transparent, and not deprived of legitimacy by uncorrected corruption.

Indications of widespread fraud (denounced by Abdullah Abdullah) and Hamid Karzai’s control of the electoral commission raise the possibility that this last chance at gaining legitimacy may be lost. If it is, it should surprise no one if, within a few years, the Afghan army collapses just like the Iraqi army which ran from battle in Sunni areas of Iraq in recent days.

Will the president stop dithering and analyzing, and take the needed actions outlined above?

To do so would, in Secretary of State Madelaine Allbright’s memorable phrase, take some “cojones”.

That is precisely the element of U.S. foreign policy that has been missing. One can only hope that it can be found, and deployed.

The Trenchant Observer

As official Russian troops withdraw from border, Putin continues stealth invasion and occupation of Donetsk and Luhansk region by irregular forces

Friday, June 6th, 2014

News and Opinion

See

(1) Anton Troianovski (Berlin) and Carol E. Lee (in Bénouville, France), “Mistrust Persists in Ukraine Meetings,” Wall Street Journal, June 6, 2014(updated 8:02 p.m. ET).

(2) Lukas I. Alpert, “Ukraine’s Tenuous Grip on Russian Border Slips Further; Kiev Abandons Eight Border Posts After Sustained Attacks,” Wall Street Journal, June 6, 2014 (7:16 a.m. ET).

(3) Arthur Bright, “Despite Russian drawdown from border, fighting continues in eastern Ukraine (+video),” Cristian Science Monitor, May 30, 2014.

“Russian fighters are among the separatist forces battling Ukraine’s poorly equipped military for control of eastern provinces. A pullback of Moscow’s troops could defuse tensions with the West.”

(4) Griff Witte and Michael Birnbaum (Donetsk), “Russian troop withdrawal brings no relief in eastern Ukraine,” Washington Post, May 30, 2014.

Analysis

Vladimir Putin is a former KGB operative who, as Russia’s President, has embraced a new form of “stealth warfare”. In the Crimea, this invasion was launched by special operations forces bearing no official insignia (often referred to in the press as “little green men”). With impressive military precision, they seized key government buildings and police and Ukrainian army installations, handing them over to pro-Russian “separatists” whom they directed and controlled. As these events unfolded, President Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov loudly proclaimed that Russia had no intention of violating the territorial integrity of the Ukraine in the Crimea or anywhere else. Within a month, Russia had annexed the Crimea.

Subsequently, the same pattern was repeated in the eastern Ukraine, with variations which have evolved in accordance with changing circumstances. At Geveva, on April 17, Russia agreed in the statement produced by talks between the U.S., the EU, Russia, and the Ukraine, that the “separatists” who had seized government buildings with Kalishnakovs and other heavy weapons would lay down their arms and withdraw from the buildings they held. Russia made no effort to ensure that this would happen.

As the West imposed targeted sanctions against individuals and a few companies in Russia and the Ukraine, significantly also developed a realistic threat of imposing so-called “third stage” or sectoral sanctions against Russia if it invaded the eastern Ukraine or interfered with the May 25 presidential elections in the Ukraine, Putin told Angela Merkel that he was withdrawing troops from the border region, where some 40,000 to 50,000 troops were massed in combat-ready status for an invasion. Weeeks passed without this withdrawal occurring. In recent days, however, these Russian troops have finally been withdrawing.

But meanwhile, the KGB operative who is the current presient of Russia continued the invasion of the Ukraine by surrepticious means. Recent reports detail the crossing into Ukraine of truckloads and truckloads of heavily armed irregular forces. Within the last several days, highly organized military forces have taken control of the government administration building in Donetsk from the motley group of pro-Russian activists who were holding it.

The top leaders of the “separatists” are Russian citizens with no local ties, who are reliably reported to be officials of Russian military and intelligence agencies. Chechens and fighters from other parts of Russia have been sent into the eastern Ukraine to bolster the military assault on the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and political independence of the Ukraine, now in the “Donbass” region.

It is clear that Putin”s and Russia”s invasion of the eastern Ukraine continues in an extremely vigorous manner, with determination not to allow Kiev’s Anti-Terrorist Operation aimed at restoring public order in the East to succeed.

A war is going on in the eastern Ukraine between the Russian special operations and irregular forces whuch have invaded the country and local separatists they have enlisted in their support, and the national government of the Ukraine based in Kiev.

After imposing limited targeted sanctions on a number of Russian individuals, the EU and the U.S. have now threatened Putin and Russia with sectoral sanctions if Russia does not ceadse its support for the “separatists” who are fighting Ukrainian forces attempting to restore public order, and stop the influx from Russia of irregular forces and weapons crossing the border.

At the same time, France has stated that it will proceed with the delivery to Ruusian of two Mistral-class warships, which will be based in Sevastopol in the Crimea, which under international law remains Ukrainian territory under Russian occupation.

The isolation of President Putin was broken by Francois Hollande’s invitation to Putin to attend the D-Day ceremonies in Normand on June 5-6. There was a certain logic to this invitation, as the West and the Soviet Union were allies in the war to defeat Nazi Germany.

Whether the subsequent invitation to Putin to visit Paris and David Cameron’s and Angela Merkel’s hastily scheduled private meetings with Putin, over President Barack Obama’s objections, reflected a sincere effort at persuasion, or signalled a collapse of allied unity, was far from clear, particularly in light of the French decision to deliver the warships to Russia.

One might have thought that if the West wanted to deliver a single message and threat to Vladimir Putin regarding the Ukraine, they could have found a better way to do it than in three separate private meetings. Obama refused such a meeting, although he had a 15-minute chat with Putin on the sidelines of a larger luncheon at the D-Day ceremonies on Friday.

The Trenchant Observer

The sheer mind-numbing incompetence of Obama’s White House foreign policy team; Ukraine—continuing pacifism and appeasement in the West

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Developing

You can’t make this stuff up.

The sheer, mind-numbing incompetence ofthe White House foreign policy team surpasses the wildest leaps of the imagination. For example,

1. The White House distributes the name of the current CIA station chief in Kabul to the press pool accompanying the President on a surprise visit to Afghanistan.

“Surprise! We’ve outed the CIA station chief!” To date, no head has rolled, though there has been an attempt to blame it on the military.

2. President Obama agrees to meet with French President Francois Hollande before the latter meets with Vladimir Putin in Paris, both on Thursday night. The dinner with Obama is at a restaurant, whereas Putin is eating at the Elysee Palace.

This is Obama’s version of managing alliance relationships. Further, Angela Merkel is meeting with Putin in Frankfurt on Friday.

Meanwhile, Putin’s agents are waging war in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of the Ukraine, while Russian “volunteers” are pouring into the Ukraine, whose border forces have come under intense and coordinated attack. Coordinated by whom? Who do you think? The Albanians?

If you’ve ever wondered about that smug “I just ate the goldfish and they’re inviting me for dessert” smile on former KGB agent Vladimir Putin’s face, reread the preceding paragraphs.

Incompetence at the highest levels, by “the gang who couldn’t shoot straight”, and their leader.

Obama seems to have “attention deficit disorder”. He doesn’t seem to be able to track the moving ball with his eyes. To keep his eye on the ball. Nor does he seem to understand how his actions will be interpreted.

He travels to Eastern Europe to reassure NATO’s eastern allies, with more words, that America stands behind them, instead of acting to halt and reverse Putin’s aggression in the Ukraine by adopting serious economic sanctions, and pressuring the Europeans to do the same. Those actions, not words, would reassure our allies in Eastern Europe–and Japan and other countries neighboring China.

Hollande, whose sense of loyalty was recently displayed when he was caught by the press sneaking out of the Elysee Palace on a motorcycle to meet his girlfriend in a nearby house, leading to the departure of his official girlfriend from the Elysee Palace, has apparently been flipped by the National Front’s strong showing in the May 25 elections for the European Parliament.

What Angela Merkel’s story is can only be guessed, but the steadfastness of Germany is not beyond doubt, as suggested by former SPD Chancellor Gerhardt Schroeder’s celebration of his 70th birthday with his good friend Vladimir Putin in St. Petersberg last month.

The pacifists and the appeasers in the White House and in Europe look like they have carried the day, and can’t wait to get back to “business as usual” with Russia and Putin, at the earlest opportunity.

The existing structure of international order is facing its toughest test since 1945.

So, now that it is clear that Europe is not willing to undergo any pain to uphold that international order, e.g., through the adoption of third-stage, sectoral sanctions, leaders want to meet with Putin.

“Let’s be reasonable. Let’s mediate between Putin and Ukraine’s newly-elected president, Petro Poroshenko.”

Between Russia and the country it is at this very moment raping.

What is to be mediated?

What it will take to get the rapist to desist from a rape in progress? Which of the rapist’s demands must be met, including immunity from criminal prosecution or even civil penalties? How the rapist can rebuild a relationship of trust with other members of the community, without expressing any regret?

In the international sphere, invasion and annexation of a portion of another country is a far more serious transgression than is rape in the domestic legal system, however heinous the latter crime may be.

Does anyone remember “the rape of Nanjing” in 1937-38, by the Japanese?

Without the U.N. Charter’s prohibition against the threat or use of force, and serious efforts to uphold its effectiveness in cases of violation, how do the appeasers and pacifists in Washington and Europe imagine that the international order and international security will evolve?

If the present structure of international order within the framework of international law and the U.N. Charter is to be abandoned, what will take its place?

Shouldn’t the pacifists and appeasers in Washington and Europe be answering these questions? Are they?

The Trenchant Observer

To halt war in eastern Ukraine, “stage three” sanctions against Russian aggression needed now

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

developing

With the Russian invasion of the eastern Ukraine by special forces and mercenaries under their control, the U.S., THE EU and other civilized countries urgently need to impose “Stage Three” sanction sagainst Russia now, if the war in the East is to be halted.

French President Francois Hollande’s invitation of Vladimir Putin to visit Paris could be a nod to the right wing forces of Marine Le Pen, following their strong showing in the European Parliament elections on May 25. Hollande’s invitation, whatever his rationale, may be misguided. “Business as usual” with Putin should be unthinkable so long as his forces continue their violence and aggressionbin the eastern Ukraine.

The Ukrainian crisis is not over. To avoid civil war in the Eastern parts of the country, the West must push back hard, now, with Stage Three sectoral sanctions.

The Trenchant Observer

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

Thursday, April 10th, 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; Das 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 note 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

Russia threatens further aggression against the Ukraine: The response of the West has been a bad joke; Putin must be stopped

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Updated and revised

Let me say quite frankly that it pains our hearts to see what is happening in Ukraine at the moment, see the people’s suffering and their uncertainty about how to get through today and what awaits them tomorrow. Our concerns are understandable because we are not simply close neighbours but, as I have said many times already, we are one people. Kiev is the mother of Russian cities. Ancient Rus is our common source and we cannot live without each other.

–Vladimir Putin, speech to Russian parliament (Duma), March 18, 2014.

The full text of the speech is found here.

The Russian Threat

Vladimir Putin made clear in his victory speech to the Russian parliament or Duma, on March 18, 2014, that he considers the Ukraine and Russia to be inseparable.

See:

Michael Thurmann, “Deckmantel der Geschichte; Wie Wladimir Putin die Vergangenheit missbraucht, um seine Politik der Gegenwart zu rechtfertigen,” Die Zeit, 4. April 2014 (18:35 Uhr).

Ulrich Speck, “Die Ukraine-Krise bedroht besonders Deutschland;
Deutschland muss empfindlich auf die Aggression Russlands reagieren. Es wird auf der Seite der Verlierer stehen, wenn wieder das Recht des Stärkeren gilt, Die Zeit, 7. April 2014.

The Response of the West

The response of the West to Russian seizure and annexation of the Crimea has been to adopt targeted personal sanctions against less than three dozen individuals in Russia, the Crimea, and the Ukraine (Yanukovych), and one Russian bank.

In response to these sanctions, Putin has ruled out any discussion of a rollback to the status quo ante before the Russian invasion and annexation of the Crimea, massed 40,000 troops on the eastern and northern borders of the Ukraine, and fomented separatist demonstrations and protests in major Ukrainian cities with a large Russian-speaking population, following the same script as was used in the Crimea.

Meanwhile, the West has continued to engage in diplomatic conversations with Russia, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in constant contact with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The U.S. has been practically begging Putin not to invade eastern Ukraine, while demonstrating a shocking receptiveness, as revealed in background conversations reported in the press, to acceptance of the Russian annexation of the Crimea as a fait accompli–with no further sanctions.

The same naiveté that was in evidence when the U.S. and other Western nations totally failed to anticipate Putin’s military intervention in the Crimea is, shockingly, still operating.

Minimal sanctions were adopted after the Russian military intervention in the Ukraine, with the hope that by not angering Putin and providing him with an “off-ramp”, he would not annex the Crimea.

Within days, Russia annexed the Crimea.

Now, the West with its second round of sanctions, which are tragically disproportionate to the aggression which they aim to undo, hopes that Putin will not send Russian troops into other parts of the Ukraine.

They are also making plans to make some minimal efforts on the military front to reassure front-line NATO member states, like Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, of their commitment to mutual defense under Article 5 of the NATO Treaty.

As for the Ukraine, they are planning to undertake some joint exercises with the Ukrainian armed forces, NOT NOW, but sometime in the summer.

The Western states congratulate themselves on the “strong” measures they have imposed in their first round and second round of sanctions against less than three dozen individuals and one bank.

They have done virtually nothing to inflict real pain on Russia as leverage to force a withdrawal of forces and an undoing of the annexation of the Crimea.

Is there anything in this mix that is likely to force Putin to restore the status quo ante in the Crimea?

Hardly.

Given the weak responses of the West, is there anything in this panorama that is likely to dissuade Putin from dispatching troops to the eastern Ukraine to “protect” Russian-speaking populations from persecution and abuses?

Hardly.

Russia itself, in a replay of the Crimean script, is doing everything it can to stir up disorder in Russian-speaking areas of the Ukraine.

The “Rational Actor Fallacy”

See “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 Rational Actor Fallacy” should also be borne in mind. The entire sanctions approach of the West is based on the assumption that Russia’s actions will be decided by the functional equivalent of a single rational mind, in an analytic paradigm in which costs to Russia–present and future–will be carefully weighed in reaching any decisions.

Putin, however, has unleashed forces which he may not be able to control. His propaganda machine has generated nationalistic passions in Russia, organizational processes within the government are operating, and personal commitments by bureaucratic leaders and decision makers have been secured, all of which may inevitably lead to military intervention in the Ukraine (whether by stealth or otherwise).

If this is true, the only thing which might reverse the current momentum of events could be sharp responses by the West that are sufficient in magnitude to force reconsideration in Russia, by all of the actors involved, of decisions already taken or well in progress–which will not otherwise be reversed.

In this context, the finely-tuned calculus of costs and benefits which Obama, the EU, and NATO believe will be decisive may simply be irrelevant. There is already persuasive evidence that Russia’s long-term interests, or even Putin’s, are not having an impact on Russian behavior.

The Real Choice for the West

The greatest question is whether it might prove easier to get Putin to withdraw his forces from the eastern Ukraine after a Russian invasion than it might be to dissuade him from such further aggression, by leaving no room for doubt in his mind about the consequences of such an action, including military consequences.

One measure which might focus the minds of the adventurers currently leading Russia would be to dispatch 20,000 Western troops to the Ukraine NOW–from NATO if possible, or from France and / or the United States if unanimity among the 28 member states of NATO proves unachievable. The troops could be dispatched in response to a request from the Ukraine, in exercise of the inherent right of collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, in full accordance with international law.

Ukrainian territory–the Crimean peninsula–remains under Russian occupation following its aggression against the Ukraine.

Moreover, having abrogated the treaty arrangements which granted Russia the right to maintain a certain number of troops and its naval base at Sevastopol (the terms of which to be sure were violated during the Russian invasion), if that termination is legally valid (which is dubious), there would be no legal basis under international law for the presence of any Russian forces in the Crimea.

Russia incidentally is committing economic aggression against the Ukraine by raising the price of gas above market levels, and insisting that the Ukraine repay $11 billion in discounts which it granted to the Ukraine in exchange for an extension of the naval base agreements.

The Russian legal argument for repayment of the discounts is ludicrous, in effect claiming that they don’t owe the Ukraine any discounts under the treaty because the Crimea is a part of Russia. In other words, if you have a lease and related agreements with another country for the use of certain assets, and you invade that country and seize those assets by military force, the original obligations are void. Unbelievably, that is the Russian position.

Not one independent court in the world, domestic or international, would uphold that argument. But then the Russians are not thinking in terms of independent courts, or international law as it might be determined by an independent international tribunal.

Urgent Measures to Stop Russian Aggression

It is quite possible that the invasion of Russian-speaking regions of the Ukraine will take place in the near future, within weeks if not days, long before Europe can develop a consensus on how to block such action. This is precisely what happened in the Crimea, and there is every reasons to suppose that Putin is similarly prepared to move quickly, before effective blocking measures can be adopted by the West.

Consequently, at this very moment the West may be facing its last chance to block a Russian invasion of the Ukraine. Before it is too late, NATO and the West should consider and adopt the following measures on an extremely urgent basis:

1. The first step, which should begin immediately, is for the U.S. and the EU to adopt new sanctions that would prohibit any U.S. or EU financial institution or company from handling transactions or doing business with any financial institution doing business in the Crimea, or any Russian or other company doing business in the Crimea, until such time as the annexation and military occupation have been undone, restoring the situation to the status quo ante prior to Russian military intervention.

The sanctions should be adopted as permanent sanctions which will not be lifted until the stated conditions are met.

The current EU sanctions are valid for only six months and must be renewed in order to be continued. Given this proviso, it is no wonder that Putin hasn’t taken them seriously.

Moreover, the precedent of only a six-month authorization, in Putin’s thinking and probably that of the EU nations, would also be used even if so-called “third-stage” sanctions are adopted by the EU in response to further aggression. That means that in six months Russia would only have to peel off one EU member state in order for the sanctions to lapse.

2. The second measure, which should be implemented immediately, is the dispatch to the Ukraine of 20,000 troops from NATO or individual Western countries to assist the Ukraine in its defense against current and threatened Russian aggression.

3. NATO should immediately issue a statement saying that in view of Russian aggression and the threat of further aggression against the Ukraine, its earlier statements that the use of force is not under consideration are no longer in effect, and that it will respond to any military aggression in the Ukraine in a manner which is appropriate under the circumstances.

4. Certain so-called “third-stage sanctions” should be progressively implemented over the next six months if Putin does not restore the Crimea to the status quo ante prior to the Russian invasion. The sanctions should be carefully planned, be meaningful, and progressively implemented in accordance with a time table which is made public. The message to Putin should be, loud and clear: The annexation of the Crimea will not stand.

Putin must be stopped.

The Stakes

Europeans and Americans should stop to think for a minute of the sacrifices their countrymen have already made to ensure that no further territories will be invaded or annexed–as in WW II, for example. Both the Korean war and the Gulf war were fought to uphold this principle. Many in the U.S. also believed that the Vietnam war was a response to invasion from the North (which in fact turned out to be the case, we now know).

If they do stop and think, they may come to understand that we are no longer in normal times, and that what is perhaps the greatest threat to international peace and security since the Korean war must be confronted directly, now, and if necessary by the defensive use of military force.

This is a tall order for the leaders of Europe, the U.S. and the West, who up until now have manifested strong pacifist inclinations and a willingness to consider appeasement in response to the Russian takeover of the Crimea.

But no less than this is required, if the postwar political, economic and legal order is to be upheld and maintained.

The Trenchant Observer

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February 22, 2014: U.N. Security Council unanimously approves Resolution 2139 (2014) on humanitarian access in Syria (with full text of Resolution)

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

“Unanimously approved, Security Council resolution demands aid access in Syria,” U.N. News Centre, February 22, 2014

For the text of the resolution, and statements by delegations, see the Security Council Press Release, U.N. doc. SC/11292, February 22, 2014.

The full text of the Resolution itself follows:

U.N. Security Council Resolution 2139 (2014)

“The Security Council,

“Recalling its resolutions 2042 (2012), 2043 (2012) and 2118 (2013), and its presidential statements of 3 August 2011, 21 March 2012, 5 April 2012 and 2 October 2013,

“Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria, and to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations,

“Being appalled at the unacceptable and escalating level of violence and the death of well over 100,000 people in Syria, including over 10,000 children, as reported by the UN Secretary-General and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict,

“Expressing grave alarm at the significant and rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Syria, in particular the dire situation of hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped in besieged areas, most of whom are besieged by the Syrian armed forces and some by opposition groups, as well as the dire situation of over 3 million people in hard-to-reach areas, and deploring the difficulties in providing, and the failure to provide, access for the humanitarian assistance to all civilians in need inside Syria,

“Emphasizing the need to respect the UN guiding principles of humanitarian emergency assistance and stressing the importance of such assistance being delivered on the basis of need, devoid of any political prejudices and aims, commending the efforts of the United Nations and all humanitarian and medical personnel in Syria and in neighbouring countries, and condemning all acts or threats of violence against United Nations staff and humanitarian actors, which have resulted in the death, injury and detention of many humanitarian personnel,

“Expressing grave concern at the increasing number of refugees and internally displaced persons caused by the conflict in Syria, which has a destabilising impact on the entire region, and underscoring its appreciation for the significant and admirable efforts that have been made by the countries of the region, notably Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, to accommodate the more than 2.4 million refugees who have fled Syria as a result of the on-going violence, while acknowledging the enormous political, socioeconomic and financial impact of the presence of large-scale populations in these countries, and underscoring the need for all parties to respect and maintain the security and civilian character of camps for refugees and internally displaced persons,

“Welcoming the pledges totalling $2.5 billion at the Second International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, hosted by Kuwait on 15 January 2014, and expressing its appreciation to Member States and regional and subregional organizations that have pledged to provide humanitarian assistance to people in need in all parts of Syria, including internally displaced persons, as well as to refugees in neighbouring host countries, and calling on all Member States to ensure the timely disbursement of pledges and continued support in line with growing humanitarian needs,

“Calling on all parties to immediately end all violence which has led to human suffering in Syria, save Syria’s rich societal mosaic and cultural heritage, and take appropriate steps to ensure the protection of Syria’s World Heritage Sites,

“Strongly condemning the increased terrorist attacks resulting in numerous casualties and destruction carried out by organizations and individuals associated with Al-Qaida, its affiliates and other terrorist groups, and reiterating its call on all parties to commit to putting an end to terrorist acts perpetrated by such organizations and individuals, while reaffirming that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed,

“Expressing its regret that its presidential statement of 2 October 2013 (S/PRST/2013/15) has not delivered as expected and has not yet translated into meaningful progress on the ground, and that humanitarian aid delivery continues to be impeded throughout Syria, while condemning all cases of denial of humanitarian access and recalling that arbitrary denial of humanitarian access and depriving civilians of objects indispensable to their survival, including wilfully impeding relief supply and access, can constitute a violation of international humanitarian law,

“Emphasizing that the humanitarian situation will continue to deteriorate in the absence of a political solution to the crisis, reiterating its endorsement of the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012 (Annex II of Resolution 2118 (2113)) and demanding that all parties work towards the immediate and comprehensive implementation of the Geneva Communiqué aimed at bringing an immediate end to all violence, violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international law, and facilitating the Syrian-led political process launched in Montreux on 22 January 2014, leading to a transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people and enables them independently and democratically to determine their own future,

“1. Strongly condemns the widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the Syrian authorities, as well as the human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law by armed groups, including all forms of sexual and gender-based violence, as well as all grave violations and abuses committed against children in contravention of applicable international law, such as recruitment and use, killing and maiming, rape, attacks on schools and hospitals as well as arbitrary arrest, detention, torture, ill treatment and use as human shields, as described in the United Nations Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict in Syria (S/2014/31);

“2. Demands that all parties immediately put an end to all forms of violence, irrespective of where it comes from, cease and desist from all violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights, and reaffirm their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and stresses that some of these violations may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity;

“3. Demands that all parties immediately cease all attacks against civilians, as well as the indiscriminate employment of weapons in populated areas, including shelling and aerial bombardment, such as the use of barrel bombs, and methods of warfare which are of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering, and recalls in this regard the obligation to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law in all circumstances, and further recalls, in particular, the obligation to distinguish between civilian populations and combatants, and the prohibition against indiscriminate attacks, and attacks against civilians and civilian objects as such;

“4. Demands that all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, fully implement the provisions of the 2 October 2013 statement by the President of the Security Council (S/PRST/2013/15) including through facilitating the expansion of humanitarian relief operations, in accordance with applicable provisions of international humanitarian law and the UN guiding principles of humanitarian emergency assistance;

“5. Calls upon all parties to immediately lift the sieges of populated areas, including in the Old City of Homs (Homs), Nubl and Zahra (Aleppo), Madamiyet Elsham (Rural Damascus), Yarmouk (Damascus), Eastern Ghouta (Rural Damascus), Darayya (Rural Damascus) and other locations, and demands that all parties allow the delivery of humanitarian assistance, including medical assistance, cease depriving civilians of food and medicine indispensable to their survival, and enable the rapid, safe and unhindered evacuation of all civilians who wish to leave, and underscores the need for the parties to agree on humanitarian pauses, days of tranquillity, localised cease-fires and truces to allow humanitarian agencies safe and unhindered access to all affected areas in Syria, recalling that starvation of civilians as a method of combat is prohibited by international humanitarian law;

“6. Demands that all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, promptly allow rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access for UN humanitarian agencies and their implementing partners, including across conflict lines and across borders, in order to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches people in need through the most direct routes;

“7. Urges all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, to take all appropriate steps to facilitate the efforts of the United Nations, its specialized agencies, and all humanitarian actors engaged in humanitarian relief activities, to provide immediate humanitarian assistance to the affected people in Syria, including by promptly facilitating safe and unhindered humanitarian access to populations in need of assistance in all areas under their control, and encourages further cooperation between the United Nations, its specialized agencies and all parties concerned, including Syrian civil society organisations, to facilitate access and the delivery of assistance in the entirety of the Syrian territory;

“8. Demands that all parties respect the principle of medical neutrality and facilitate free passage to all areas for medical personnel, equipment, transport and supplies, including surgical items, and recalls that under international humanitarian law, the wounded and sick must receive, to the fullest extent practicable, and with the least possible delay, medical care and attention required by their condition and that medical and humanitarian personnel, facilities and transport must be respected and protected, and expresses grave concern in this regard at the removal of medical supplies from humanitarian shipments;

“9. Also demands that all parties take all appropriate steps to protect civilians, including members of ethnic, religious and confessional communities, and stresses that, in this regard, the primary responsibility to protect its population lies with the Syrian authorities;

“10. Further demands that all parties demilitarize medical facilities, schools and other civilian facilities and avoid establishing military positions in populated areas and desist from attacks directed against civilian objects;

“11. Strongly condemns the arbitrary detention and torture of civilians in Syria, notably in prisons and detention facilities, as well as the kidnappings, abductions and forced disappearances, and demands the immediate end of these practices and the release of all arbitrarily detained persons starting with women and children, as well as sick, wounded and elderly people and including UN personnel and journalists;

“12. Urges all parties to take all appropriate steps to ensure the safety and security of United Nations personnel, those of its specialized agencies, and all other personnel engaged in humanitarian relief activities, without prejudice to their freedom of movement and access, stresses that the primary responsibility in this regard lies with the Syrian authorities and further stresses the need not to impede these efforts;

“13. Stresses the need to end impunity for violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights, and reaffirms that those who have committed or are otherwise responsible for such violations and abuses in Syria must be brought to justice;

“14. Strongly condemns the increased terrorist attacks resulting in numerous casualties and destruction carried out by organisations and individuals associated with Al-Qaida, its affiliates and other terrorist groups, urges the opposition groups to maintain their rejection of these organizations and individuals which are responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law in opposition-held areas, calls upon the Syrian authorities and opposition groups to commit to combating and defeating organizations and individuals associated with Al-Qaida, its affiliates and other terrorist groups, demands that all foreign fighters immediately withdraw from Syria, and reaffirms that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed;

“15. Emphasizes that the humanitarian situation will continue to deteriorate in the absence of a political solution, welcomes in this regard the Geneva Conference on Syria launched in Montreux on 22 January 2014, and demands that all parties work towards the comprehensive implementation of the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012 leading to a genuine political transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people and enables them independently and democratically to determine their own future, and further stresses that rapid progress on a political solution should include full participation by all groups and segments of Syrian society, including women, and represents the only sustainable opportunity to resolve the situation in Syria peacefully, and that the implementation of this resolution is key to meeting the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people;

“16. Urges all Member States to contribute or increase their support to the United Nations’ humanitarian appeals to meet the spiralling needs of people affected by the crisis, and to provide this support in coordination with the relevant United Nations agencies, and to ensure that all pledges are honoured in full, and further urges all Member States, based on burden sharing principles, to support the neighbouring host countries to enable them to respond to the growing humanitarian needs, including by providing direct support;

“17. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council on the implementation of this resolution by all parties in Syria, in particular paragraphs 2 through 12, in 30 days of its adoption and every 30 days thereafter, and upon receipt of the Secretary-General’s report, expresses its intent to take further steps in the case of non-compliance with this resolution;

“18. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.”

The Trenchant Observer

Putin’s seizure of the Crimea and Hitler’s seizure of the Sudetenland: The comparison is accurate

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

After seizing the Sudetenland, Adolf Hitler began persecuting the Jews in the newly annexed territories. That Vladimir Putin has not done.

In other major respects, Putin’s military seizure of the Crimea is comparable to Hitler’s seizure of the Sudetenland. These include the “Big Lie” that citizens sharing the culture and language of the aggressor were being persecuted, the mobilization of local paramilitary forces to support the invasion, and annexation of the respective territories to that of the invading nation. One difference is that Hitler, through the threat of military force, secured the acquiesence of France and Great Britain and the support of Italy through the signing of the infamous Munich Pact on September 30, 1938, by Eduoard Daladier, Neville Chamberlain and Benito Mussolini.

Statements by German leaders denying the comparison between Putin and Hitler may be dictated by a perceived need not to antagonize the aggressor, who is actively threatening further aggression with tens of thousands of troops poised on the border with the Ukraine. They are, however, factually inaccurate.

Alternatively, reluctance to admit the comparison may have deeper causes rooted in German pacifism and a willingness to try to solve the crisis through appeasement.

Putin has indeed used Hitler’s tactics in the Crimea. His threat of further aggression, backed by troops on the Ukrainian border, must be taken very seriously, as he could quite possibly be planning to invade Ukraine proper just as Hitler invaded “rump” Czechoslovakia in March, 1939.

See:

Carsten Luther, “Diesmal hilft die Hitler-Keule (Kommentar), Die Zeit, Aktualisiert 31. März 2014 (19:46 Uhr)

Wolfgang Schäuble hat Putins Annexion der Krim mit Hitlers Verhalten im Sudetenland verglichen. Die Aufregung ist groß, doch die Parallele stimmt. EIN KOMMENTAR VON CARSTEN LUTHER, 493 Kommentare

The Trenchant Observer

Fear of Provoking the Aggressor: Obama, Putin, and the West

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

Washington’s difidence in responding to the Ukraine’s request for military equipment, out of fear of provoking Russia to engage in further military aggression in the Ukriane (or elsewhere), reveals how deeply pacificist beliefs have permeated from the top into U.S. military and civilian leadership circles. Or, alternatively, it has demonstrated how effective a pacificist President in the U.S. has been in checking the normal upward flow of analysis, options, and proposals from military and civilian leaders.

The absence of Secretary of State John Kerry from the inner group of decision makers in Washington has been remarkable, suggesting he has been relegated to a preipheral role of flying all around the world and meeting with leaders, without having a seat at the dining room table where major decisions are made. One consequence of his absence is that the analyses and options developed by the State Department have no powerful defender at the White House. This kind of influence cannot be exercised by teleconference.

So, after the military seizure of the Crimea by Russia, what does it tell us that Obama is so concerned about provoking the Russian aggressor that he won’t even send military equipment to the Ukraine in response to its urgent request, which has been placed “under study”.

To the Observer, it suggests that Obama has been cowed by Putin in terms of taking actions beyond the mild targeted economic sanctions so far imposed by Europe and the U.S.–aimed at less than three dozen individuals and one bank.

Obama solves problems with beautifully crafted torrents of words. Putin seizes opportunities by stealth, lies and the decisive movement of troops and tanks.

It’s clear now that the sanctions imposed by the West have been “too little, too late”. If so-called “stage three” sanctions (real trade and financial sanctions directed against Russia itself) had been imposed immediately following the Russian military seizure of the Crimea, it is possible that Putin might have hesitated before proceeding to annex the peninsula.

For that matter, maybe Putin has already decided to intervene militarily in eastern Ukraine, and to use military force to prevent Ukriane’s movement toward integration in the the European Union.

Thus, for the moment, like Nevellie Chamberlain and Èdouard Daladier at Munich in September 1938, the U.S. appears to feel there is no alternative other than to cower before the aggresor.

At that point, of course, the aggressor has already won half the battle, which turns decisively on the will and determination of his opponents to stand up against further acts of aggression, through effective means.

With Obama now willing to have his Secretary of State meet with the Russian foreign minister to seek agreements that will forestall further Russian aggression–while rolling back its military seizure of the Ukraine is off the table, we can see clearly how a pacificst president continues to lead his nation down the road of appeasement.

See Anne Gearan, “U.S. seeks detente with Russia over Ukraine with Kerry, Lavrov to meet in Paris,” The Washington Post, March 29, 2014.

The sad truth is that Obama and his foreign policy team are not capable of leading the West — alone — in the current crisis with Russia, following the latter’s seizure and annexation of the Ukraine.

To meet bilaterally with Russia at this time, on these implicit terms, reflects Obama’s pacificism and constitutes a total act of further appeasement. Putin astutely has tried to peel off the U.S. from Europe, two days before NATO foreign ministers meet to decide upon a stronger response to Russia’s aggression. Obama, clueless, plays right into Putin’s attempt to divide the Western alliance.

The U.S. should meet with Russia, if at all, only if it is joined by representatives from EU and NATO governments, and then only if the restoration of the status quo ante prior to the Russian military takeover of Crimea is on the table for discussion.

We have seen how ready Obama is to sell out his allies, particularly in the case of the agreement in Geneva with Russia to remove chemical weapons from Syria. That agreement let Obama off the hook in terms of military strikes against Syria after the latter’s use of chemical weapons. But it also sold out the Syrian resistance and the strongest allies of the United States in the Gulf, including Saudi Arabia.

See “The Leopard and the Impala: Putin astutely plays Obama for a chump,” The Trenchant Observer, September 12, 2013.

Europeans and other NATO members, to safeguard their own interests and those of the West, should insist that they participate fully in any discussions involving Russia and the United States.

The pacifist mind-set which reigns in Washington is completely revealed by the agreement to hold bilateral talks between Kerry and Lavrov on Sunday. The move starkly undercuts the actions German Chancellor Angela Merkel and foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier are taking to develop a strong European consensus to opppose Russian aggression.

Obama seems far too ready to let stand the Russian military aggression and takeover of the Crimea, and get back to business as usual.

He is quite prepared to negotiate with the aggressor over whether Russia will commit further acts of aggression, under continued Russian military threats represented by tens of thousands of troops menacingly poised on the border with the Ukraine.

The moral bankruptcy of Barack Obama and the Obama administration has never been more fully on view.

The Trenchant Observer

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REPRISE—Appeasement in the West: Clueless Obama assures Russia the U.S. rules out the use of force in Ukraine

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

First published on March 20, 2014

President Barack Obama and top military leaders in the U.S. know nothing of the “coercive diplomacy” which Stanford political scientist Alexander George persuasively demonstrated has helped the U.S. avoid armed conflict on a number of occasions.

In his efforts to influence Putin’s calculus, Obama does not believe it is useful to maintain doubt in Putin’s mind as to whether the U.S. or NATO might respond with military force if, for example, Russia were to invade the rest of the Ukraine.

Obama pursued the same course in Syria, repeatedly reassuring his opponents (in Damascus, Moscow and Tehran), through his own statements or those of top U.S. and NATO military officials, that the U.S. and NATO would not use military force to halt the atrocities in that country.

When pushed into a corner by his own rhetoric about his “red line” on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and his own inaction in the face of smaller-scale attacks with chemical weapons in the months leading up to al-Assad’s attack at Ghouta on August 21, 2014, he made preparations to launch cruise missile and other attacks against Syria. In the weeks leading up to the point of decision, the press was full of leaks about the nature of the strikes being contemplated, including assurances that they would not involve major or extended military action.

When the moment came to launch even these self-described minimal strikes, Obama flinched, and did not order the strikes. Instead, without consulting his top military and civilian advisors, he threw the hot potato to Congress for authorization, which he had to know was unlikely, while grasping at the lifeline Russia threw to him to remove chemical weapons from Syria. The agreement brokered by John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov in Geneva and subsequently endorsed by the U.N. Security Counci, was reached in exchange for what has amounted to a policy of allowing al-Assad to remain in power and to continue his commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity on a very broad scale.

Obama apparently never heard of the old boxer’s maxim, “Never telegraph your punches.”

We are left with a leadership in the U.S, and Europe (except for France) of “hybrid” pacifists, who are unwilling to even think of the use of force to defend fundamental principles of the U.N. Charter and international law, and the Enlightenment values of individual freedom and respect for fundamental human rights (e.g., the right not to be tortured, or the right to trial by an independent judge), or indeed against the military seizure and annexation of the territory of another state.

They are “hybrid” pacifists because they will use force on a limited scale in Africa with Security Council authorization, but remain unwilling to consider the use of force in a major way to defend their most important national interests.

As the pacifists in Washington and Europe reassure Putin that they are not even considering the use of military force, no matter what he does, an entire civilization opens itself to the depredations of authoritarian rogue states like Russia, and a brutal reshaping of the political and economic order established and maintained for the last 70 years following plans for and the establishment of the United Nations.

Ronald Reagan in Berlin challenged the Soviet Union to “Tear down this wall!” Now Obama and the other pacifist leaders of the West reassure Putin and Russia (and China) that they will not even consider using force to defend their vital interests, no matter what Russia does, as new walls go up.

The sanctions for the miltary takeover of the Crimea hardly amounted to “a slap on the wrist”. The expansion of those sanctions to include additional targeted individuals and now a bank are more serious, but still unlikely to prevent Putin from further mischief in the Ukraine and with its economy over the next year or so, when the concentrated attention of the West has dissipated and things have returned to business as usual. There is no leverage to force Russia through negotiations to disgorge the Crimea. Thus, a military invasion and anexation of the territory of another state is likely to be left standing, in Europe.

Appeasement continues, as Russia and China urgently work on a treaty of alliance that would profoundly disrupt and reshape the postwar political and legal order. Meanwhile, the President of the European Parliament urgently warns of war in Europe if stiffer sanctions against Russia are not adopted.

Russian aggression. Tanks and rockets, and in the background rockets with nuclear weapons. Pacifist and clueless leaders in the West, determined to pursue–and to telegraph to Russia–a policy of appeasement in the face of Putin’s military threats.

The Trenchant Observer

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