Archive for the ‘History’ Category

The End of NATO: France proceeds with plans to deliver the first of two Mistral-class warships to Russia

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

Treachery Most Foul: François Hollande and France, in an appalling betrayal of NATO and NATO countries, plan to deliver a Mistral-class high-tech helicopter carrier and attack warship to Russia

See

(1) L’Obs avec AFP, “Le porte-hélicoptère Mistral sera-t-il livré à la Russie le 14 novembre ? Un ministre russe annonce la livraison pour cette date. Jean-Yves Le Drian, lui, affirme que François Hollande rendra sa décision “courant novembre”. Le porte-hélicoptère Mistral sera-t-il livré à la Russie le 14 novembre ? Le Nouvel Observateur, 29 Octobre 2014 (Mis à jour à 18h57).

(2) Sascha Lehnartz, “Frankreich liefert nun doch Kriegsschiffe an Russland; Wegen der Ukraine-Krise hatte Präsident Hollande einen umstrittenen Rüstungsdeal ausgesetzt. Aber nun will Frankreich die Helikopterträger offenbar doch ausliefern. Sie sind optimal für Invasionen,” Die Welt, 29. Oktober 2014.

(3) “Official document of the delivery of the Mistral to Russia on 14th of November, Nomistralsforputin.com, October 29, 2014.

(4) Le Nouvel Observateur: The scandalous history and details of the sale of two Mistral-class attack warships to Russia, The Trenchant Observer, August 16, 2014.

(5) Vincent Jauvert, “Mistral: enquête sur un contrat qui dérange, Le Nouvel Observateur, 10 août 2014.

We commented at the time the “Stage 3″ economic sanctions against Russia were under consideration, when France “suspended” its delivery of the first of two Mistral-class attack warships to Russia, that the move may have been aimed at avoiding inclusion of the delivery contracts on the sanctions list, and that Hollande could well proceed with their delivery at a later date.

This now appears to be imminent.

François Hollande’s last-minute “suspension” of the delivery of the warships is no reason not to include an absolute ban on the making or performance of any and all defense contracts, past and future, with Russia.

Otherwise, Hollande is fully capable of weaseling his way out of the present “suspension” and proceeding with actual delivery the ships. The delivery was suspended before, it should be recalled. Hollande lifted that suspension in June, when he invited Putin to visit him for dinner at the Elysee Palace after the D-Day celebrations at Normandy.

–“Western leaders, claiming there is no military solution in the Ukraine, prepare weak sanctions that will give Putin a military victory by Russian tanks,” Updated September 4, 2014.

Appeasement Triumphs over the Goals and Aims of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

There are no words that can fully express the dismay and outrage that the latest announcements regarding the delivery of the Mistral-class warship named the Vladilovstok evoke.

The fact that Hollande is even considering delivering these advanced weapons systems, that are fully a decade more advanced than those in Russia, to the principal antagonist to the member countries of NATO, to the one country which now poses the greatest threat toward their peace and security since the end of the Cold War and the demise of the Soviet Union, speaks volumes about the craven moral character of the French President, and indeed all of the major French political parties which at one time or another have been involved in this scandalous deal.

Contrast Hollande’s attitude toward the delivery of the Mistral-class warships to the eloquent words he spoke at Liège on August 4, 2014, at a conmemoration of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I:

(Use Google Translate for text in other languages)

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

Reproduced in “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,” The Trenchant Observer, August 5, 2014.

From Putin’s point of view, this is just one more step in Russia’s relentless campaign to use threats, invasions, and military force to break NATO and to undermine the leadership of the West.

The Russian vision is one of a world ruled by the kind of Machtpolitik (the politics of military power) that characterized international relations in Europe between 1933 and 1945, and which after the departure in 1890 of the great German statesman, Otto von Bismarck, characterized the rivalries and alliances in Europe that led to World War I in 1914. Bismarck, like his predecessor the Austrian foreign minister Klemens von Metternich, successfully managed the European balance of power system following the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and the peace treaties that ensued. The one major exception was, ironically, the Crimean War (1853-1856), in which Russia was defeated by a coalition of France, Britain, the Ottoman Empire, and Sardinia. There were also short wars in 1866 (Austro-Prussian War) and in 1870-71 (German-French War).

Machtpolitik or Rechtstaat–Europe’s choice–now stands before Europe, NATO and the EU as a real and urgent choice.

To deliver your best technology and most advanced assault warships to your principal enemy–and let there be no illusions about whether Russia is now the enemy of NATO including in particular those countries lying within the borders of the former Soviet Empire—is a historic betrayal of the values and interests that have undergirded the strongest and most successful defense alliance in history since its founding in 1949.

The delivery of the Mistral-class warship, scheduled for November 14 according to a letter to the Russians dated October 8, 2014 and made public recently, will sound the death knell of the Atlantic Alliance.

The Inevitable Break-up or Neutering of NATO?

The fact that the United States lacks effective foreign policy leadership, and that European and American pacifists and appeasers have succeeded in blocking more forceful actions in response to the Russian invasion and “annexation” of the Crimea, and the invasion and seizure of large sections of the Donbas region in the Ukraine including Donetsk and Luhansk, points to the inevitable breakup of NATO or its neutering.

Only if very drastic changes are made immediately, under new or reinvigorated leadership in NATO countries including the U.S., can this catastrophic scenario be averted. Signs that such leadership will emerge and that effective actions will be taken are not promising.

Even if the Mistral delivery is suspended again, NATO countries and particularly those in the East, will always know that they have enemies within the Alliance, enemies who would sell them down the river whenever they could if they could do so without incurring a signifricant cost.

The essential trust upon which the NATO alliance is built is now shattered.

What should be done?

The often apparently clueless U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, has recently met with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and publicly declared that Russia and the U.S. will work closely together in the future on intelligence matters, particularly in regard to the war on the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

President Barack Obama has been unable to formulate a coherent policy towards Syria and the Islamic State group, despite the fact that U.S. military forces are engaged in bombing (and probably other activities) in Syria.

At the same time, he appears not to understand the threat represented by Putin’s Russia, and seems singularly ill-equipped to lead the Atlantic Alliance in responding to military aggression by that country.

David Cameron of the U.K. is small-minded politician, currently demonstrating that he is a purely domestic Prime Minister by wrecklessly poisoning relations with the EU and Angela Merkel for short-sighted perceived political advantage.

In a world with real leaders, the President of the U.S. would tell France that it will cease future military and intellligence cooperation with that country if it proceeds to deliver the Vladilovstok to Russia, in November or at any other time.

In a world with real leaders, NATO would immediately convene an emergency meeting of foreign ministers (if not heads of state) to make it clear to the French that they must desist from the delivery of the Mistral-class warships to Russia.

And while the European Union is now under the leadership of a new Commission and Council which appear to be decidedly more appeasement-oriented than their predecessors, European foreign ministers if not heads of stage should immediately convene to consider the adoption of mandatory sanctions against Russia which would prohibit the execution of the Mistral-class warship contracts and their delivery.

But alas! we live in a world with pacifists and appeasers leading Europe and the United States, in “the great unraveling” in the memorable words of New York Times columnist Roger Cohen, in a world where as in 1914 and 1938-1939, things are spinning out of control.

The French decision, or the mere fact that François Hollande is considering delivery of the Mistral-class warship, when Russia still illegally occupies the Crimea following a military invasion and conquest and its purported “annexation”, demonstrates the chaotic nature of international politics in the absence of U.S. leadership.

Whereas 20 years ago a telephone call from the U.S. President to the President of France might have forestalled the disastrous decision that Hollande is about to take, Obama and the U.S. have lost the respect and authority which they once commanded.

As a result, now no country can lead the Atlantic Alliance. And with leaders like Hollande, NATO will surely collapse or become irrelevant. Vladimir Putin is relentlessly determined to destroy it.

In fact, NATO may already be irrelevant.

The Trenchant Observer

REPRISE — The fruits of pacifist foreign policies: Aggression in Ukraine, atrocities in Syria

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Viewing the developing Russian-Ukrainian war from the vantage point of March 3, 2014, it is striking to note how much of what has happened since was in effect a tragedy foretold. It has indeed been a tragedy foretold, like in a Greek tragedy where the audience (here, some in the audience) know the outcome, but the chief protagonists don’t, as they proceed to go about playing their tragic roles.

The question today (October 21, 2014), of course, is whether we can see further tragedies about to unfold and yet may still act to avert what the Greeks might have considered to be irreversible Fate.

*******

REPRISE — The fruits of pacifist foreign policies: Aggression in Ukraine, atrocities in Syria; Merkel’s fact-finding mission—a last chance to avert disaster?,” The Trenchant Observer, March 3, 2014.

First published on March 3, 2014

The new hybrid pacifism

The new, hybrid pacifism of Barack Obama and NATO countries has been obscured by Obama’s use of drones, and military operations begun long ago but now winding down in Afghanistan.

The military intervention of France and NATO in Libya pursuant to a U.N. Security Council mandate represented an exception to the general pacifism which characterizes Obama’s foreign policy, an exception and now rare case (outside of Africa) where military action is undertaken pursuant to authorization by the U.N. Security Council.

Other interventions by France and U.N. and African Union forces in Mali and the Central African Republic have reflected the paradoxical nature of current pacifist policies, which are hybrid in nature, admitting the use of military force to stabilize situations in African countries when there is a Security Council mandate or an invitation by the government of the target country.

However, often hiding behind simplistic interpretations of legal prohibitions, in effect ruling out the strong use of military force against powerful opponents when real blood and treasure must be put at risk, the new hybrid pacifism has the effect of ceding the playing field to ruthless countries such as Syria, Iran and Russia, allowing war crimes, crimes against humanity, and military invasions to effectively go unopposed.

On legal interpretations and justifications, see Sir Daniel Bethlehem QC, “Stepping Back a Moment – The Legal Basis in Favour of a Principle of Humanitarian Intervention,” EJIL Talk, September12, 2013.

The U.S. and other NATO countries, reeling from their losses in Iraq and Afghanistan, with little to show for their sacrifices, don’t want to live in a world where real military force may have to be used.

So they rule it out. U.S. and NATO military leaders, seemingly unaware of the impact of their words on adversaries, loudly proclaim they are ruling out the possible use of military force. This has occurred not only in the Ukraine, but also and repeatedly in Syria. These statements, like those of U.S. military leaders stressing the difficulty of taking military action in Syria, are essentially aimed at domestic audiences and allied governments while naively ignoring their impact on opponents.

Furthermore, it is painful to see military and NATO leaders allow themselves to get drawn into political debates, in public. These discussions should be conducted behind closed doors, without leaks to the press about what is going on or what leaders are thinking with respect to military action.

In Syria, this new, hybrid pacifism has been obscured behind cynical acceptance of Kofi Annan’s illusory six-point peace plan for Syria (and the promise of political settlement at the Geneva I and Geneva II peace conferences), and behind the simplistic legal argument that the U.N. Charter prohibits any military action (except self-defense) without the approval of the Security Council, even to stop the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity on a massive scale, as in Syria.

Under this interpretation, Russia would have been allowed to install nuclear missiles aimed at the United States during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October, 1963, the genocidal war in the former Yugoslavia would never have been halted, and Serbian ethnic cleansing in Kosovo in 1999 would have been allowed to proceed.

In a future world (after the Permanent Members’ veto has been eliminated), adherence to such a norm would be essential. In the meantime, we must rely on the closest approximations possible, limiting any such actions to the most narrowly circumscribed cases, where there is overwhelming support by the nations of the world for the action to be undertaken, and preferably when it is carried out under the authorization of another international organization.

In any event, this new form of hybrid pacifism has taken hold in America and NATO countries. As a result, Bashar al-Assad has been left free to commit his atrocities, which include not only the bombardment of civilian populations including hospitals and medical personnel, but also the arrests, torture, and executions in the night which do not make the daily news, and of which those who follow events closely only hear much later from international organizations when the latter report, for example, that maybe 80,000 people have “disappeared”.

Another, highly significant result has been Russia’s aggression against the Ukraine in February and March, 2014. This aggression follows that in Georgia in 2008, which NATO and the West allowed to stand, conducting business as usual with Russia afterwards. To be sure, Georgia was not blameless in the evolution of events. However, in the end Russian aggression through the illegal use of force across international frontiers was allowed to stand, without serious consequences for Russia.

Russia’s calculus in the Ukraine might have been very different had Anders Rasmussen, the Secretary General of NATO, not assured his members–and Russia–that options involving the use of force by NATO were not under consideration, and if, for example, NATO countries had put their military forces on alert, and NATO naval and air assets been strategically deployed within the region.

Now, however, absent a determined will to deploy force against the illegal threat or use of force, the pacifist leaders of the U.S. and Europe, and other NATO countries, must now resign themselves to the depredations of a Russian leader willing to invade neighboring countries in utter defiance of international law, and indeed the foundations of the post-WW II international legal and political order.

Given the current pacifism of the West, and given the fact that major consequences for Russia have already been triggered by its military intervention in the Ukraine, there is little to dissuade Putin from similarly using his military power to bring Georgia and Moldova (and other former Soviet Republics) back within the Russian “sphere of influence” or community of states.

China supports Russia, suggesting that it too might in the future be willing to settle its disputes with its neighbors through the use of military force.

Nonetheless, we need to recall certain hard-won lessons from history.

International law and order are in the end indivisible, for if the prohibition of the threat or use of force can be defied with impunity by one country in one part of the world, surely it can be defied by other countries elsewhere. When Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in 1983, it is worth recalling, the military operation was named “Operation Goa”, recalling the precedent set by India when it invaded the Portuguese colony and enclave of Goa in 1961.

Obama’s pacifism, and that of Europe and NATO, have left a vacuum in Europe which Vladimir Putin appears ready to fill with Russian military forces. Even if his actions are delusional, and make no sense in reality as the latter is understood in the West, they have already had momentous consequences which will reshape economic and political relations in Europe and beyond for decades to come.

Further, Putin’s actions have produced a situation in which the Ukraine has become a tinderbox, while madmen are running around with torches in their hands.

War is by its very nature wholly unpredictable. What could happen, for example, if Russians started killing Ukrainians, and Poland decided to send military forces to support Kiev in exercise of the right of collective self-defense?

Impact on Nuclear Proliferation

One impact from Russian intervention in Ukraine is of exceptional significance for the future of international peace and security. Following Russia’s violation of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum guaranteeing the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of the Ukraine in exchange for its surrender of its nuclear weapons, it is inconceivable that any arms control agreement with Russia could be ratified by the U.S. Senate so long as Putin remains in power–and probably long thereafter.

See Peter Spiegel, “Ukraine and the West: an international legal primer, Financial Times (Brussels Blog), March 2, 2014.

If one thinks carefully about the Russian military intervention in the Ukraine, it is obvious that Russia would have been extremely reluctant to engage in such behavior if the Ukraine still had the 1900 nuclear warheads on missiles it surrendered in 1994, when it also joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

One of the greatest impacts of the Russian military intervention in the Ukraine is likely to be the powerful impetus it will give to the forces of nuclear proliferation. Even in the context of the 5+1 nuclear talks with Iran, the invasion is likely to reduce the credibility of any guarantees of Iranian territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence to near zero, at least insofar as Russia is concerned..

A Last chance to draw back from the abyss? Merkel’s fact-finding mission

There may still be a slight chance to avoid unleashing the dogs of war, what the founders of the United Nations referred to as “the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind” (U.N. Charter, Preamble, below).

Russia and Putin appear to be under a kind of delusional spell which seems to result from believing their own propaganda, having stirred up a public which appears eager to use military force, in scenes reminiscent of the enthusiasm for war felt among the populations of the European powers in 1914 on the eve of and during the first days of World War I.

In these circumstances, Angela Merkel’s proposal to send an impartial fact-finding mission to the Crimea and the Ukraine should be implemented immediately. Putin has told Merkel that he agrees to the proposition.

The mission could be undertaken under the aegis of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), or even an organ of the U.N. such as the Human Rights Council where Russia does not have a veto.

At the same time, it could be useful for NATO to place some military forces on alert and move military assets into place in case a need arises for them to be used.

Russia is spewing lies about what is going on in the Crimea and the Ukraine, and seeking to provoke violence which might provide a thin veneer of legitimacy to its legal claims that it is intervening in the Crimea to protect its nationals.

These claims should be rebutted immediately in official reports published by NATO and other countries. The fact that the transitional president of Ukraine has vetoed a bill which would have revoked the 2010 language law allowing use of Russian as a second language should be made known to every citizen in Ukraine.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1963, John F. Kennedy and Nikita Krushchev exchanged letters at the most critical moments of the crisis, when nuclear war was a most palpable possibility. Khrushchev sent one letter to Kennedy on Friday, October 26 which was conciliatory in tone:

If, however, you have not lost your self-control and sensibly conceive what this might lead to, then, Mr. President, you and I ought not now to pull on the ends of the rope in which you have tied the knots of war, because the more the two of us pull, the tighter the knot will be tied. And a moment may come when that knot will be tied so tight that even he who tied it will not have the strength to untie it, and then it will be necessary to cut that knot, and what that would mean is not for me to explain to you, because you yourself understand perfectly of what terrible forces our countries dispose.

–“Krushchev letter of October 26, as received in the White House,” reprinted in Larson, “Cuban Crisis”, pp. 175-80, quoted in Graham Allison and Philip Zelikow, “Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis,” at p. 355 (2d ed. 1999).

Saturday, October 27, when an American U-2 was shot down over Cuba, a much harsher letter bearing the stamp of the Kremlin’s collective leadership was broadcast over the radio, adding new conditions to the offer in the Friday letter. Kennedy decided to ignore the second letter and to reply to the first (in what was referred to as “a Trollope ploy”, alluding to the acceptance of ambivalent gestures as a marriage proposal, in Anthony Trollope’s 19th century novels).

The West should now follow Kennedy’s example, and accept Putin’s acceptance of Merkel’s proposal for sending a fact-finding mission to the Ukraine, regardless of what he or the Russians have said since. Moreover, they should do so at breakneck speed, blasting through the diplomatic procedures that normally slow things down. The goal must be to get the first elements of the fact-finding mission on the ground in the Crimea within a matter of hours, not days. Time is of the essence.

Reports from the mission, including daily press briefings or updates, could then help defuse the war fever in Russia, affording Putin a gradual way to climb down should he become sufficiently enlightened to do so. Also worth bearing in mind is the fact that he may have unleashed organizational and bureaucratic forces which are not easily controlled, and may need time to be able to reverse course successfully when and if he comes to his senses and decides to do so.

The ends of the rope on which the knot of war has been tied must be loosened now, if at all possible, even at this late hour. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, assisted by her capable and experienced foreign minister, Walter-Frank Steinmeier, should lead the effort, with full support from the United States, France, Poland and other European and NATO countries.

The Trenchant Observer

Ommitted: Preamble to the United Nations Charter

REPRISE II: Dare anyone say it? “We applaud the courage of the Ukrainian government and people in defending public order and the sovereignty and territorial independence of the Ukraine.”

Monday, October 20th, 2014

October 20, 2014

Since the article below was written, Russia continued its invasion of the eastern Ukraine sending in Russian troops, tanks, artillery and other equipment, which participated in the fighting and rolled back some of the recent gains of the Ukrainian army. NATO decided on September 5 to establish a rapid reaction force in eastern Europe, and to reiterate the goal of each member spending 2% of GDP on defense (to be achieved within 10 years). The EU adopted harsher “Stage 3″ economic sanctions against Russia on September 5, and after some hesitation finally implemented them on September 12. The U.S. implemented parallel harsher sanctions shortly thereafter.

The Minsk Protocol was also signed on September 5, and generally halted the advance of Russian and separatists forces on Mariupol, though sporadic fighting has continued. The current situation is that of a truce which is only partially working, as Russian troops remain in the eastern Ukraine or on the border poised to dictate terms to Kiev. Vladimir Putin’s announced order to withdraw 17,000 troops from the border area, made in anticipation of the Milan summit and side meetings on October 16-18, 2014, has not produced any noticeable movement on the ground accounting to NATO’s top commander, U.S. Gen. Philip Breedlove.

Putin has had the effrontery to argue that his invasion of the Crimea was legal under international law.

Angela Merkel disputed that assertion in Milan.

The whole world should dispute that assertion, every minute of every day, until even Vladimir Putin, the dictator of Russia, get’s the point. He has no legitimacy or authority to criticize anyone. He needs to implement the Minsk protocol, all 12 steps, including the withdrawal of Russian troops.

Putin will also need to return matters to the status quo ante in the Crimea, perhaps as part of and in order to make possible a negotiated settlement of the Crimean conflict of 2014. International administration of the peninsula for a couple of years, followed by a genuine plebiscite under international supervision, represents one potential path that might be explored. As a military diktat, the invasion and annexation of the Crimea will not stand.

Following is the introduction to the REPRISE of this article and then the original article itself.

*****************

July 6, 2014

In what may be a turning point in efforts to defend the country’s territorial integrity and repel Russia’s aggression and military intervention in the eastern Ukraine by special forces, intelligence operatives, and so-called Russian “volunteers” under their direction and control, Ukrainian forces have retaken Sloviansk and Kramatorsk and are pressing foreward with their “anti-terrorist” campaign. The so-called “separatists” withdrew first from Sloviansk to Kramatorsk, and then shortly thereafter from Kramatorsk to Donetsk.

See:

(1) Pilar Bonnet, “Los prorrusos acusan a Putin de traicionarles para mantener su poder; Los rebeldes creen que Rusia les abandona para evitar el conflicto con Occidente, El Pais, 6 de Julio 2014 (22:49 CEST).

(2) “Regierungstruppen wollen Donezk und Luhansk belagern
Die ukrainische Armee will die Städte Donezk und Luhansk blockieren und die Separatisten zur Kapitulation zwingen. Diese haben heftigen Widerstand angekündigt,” Die Zeit, 6. Juli 2014, 6. Juli 2014 (20:28 Uhr).

(3) Ukraine-Krise: Armee rückt auf Millionenstadt Donezk vor; Die Rebellenhochburg Slowjansk ist schon erobert – nun nähert sich das ukrainische Militär der Metropole Donezk. Dort halten sich prorussische Milizen zu Tausenden verschanzt. Es droht ein Belagerungszustand,” Der Spiegel, 6. Juli 2014 (17:48 Uhr).

(4) Le Monde avec AFP et Reuter, “Les forces ukrainiennes progressent vers Donetsk,” 6 Juillet 2014 (Mis à jour à 23h09)–avec carte / with map.

(5) Benoît Vitkine (Sloviansk, envoyé spécial), “Ukraine: le récit de la chute de Sloviansk, tournant de la guerre entre l’armée et les séparatistes,” Le Monde 06 Juillet 2014 (Mis à jour à 11h09)

(6) Alan Cullison (in Sloviansk) and Philip Shishkin (in Donetsk), “Ukrainian Government Troops Target Further Gains in East; Separatist Leaders Say Evacuation From Slovyansk Was Strategic,” Wall Street Journal, July 6, 2014 (Updated 11:51 a.m. ET).

(7) “A day in Sloviansk after liberation,” Kviv Post, July 6, 2014 (6:05 p.m.)(with photos).

REPRISE: Dare anyone say it? “We applaud the courage of the Ukrainian government and people in defending public order and the sovereignty and territorial independence of the Ukraine,” July 6, 2014.

First published on May 3, 2014

REPRISE published on July 6, 2014.

In the face of Russian aggression, in the last few days the Ukrainian government has shown great courage in defending public order, and the territorial integrity, political independence and sovereignty of their nation.

Their courageous actions should make the authors of the cowardly responses of the West and the broader international community feel deeply ashamed. For the latter have merely paid lip service to the defense of freedom, human rights and international law, while engaging in a policy of pacifism and appeasement in the face of blatant Russian aggression.

Nor is the duty to act to uphold the U.N. Charter, international law, and the maintenance of international peace and security solely that of the United States and the West. The abstention by Brazil, South Africa, India and other countries on the General Assembly resolution condemning the invasion and annexation of the Crimea, for example, will long remain as a black page in the histories of these countries.

The appeasement by the West and other countries is particularly clear with respect to the military invasion and annexation by Russia of the Crimea. These actions have upended the entire postwar international political and legal order. The demands of Western leaders for a restoration of the status quo ante in the Crimea have grown silent, while they have adopted no sanctions which can be realistically viewed as aimed at securing a reversal of the aggression and annexation.

In all communities, the force of law and its deterrent effect weakens when the community whose interests it protects do not act to uphold its norms.

Russia’s invasion and annexation of the Crimea, its attack on the eastern Ukraine through special operations forces and the organization, coordination and direction of pro-Russian militias and armed thugs–taking over public buildings and even towns by armed force, and its continuing threats of military intervention by massing combat-ready troops on the border poised to launch an invasion, have placed the entire postwar military, political and legal order in question in the greatest crisis of this nature since World War II.

Will anyone speak out in praise of the actions of the Ukrainian government, without which Russian aggression would triumph, and the rule of law and protection of the human rights of citizens in the eastern Ukraine would be lost?

Are Western leaders afraid to remind the world each time they speak that Russia has committed aggression in the Crimea and continues fresh acts of aggression in the eastern Ukraine?

Will they not only speak out in defense of international law and human rights, in defense of liberty and the rule of law, but also undertake immediate and concrete measures of a serious nature to come to the defense of the Kiev government and assist it in facing down Russian aggression?

Though Barack Obama and Angela Merkel and other world leaders seem oblivious to the fact, Ukrainian soldiers and security forces are today fighting to uphold the principles of the U.N. Charter and international law which guarantee their security and that of the citizens they represent.

If these leaders can grasp this point, might they not do more, through really significant actions, to aid the Ukraine in its defense of their common values of respect for international law and international human rights?

The future of their countries and of the international political and legal order are in their hands. If they are leaders, and not merely followers of ill-informed public opinions on critical foreign policy matters, can and will they lead?

The Trenchant Observer

REPRISE II — Putin’s wager: Russia’s rogue authoritarianism versus fundamental human rights and the existing international political and legal order

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

Russia and the Ukraine—The Big Picture

Originally published April 24, 2014

In a fatal error, Putin challenges the modern postwar international political and legal order

It is historically ironic, and from Vladimir Putin’s point of view perhaps tragic, that Russia’s crowning achievement at the Sochi Winter Games culminated precisely when the Yanukovych government in the Ukraine began to stumble and fall. On the other hand, Putin had only himself to blame.

Since then, Vladimir Putin has overreached, and made the fatal mistake of undertaking actions that put Russia permanently at odds with the world’s international political, legal and economic order.

While formally created during and at the end of World War II (1939-1945), the system has roots that go back to Hugo Grotius and the Thirty Years’ War of 1618-1648. The idea for the United Nations can be traced back to the Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907, and the Covenant of the League of Nations and the founding of the League in 1919.

Since the founding of the United Nations in 1945, the system of international law established within the framework of the United Nations Charter, including its bedrock principle prohibiting the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, has become the very fabric of international society, constituting principles that have been repeatedly accepted in countless treaties and agreements as binding norms of international law by virtually every country.

Now along comes Russia’s new Dictator to suppress within Russia fundamental human rights such as freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the right to a fair trial; to challenge the entire structure of the existing international political and legal order by invading the Ukraine, seizing the Crimea by military force and annexing it to Russia; and now threatening to invade the eastern Ukraine if the government of that country responds to Russia’s initial invasion by special forces and seizure of government buildings by force with its own necessary and legal use of force to reassert its control over its own government offices and territory.

Putin wants Russia to be able to invade the eastern Ukraine with special forces, and then to be able to decry any attempt by the Ukrainian government to restore public order as “crimes” against the Ukrainian constitution. He does so without mentioning his own crimes against the Russian constitution by suppressing civil liberties, or his own use of brutal force in putting down the rebellion in Chechnya–which included the commission of war crimes on a very large scale.

Putin and his lieutenant, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, accuse the Ukraine and the West of violating international law, as they sit on the spoils of Russian aggression in the Crimea, and openly threaten military intervention in the Eastern Ukraine if that country’s government moves with force to restore public order and the ordinary functioning of government institutions.

Like the case of Northern Cyprus, invaded by Turkey in 1967, or East Timor which was invaded and annexed by Indonesia in 1975, Russian invasion and annexation of the Crimea will never be accepted by other nations.

Nor will any further conquests in the eastern Ukraine, or of independent countries which formerly made up the Soviet Union, ever be recognized.

An invasion of the eastern Ukraine will indeed produce results, just not those Putin in his demented shortsightedness seeks to secure.

An immediate result will be stiffer sanctions from the U.S. and the EU, which moreover are likely to grow in intensity over time.

An invasion is highly likely to produce permanent enmity toward Russia in the Ukraine, and to strengthen the desire of Ukrainians, East and West, to join the European Union and, if necessary to protect their independence in the future, to join NATO as well (whatever time may be required to achieve this result).

An invasion is also likely to produce energetic responses from NATO aimed at Russia, if not immediately then at least over the intermediate term. To counter potential Russian aggression, large forces of American and other NATO-country troops are likely to eventually be moved from Germany to forward bases in Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. The current drawdown of American forces from Europe, in time, could be reversed.

Europe will probably also undertake vigorous policies to reduce its consumption of Russian gas and oil, though this may take a few years.

Putin’s wager is that his domestic repression and suppression of freedom of the press, free elections, the right to a fair trial and other fundamental human rights will be a model others will want to emulate, or at least be willing to ignore.

His wager that wars of aggression involving military invasions and the annexation of conquered territories will not matter to other countries, which will be happy to look the other way and continue doing business with Russia, is not likely to be successful in the middle or long term.

To be sure, the slowness with which democracies respond to military challenges may appear to be acqiescence or appeasement in the short term, but in the intermediate to longer term the combined economic and military strength of the U.S., NATO, Japan and their allies will be able to contain Russian military expansionism while depriving Russia of vital opportunities to join the first ranks of nations in a wired and interconnected world.

Finally, Putin’s wager overlooks the vital forces within Russia itself, symbolized by courageous dissidents such as Andrei Sakharov, or even Communist party leaders like Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. These forces have visions of Russia that are deeply at odds with Putin’s embodiment of autocratic dictatorship at home, and wars of aggression abroad.

Putin’s wager may in fact hasten the day when his greatest fears are realized, the day the Maidan comes to Red Square.

The Trenchant Observer

Putin’s response to new sanctions: (1) New invasion of Donbas with white truck convoy, entering without authorization or inspection; and (2) Renewed fighting (artillery and rockets) in Donetsk

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

Putin Escalates Crisis in Response to New Sanctions

Russian President Vladimir Putin has reacted true to form, in response to the entry into force of the new EU and U.S. Sanctions against Russia on Friday, September 12, by sending a second white-truck convoy across the border and into the Dunbas region of the Ukraine without the latter’s authorization, any inspection, or any agreement with the OSCE or the International Red Cross of any kind.

This action, which began on Saturday, constitutes yet another flagrant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and the prohibition of the threat or use of force contained in Article 2 paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter and international law.

An emergency session of the U.N. Security Council should be called, where the details of this latest act of aggression are laid out, and Putin’s claims no Russian soldiers have entered the Ukraine are irrebutably refuted with detailed factual evidence.

The strong light of publicity is needed to defeat Putin’s strategy of progressive desensitization, so that Russia can violate Ukraine’s border at will, and in the end no one takes it very seriously because it has already happened so many times.

Lest the Russians think they are being cute on the “threat or use of force” aspect, all observers will note that they secured access to the territory of the Ukraine first by an irregular “stealth invasion” which took down the border posts and command centers, followed by a direct invasion of the Ukraine by regular Russian troops. These, despite President Petro Porosheno’s declaration that 70% of the troops had been withdrawn, according to NATO’s latest statements, remain in the eastern Ukraine.

These latest actions by Russia are consistent with Putin’s modus operandi vis-vis the Ukraine, according to which he responds to each countermove by the West to his military aggression with an escalation on the ground.

He is a judo master, and quite adroit at drawing his opponent (here, the West) to make a lunge in response to a feint, while simultaneously attacking him from an entirely different direction.

For example, in August he used the much-touted and much-delayed white truck convoy of “humanitarian aid” to capture the West’s full attention, while sending thousands of soldiers, tanks, artillery and other equipment into the Donbass across open fields in the middle of the night.

At the same time, he has demonstrated how fragile the Minsk ceasefire is and how it could collapse at his command, by resuming the fighting in Donetsk, firing artillery, rockets and other weapons in a concerted attack on the Donetsk airport, which remains in Ukrainian hands.

See

(1) Martin Williams and agencies, “Ukraine fights off attack on Donetsk airport by pro-Russia forces; Russian rocket launchers seen moving through eastern city as Ukraine’s PM says his country is in ‘stage of war’ with Russia,” the Guardian, September 13, 2014 (12:52 EDT).

On Saturday, Russia sent a convoy across the border, but Ukraine’s top leaders have remained largely silent, underscoring how dramatically the mood has shifted in the Kiev government since a ceasefire deal was struck.

Russian reports claimed the convoy was loaded with humanitarian aid, but the border crossing did not have the approval of Kiev or oversight of the international Red Cross. A similar convoy in August was loudly condemned by Ukrainian officials as an invasion, but this time around Lysenko simply called the move “illegal.”

He said: “Ukraine border guards and customs were not allowed to examine the cargo and vehicles. Representatives of the Red Cross don’t accompany the cargo, nobody knows what’s inside.”

(2) Gareth Jones and Anton Sverev, “Ukraine PM slams Putin, ceasefire again under strain in east Ukraine,” Reuters, September 13, 2014 (2:35pm EDT).

On Saturday afternoon, a Reuters reporter heard heavy artillery fire in northern districts of Donetsk, the largest city of the region with a pre-war population of about one million. He saw plumes of black smoke above the airport, which is in government hands. The city is controlled by the rebels.

New EU and U.S. Sanctions against Russia enter into force

Fortunately, the EU published its new sanctions against Russia in the Journal Officiel on Friday, September 12, at which time they went into effect. The United also announced on Friday that it was imposing parallel new sanctions om Russia.

Now, added to the NATO’s decisions on September 4-5 to establish a 5,000 man quick reaction force for deployment to member states in the East if necessary, and to reaffirm of the obligation of each member to spend each year at lesst 2% of GDP (a target to be reached, for now, within 10 years), the West has finally turned aside the strongist pacifists and appeasers within Europe and taken real, hard measures which ought to make the Russians reassess their policies of military aggression.

What should the West do now?

Because it is quite possible that Vladimir Putin will continue his efforts to destabilize the Ukraine, and even potentionally to seek to create a land corridor linking Russia to the Crimea, the West should prepare an even stronger round of further sanctions to be used if Putin resumes his military invasion of the eastern Ukraine, whether by the direct use of regular Russian forces as in August up until now, or in his “stealth” mode by continuing the introduction of weapons and irregular fighters across the border to further assist the so-called “separatists”.

These, with a signal from Moscow, could reject any reasonable compromises on the issue of the status of the territories under their control, leading to a breakdown of the ceasefire and a resumption of the fighting.

Today, according to the news reports cited above, the Donetsk airport, which is still held by Kiev forces, was subjected to intense attack by the separatists. This should serve as a reminder of how quickly the Minsk peace process could come undone.

In the current situation, the EU, NATO, and the U.S. should remain at a high level of alert, and take actions such as the following:

1. Ensure that the new white truck “humanitarian aid” convoy which began entering the Ukraine yesterday does so only with the express authorization of the Ukraine, after prior inspection of all the trucks entering the country.  Any violations  should be immediately reported to the U.N. Security Council.  While Russia can veto any resolution, Council meetings also provide a forum for the concentration of the world’s attention, a place to make detailed factual and legal statements about Russia’s ongoing violations of fundamental norms of the U.N. Charter, and a place where Russia must either admit the charges by its silence or set forth its transparently specious arguments for all to see.

“Stealth warfare” must be carried out in the shadows.  The bright glare of publicity at Security Council meetings helps to force untenable and facetious arguments to shrivel in the bright glare of daylight.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Powell chairs the Security Council during the month of September.  She and the U.S. should use the Council effectively during these critical days, when either the Minsk Protocol ceasefire and peace process will take hold, or collapse as fighting resumes.

The members of the Council should consider tabling a resolution endorsing the Minsk Protocol, calling for a withdrawal of all foreign fighters, and respect for the sovereignty, political independence, and territorial integrity of the Ukraine.  They should then put it to a vote, and whatever the outcome remain seized of the sutuation in the Ukraine.

2. Inspection by Ukraine and OSCE  and IRC of all the white trucks before they cross back over the border into Russia, to ensure that the convoy is not being used to remove Ukrainian or Russian military equipment, arms or ammunition, Ukrainian industrial equipment, or the bodies of dead Russian doldiers.

In short, the “humanitarian aid” convoy must be limited to humanitarian purposes. While removal of bodies might serve such purposes, it should be done only after inspection of the departing trucks and with the authorization of the Ukrainian authorities.

In a word, Ukrainian control of its border with Russia should be two-way, both entering and leaving.

3. The EU, the U.S., and the U.N. should immediately start sending large supplies of humanitarian aid into the Donbas. This operation should be conducted on an emergency and urgent basis, as if dealing with a natural catastrophe.

There is no valid reason for allowing Russia to score a huge propaganda victory by portraying itself as the only country doing anything to provide humanitarian assistance to the population of the Donbas.

This humanitarian aid should be widely publicized as coming from the EU, the U.S., the U.N., and other countries.

4. NATO and other countries should immediately begin providing the Ukraine with military aid and assistance which they can use to defend themselves against further Russian military aggression.

The aid should include lethal weapons. There should be no distinction between “lethal” and “non-lethal” assistance.

This distinction was made in supplying weapons to the rebels in Syria, in the absence of the U.S. and its allies setting forth a justification under international law for such action. Such a justification might have been advanced by the Obama administration, in order to halt the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity, but was not.

In the Ukraine, military assistance can be provided in response to the calls Kiev has made for military assistance in exercise of the “inherent right” of collective sef-defence, as set forth in Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, in order to repel an “armed attack”.

Armed attacks against the Ukraine have occurred, both through regular Russian forces and through irregular Russian fighters, arms and equipment. These attacks continue, a fact made particularly clear by Russia’s purported “annexation” of the Crimea.

5. Western governments should publicize the widespread violation of human rights and commission of war crimes that have occurred in the territories under the control of the so-called “separatists”. Russia, in particular, should be pressured and held accountable on this point, whether in the U.N. Human Rights Council, the Security Council, or elsewhere.

It goes without saying that the commission of any war crimes on the Ukrainian side must be immediately halted, and those responsible for their commission held accountable.

7. Consideration of a further round of even harsher economic sanctions should begin, as suggested above. These might include a ban on any doing business with Russian companies above a certain size, and a complete ban on Russia using the SWIFT system in banking for the transfer of international payments.

Implementation of these steps should begin immediately.

The West needs to maintain constant vigilance against any agressive move by Putin and Russia, and be prepared to take countermasures quickly when so required.

Having adopted an avowed policy of military aggression, and with thousands of nuclear weapons at his command, Putin may be the most dangerous man on the planet.

While countering IS is important, it is not, in a military sense (as opposed to a political sense), an immediate threat. Putin and the Ukraine are.

President Obama and European leaders must get their priorities right, and maintain constant vigilance in the face of Russia which is, and will remain as long as Putin or someone like him remains in charge, an existential threat.

Like the threat posed by Adolph Hitler and the Third Reich, it is a direct, frontal challege through military aggression, which cannot be defused through policies of pacifism and appeasement.

The Trenchant Observer

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

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

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

For late news and opinion, see

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harsh sanctions should be adopted now.

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

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

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

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

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

The Trenchant Observer

Inside Putin’s Brain: Musings on the Ukraine and what is going on inside his head — Part I

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

In warfare, as in diplomacy, it is important to try to put yourself in the shoes of your adversary, to try to understand what is going on inside his head (or her head).

Vladimir Putin, through his actions and rejection of the postwar legal and political order, has become the adversary of the West, just as Russia has become the enemy of all civilized countries which seek to uphold the United Nations Charter and its foundational principles prohibiting the threat or use of force across international frontiers.

Following are musings by the Observer on what may be going through Putin’s mind right now.

*****

Ha! The EU has elected Frencesca Mogherini from Italy to be its the leader of the EU’s foreign policy! She’ll be a lot easier to handle than Radislav Sikorski of Poland would have been. We have strong financial and energy ties to Italy, and she’s a Socialist to boot, the party in Europe which is already predisposed to accepting whatever Russia does. Sergey Lavrov will be able to lead her by the nose and run circles around her.

The EU’s foreign policy! What a joke! If its member countries were a single individual, he would take two weeks to decise whether to tie his shoelaces before going out!

Many leaders in Europe understand that it is more important to maintain econommic relations with Russia and access to its markets, than to impose further serious sanctions on Russia.

They will temporize, and decide on some half-measures which will make them feel good but which we’ll be able to absorb. The new sanctions could cause some economic disruptions in the Russian Federation, but they will have no effect on my grip on power. On the contrary, they will make me even more popular. I am more popular now than I have ever been!

So, NATO may create a “rapid reaction force” of some 4,000 soldiers that could deploy to the Baltics or Poland to defend against any Russian military intervention.

Can you believe it! They think that by flying in 4,000 men to pick up “pre-positioned” equipment and supplies in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania they could slow the advance of the Russian army!

This is not Afghanistan and we are not the Taliban! I could put 80,000 troops on the border with Estonia, and take Tallinn before NATO’s so-called “quick reaction force” could find their pre-positioned equipment and get organized to move out of their bases.

And, of course, NATO consists of 28 independent states with 28 armies. It’s not like they are capable of responding to my new form of “stealth warfare” in 48 hours. They will have divisions among themselves on what to do, if anything. My friends in Germany, such as Gerhard Schroeder and his protegé Frank-Walter Steinmeier, will insist or exploring all diplomatic options before taking any action.

I can provide them with many new diplomatic options which they can argue over, and which will help them to avoid taking hard decisions.

Look how vigorously and quickly NATO took decisions and acted militarily in Libya! They were issuing press releases celebrating the fact that their warplanes had taken out five or six armored personnel carriers and jeeps with machine guns on the back! It took them forever to take down a very weak tin-pot dictator.

Look how Sergey Lavrov and I played them for fools in Syria. Do they remember the “Friends of Syria” group, which could never get its act together? Or how Obama froze at the moment of pulling the trigger on military action against Syria after al-Assad crossed his “red line” on chemical weapons? The chemical weapons elimination deal was brilliant, leading the West to abandon the rebels and undercut their Allies in the Gulf, while solidifying al-Assad’s permanent hold on power.

They were worried about whether or not to supply “non-lethal” military aid to the Syrian rebels!

They can rest assured that the weapons I supplied to al-Assad were very lethal indeed, and were used to good effect. So have been the weapons we have sent into the Eastern Ukraine along with our “volunteers”.

What a great story bwe had! Even those who were captured inside the Ukraine had “just gotten lost”, or were army troops “on vacation” acting as volunteers. While the-West didn’t believe that propaganda, it gave me some “plausible deniability” for a few days, at least on the Russian television networks I control–where I am sure it also produced some big smiles.

It is all too good to be true! I never imagined that they would not react to my invasion and annexation of the Crimea. But hey, the road was open and we took it. The jokes I and my firends made after their first and second rounds of “sanctions” were hilarious! I should write a book full of those jokes.

The “stage 3″ or third-stage “sectoral” sanctions imposed on July 31 hurt a little, but it’s a small price to pay for restoring the Russian Motherland to its rightful place in history. While these measurs may have hurt some of my business buddies and government officials, who can always vacation in Brazil, Hong Kong or South Africa, and India which is quite close, they didn’t hurt me.

Imagine the leaders in the West conjuring up the possibily that the individuals they sanctioned could pressure me! I could replace any of them in an instant, and there would be 100 highly-quallified applicants for each position.

(To be continued. In Part II, we hear Putin’s thoughts on the EU’s decisions on further sanctions and on NATO’s decisions to respond to Russian actions in the Donbass).

The Trenchant Observer

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

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

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

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

*****

Originally published on August 22, 2014

Putin has challenged directly the existing international political and legal order, upon which, incidentally, the world’s economic order rests.

Either Putin and Russia win, or the West and the other civilized countries of the world win.

It is that stark and simple.

The Russian invasion of the eastern Ukraine by regular Russian forces in underway. Russian artillery manned by Russian soldiers is today firing on Ukrainian troops from within the Ukraine.

See

(1) Michael R. Gordon, “Russia Moves Artillery Units Into Ukraine, NATO Says,. New York Times, August 22, 2014.

(2) NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, “Statement”, August 22, 2014. See NATO, “NATO Secretary General condemns entry of Russian convoy into Ukraine,” August 22, 2014.

(3) “Russische Soldaten sollen in Ukraine kämpfen; Russische Streitkräfte haben laut Nato-Angaben die ukrainische Armee beschossen. Das Militärbündnis warnt vor einer Eskalation, am Abend tagt der UN-Sicherheitsrat, ” Die Zeit, 22. August 2014 (Aktualisiert um 20:59 Uhr).

The Russian “humanitarian aid” convoy of up to 280 trucks has entered into the Ukraine without Ukrainian authorization.

While posing a direct threat to the Ukraine, the larger function of the truck convoy may turn out to have been to serve as a decoy, distracting the West’s attention from the direct invasion of the Ukraine by the Russian military, moving at night across the border along unnarked dirt tracks or through open fields.

The invasion is pretty much on target for the 46th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia on August 20, 1968. It signals the outbreak of an outright war between Russia and the Ukraine.

What can the West and other civilized nations do?

First, they must impose really harsh stage 3 (third-stage) sanctions against Russia.

Only the execution of prior threats will give any future threats the slightest credence.

These measures must include immediate cancellation of all defense contracts, including the French delivery of two Mistral-class warships to Russia, and a cessation of French training of Russian sailors to operate them which is currently underway in France.

The imposition of these sanctions is the only step that might contribute to ending the war.

Failure to impose these threatened sanctions now will undermine all those in Russia who may be arguing for an end to the invasion and in favor of maintenance of economic relations with the West.

Second, large and serious military assistance to the Ukraine should commence at once.

Third, accelerated decisions regarding the forward-basing of NATO forces in Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania; and termination or at least total suspension of the NATO-Russia partnership agreement, which Russia has flagrantly breached.

Europe and America must wake up, take a hard look at the realities of the Russian invasion, and react accordingly.

NATO, which was founded to deter Soviet aggression in Europe, must now prove that there are reasons for its continued existence. If it does not react now, it will be too late when the Russians begin further “stealth invasions” in the Baltics.

It is time to turn away from the path of appeasement, and to start defending the values of the West, including the U.N. Charter and the rule of law–on both the international and the domestic levels.

Putin has challenged directly the existing international political and legal order, upon which, incidentally, the world’s economic order rests.

Either Putin and Russia win, or the West and the other civilized countries of the world win.

It is that stark and simple.

As was the case with Adolf Hitler.

The Trenchant Observer

The Budapest Memorandum (1994) and the Ukraine: Worth Re-reading

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

The key provisions of the 1994 Budapest Mmorandum guaranteeing the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of the Ukraine, signed upon the latter’s accession to the Non-proliferation Treaty, is worth re-reading now, in the context of Russia’s invasions of the Crimea (and its annexation) and of the eastern Ukraine (ongoing).

To be sure, the provisions of the Budapest Memorandum incorporate fundamental provisions of the United Nations Charter and international law, including the prohibition of the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, and the prohibition of intervention by any means in the internal affairs of another state in order to to obtain from it economic advantages of any kind.

Still, Russia solemnly undertook to observe the following provisions specifically with respect to the Ukraine.

The reader can be the judge as to the extent Putin and Russia have complied with the following legal commitments.

************

Memorandum on Security Assurances in Connection with Ukraine’s Accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapon Ukraine, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America,

Welcoming the accession of Ukraine to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as a non-nuclear-weapon State,
Taking into account the commitment of Ukraine to eliminate all nuclear weapons from its territory within a specified period of time,
Noting the changes in the world-wide security situation, including the end of the cold war, which have brought about conditions for deep reductions in nuclear forces,
Confirm the following:
1. The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine, in accordance with the principles of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine;
2. The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or
political independence of Ukraine, and that none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine except in self-defence or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations;
3. The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine,
in accordance with the principles of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, to refrain from economic coercion designed to subordinate to their own interest the exercise by Ukraine of the rights inherent in its sovereignty and thus to secure advantages of any kind;

The Trenchant Observer

Putin redraws the map of Europe with Russian troops, as Western leaders slumber through the summer of appeasement of 2014

Monday, August 25th, 2014

Western leaders, caught in the incapacitating net of their own illusions about Russia, and their own deep-seated pacifism and appeasement, are in effect slumbering through the summer of 2014, as the map of Europe is being redrawn by Russian troops.

One of the first tenets of warfare, and diplomacy, is “know your enemy”. The West does not yet recognize the true features of the enemy that Russia has become.

Vladimir Putin has, from his perspective, succeeded brilliantly in executing his war of aggression and annexation against the Ukraine.

A judo master, he has shown extreme deftness at throwing feints and converting his opponents lunges into throws leaving him standing triumphant and his opponent on his back across the room.

He delights in turning the arguments made or almost made by the West in other conflicts on their head, and using them to his advantage. Thus he now argues that delivery of “humanitarian aid” to the separatists in the Donbass is consistent with international law, as the West argued or might have argued in Syria, when Russia backed Bashar al-Ashad to the hilt in blocking U.N. convoys of humanitarian aid.

He is a master of deception, launching the great “humanitarian aid” convoy of 280 trucks painted white from Moscow, enticing the world to devote its attention to the convoy — for days — while other columns of tanks and armored personnel carriers and other equipment and fighters penetrated into the Ukraine in the middle of the night.

Another diversion of our attention occurred yesterday, when he allowed and probably organized the despicable parading of captured Ukrainian soldiers before crowds on Ukrainian independence day — a blatant war crime in direct contravention of the Geneva Conventions on the Laws of War.

While this spectacle was proceeding, and Russia announced it was sending another white-truck “humanitarian aid” convoy to the Ukraine, reports emerged of new military columns moving into the Ukraine suggesting the Russian-led and supported counter-offensive now had Mariupol firmly in its sights.

See,

Olga Razumovskaya, “Russia Plans New Aid Convoy; Ukraine Says Moscow Moved Tanks; Kiev Says Moscow Sent Tanks, Armored Vehicles Into Its Territory,” Wall Street Journal, August 25, 2014 (Updated 4:40 p.m. ET).

Amid signs of sharpening fighting in Ukraine’s east, Kiev said Moscow Monday sent a column of tanks and armored vehicles into its territory near the site of a rebel offensive. Ukraine’s military said it attacked the column and blocked its advance, but Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko expressed “extreme concern” about the armored column and Russia’s plans for a new convoy in a phone conversation with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, his office said.

After surrounding the provincial capitals of Donetsk and Luhansk, officials in Kiev said Monday that Ukrainian troops were now fighting off counterattacks. On Ukraine’s southern coast, rebels said they were pushing their way out of Donetsk toward Mariupol, a port city taken from rebels in mid-June in the first big victory by Ukrainian government troops.

Vladimir Putin has brilliantly probed and withdrawn, and probed again, until he found opportunities to advance his military invasion of the Ukraine in little starts and stops, always taking care to avoid the devastating economic sanctions that the West has in its hands the power to use.

Putin is keenly attentive to the reactions of the pacifists and appeasers who lead the West, and has been shrewdly effective in defusing any momentum toward the imposition of really harsh sanctions.

The President of Russia has given new meaning to the expression “the salami technique”, which in the past referred to the salami slicing approach of the Soviet Union in seizing power in the countries of Eastern Europe between 1945 and 1949.

In the Putin version, we now have military invasion by “the salami technique”. Sending in a few tanks here, a few soldiers there, intensifying the invasion when the West is distracted, looking the other way, or not looking at all (as with President Obama on his long-sheduled vacation to Martha’s Vineyard).

At the end of the day, a lot of salami has been sliced up. Russia has intervened militarily in the Ukraine to prevent the so-called “separatist” forces (which it has itself been sending in) from being defeated by the Ukrainian military, as the latter legitimately seeks to restore public order in the Donbass.

After the invasion of the Crimea, the reaction of the West was, first, to publicly rule out the use of force, and, second, to slap the wrists of Russia by imposing rsestrictive measures on a handful of individuals and one or two banks.

Putin then annexed the Crimea.

In response, the West signalled that it would ultimately accept this annexation, if only Putin would not invade the remaining part of the Ukraine and stop supporting the “separatists”.

Putin held off on overt military intervention (for the time being), but continued to send fighters and equipment, including advanced air-defense systems, into the Donbass.

After the downing of Malaysian Flight MH17 on July 17, the EU did adopt its first limited “stage 3″ sectoral sanctions. They, like the U.S. sanctions, were still mild in relation to the harm they sought to redress.

In response, in addition to counter-sanctions banning the importation of foodstuffs, Putin devised his white truck “humanitarian aid” ploy, while at the same time sending regular Russian troops including tanks and artillery into the Dunbass. He also fired Russian artillery across the border against targets in the Ukraine (a development in progress for weeks). The artillery shelling effectively secured an open border and a band some 20-40 kilometers deep in the Ukraine. This kept Ukrainian forces from sealing the border, leaving the area under “separatist” control.

To this overt invasion by regular forces, the West did not respond at all, except for Angela Merkel’s trip to Kiev on Saturday, August 23, and her pledge of 500 million euros to help in reconstruction of the Donbass.

Belatedly, on August 22, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen denounced the movement of regular forces into the Ukraine and the firing of Russian artillery by Russian soldiers from within the Ukraine. But the announcement was not accompanied by any action, other than a statement that NATO’s rotating presence in countries bordering Russia would be increased.

As Russia’s overt invasion continued, without provoking even the adoption of additional “stage 3″ sanctions by Europe or the U.S. in response, Putin sent new military columns into the Ukraine which crossed the border closer to Mariupol to the South.

From the Russian perspective, President Putin has brilliantly demonstrated the power of the new Russian “stealth mode of warfare”.

Given the continuing pacifism and appeasement of the West, and as the new incursion nearer Mariupol suggests, Putin may now see no obstacle to an invasion (whether all-out or by “the salami technique”) of the territory between Russia and the Crimea, securing direct land access to the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol.

Achievement of this objective would constitute a key military and strategic triumph — one for the history books.

Poland and Lithuania, which sit between Russia and its exclave Kaliningrad, will be paying close attention.

Western leaders, caught in the incapacitating net of their own illusions about Russia, and their own deep-seated pacifism and appeasement, are in effect slumbering through the summer of 2014, as the map of Europe is being redrawn by Russian troops.

The Trenchant Observer