Archive for the ‘History’ Category

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 These, despite President Petro Porosheno’s declaration that 70% of the troops had been withdrawn, according to NATO’s latest statements, remain in the eastern Ukraine.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

Karzai reportedly involved in massive fraud favoring Ghani in Afghan presidential run-off

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

Stunning details of the massive fraud in the Afghan presidental run-off election have been published in the New York Times, in an article by veteran Afghan correspondent Carlotta Gall.

It appears that President Hamid Karzai was deeply involved in the fraud, which greatly and implausibly favored Ashraf Ghani, as his opponent Abdullah Abdullah has charged since shortly after the second-round election was held.

See

(1) “Leading Afghan presidential candidate, Abdullah Abdullah, narrowly escapes assassination in Kabul,” The Trenchant Observer, June 6, 2014.

(2) “Afghanistan Presidential Election: Abdullah Calls for Halt to Vote-Counting Alleging Fraud by the Electoral Commission,” The Trenchant Observer, dJune 18, 2014.

(3) “Obama Snubs Abdullah During Latter’s Trip to Washington,” The Trenchant Observer, May 22, 2010.

(4) “NEWS TO NOTE Deal by U.S. with Pakistan Military to Undercut Abdullah in Final Discussions?” The Trenchant Observer, November 11, 2009.

(5) “KARZAI’S FIGHT FOR SURVIVAL IN AFGHANISTAN—THE REAL EXTENT OF THE ELECTORAL FRAUD, ABDULLAH’S CHANCES, AND WASHINGTON’S RESPONSE,” the Trenchant Observer, October 16, 2009.

See also other articles listed on the Afghanistan page, in the upper right-hand corner of the home page, which can be reached by clicking on the banner above.

The Trenchant Observer

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

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Developing

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 mikitary, 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 slighest 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

FEAR OF THE AGGRESSOR: Merkel reported planning to push for ceasefire in Ukraine at Minsk meeting with Poroshenko, Putin

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

Draft (developing)

Richard Balmforth of Reuters reports tonight that President Petro Petroshenko plans to ask Russian President Vladimir Putin to withdraw his fighters from the Ukraine when he meets with Putin and other leaders in Minsk next week.

He also reports that Chancellor Angela Merkel is planning to push for a ceasefire in the Donbass at the talks in Minsk.

See

Richard Balmforth (Kiev), “Ukraine’s Poroshenko talks tough ahead of meetings with Merkel, Putin,” August 21, 2014 (9:57pm EDT).

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is scheduled to visit Kiev on Saturday to show her support for Poroshenko – but diplomats say she is also bearing a message that he should consider calling a ceasefire so as not to incur a backlash from Putin.

What is appalling about Merkel’s reported intention to push for a ceasefire is that it reveals, in the starkest possible terms, the primal fear of the aggressor which has dictated the West’s response to Russian aggression in the Ukraine, first by invading and annexing the Crimea, and then by launching and sustaining an invasion by Russian special operations, intelligence and irregular forces to foment and carry out an insurrection in the eastern Ukraine.

The West’s responses to these continuing acts of Russian aggression have been dictated by fear, pure and simple, fear of provoking the aggressor, Vladimir Putin.

European and NATO country leaders have been extraordinarily slow to grasp the significance of military invasions carried out by Russia, a major European and world power (with its nuclear arsenal), against an important European country.

They have stumbled ovver themselves in trying to “help” Vladimir Putin find an “exit” or an “off ramp” from his headlong rush of military invasion and intervention in the Ukraine.

They are grateful he hasn’t sent the regular Russian armed forces into Ukraine, and flatter themselves in thinking that their pathetic “telephone diplomacy” has had something to do with this “forebearance”, when in fact it has only allowed the confict to grow in intensity as Russia intervenes more actively.

Surprisingly, NATO after warning that a Russian invasion of the Ukraine was “highly probable”, has failed to make public information regarding that invasion as it has been taking place in the last two or three weeks.

This is the submission by the abused party to the abuser. There is a kind of intuitive understanding that Russia will deny it is invading the Ukraine (in stealth mode), while the West will pretend not to see the tanks crossing across the border at night, or the Russian artillery firing into the Ukraine to give them and the separatists control over a zone 20-40 kilometers deep in the Ukraine.

Russia denies. The leaders of the West pretend not to see. They do so because making public details of Russian military intervention could increase pressure on them to undertake measures they don’t want to take. Out of fear of the aggressor.

Not one of them seems to give one whit for upholding the United Nations Charter by taking forceful and effective measures to halt and roll back Russian aggression.

They have by their silence telegraphed to Putin that they will accept his invasion and annexation of the Crimea, if only he will be nice enough now not to invade the remaining portion of the country with his regular armed forces.

They have responded to Russia’s aggression with pacifism (no talk of using armed force to halt Russia, no active military support of the Ukrainian army with heavy weapons, advanced weapons systems, and onsite training), and appeasement.

Even the downing of Malaysian Flight MH17 on July 17 (by a Russian SA-11 air-defense system sent to the Donbass) produced only a fleeting stiffening of thee will in the EU. Some Stage 3 sanctions were imposed on Russia, but no further threatened actions have been adopted despite Putin’s continued support and coordination of the “separatists”.

Let’s call it what it is: Appeasement.

That is what helping Putin “save” face, or “not pushing him into a corner” or “creating an off-ramp” for Putin is, quite simply: Appeasement.

(One can conjure up what an off-ramp for Adolf Hitler might have entailed.)

Now the unthinking leaders of the West, according to the Reuters’ report on Merkel’s intentions, are prepared to push for a “ceasefire” in the Donbass.

In other words, when Putin’s invaders find themselves on the ropes and at great risk of being defeated by the Ukrainian army–at great sacrifice, to be sure–Chancellor Merkel wants to come to Putin’s rescue and pull his bacon out of the fire.

Why?

Primal fear is the answer. Fear of provoking the aggressor, grounded in deep pacifism and unwillingness to stand up for the values of the West, which include the United Nations Charter and the rule of law.

SPD Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s close connection to former SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (he was his chief of staff) does not help.  (Schroeder is Putin’s buddy, business partner in the Nordstream gas pipeline, and one of his leading apologists in Germany.

Instead, the pacifists and appeasers in Germany, France and other countries want to give way before those who have invaded the Ukraine in violation of Article 2 paragrap 4 of the U.N. Charter (which prohibits the use of force), to shore up the position of those who have terrorized inhabitants of the Donbass in areas under their control, and to “freeze” the conflict in the Ukraine, all in order to placate Mr. Putin.

They continue to labor under the illusion that they can get back to “business as usual” with Putin and Russia, with all of the trade and joint business projects between Germany anf Russia, with France’s delivery of advanced technology with the two Mistral-class attack warships sold to Russia, and two more to be built jointly with the Russians in St. Petersburg, and London’s lucrative business of sanitizing the wealth of Russian billionaires acquired through the corrupt crony state capitalism of the Putin regime.

They want to continue all of that, despite Russian annexation of the Crimea in flagrant violation of the U.N. Charter’s prohibition of the use of force, and despite Putin’s moral and legal responsibility for over 2,000 deaths in the eastern Ukraine as a result of his launching a war of aggression.

They are like the supporters of Neville Chamberlain in England before the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, who wanted to celebrate “peace in our time”. In this year of commemorations (100 years since the onset of WW I, 70 years since the D-Day landing at Normandy in 1944), it should be noted that the 75th anniversary of the invasion of Poland is only 11 days away. The 46th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia was yesterday.

So, they want to appease Putin. And one way of doing that is to force the Ukraine to accept a ceasefire that is not a surrender by the “separatists”, but rather a way of helping Putin freeze the conflict in the Ukraine, so that the Ukraine can not follow the democratic path and join Europe as its citizens desire.

FEAR OF THE AGGRESSOR.

Somewhere there must be a modern-day Winston Churchill waiting in the wings, who will have to lead what remains of the EU and NATO out of the rubble which is left after the pacifists’ and appeasers’ illusions about Putin, and Russia, have been shattered.

Or, if there is no new Churchill, it will all simply fall apart.

The Trenchant Observer

REPRISE: August 20, 1968 — “Dubček, Svoboda!”

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

From August 20, 2011

On this date, 43 years ago, the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies invaded Czechoslovakia, putting down with its tanks what its own broken ideology could no longer extinguish–ideals of freedom of the press and personal liberty free from the oppressive weight of a totalitarian state.

Those ideals and dreams survived, and triumphed.

See The Trenchant Observer,
“August 20, 1968 — “Dubček, Svoboda!” (Personal Takes)”
August 20, 2010

The original article, from 2010, is reproduced below.

***

Alexander Dubcek

Personal Takes

I had a picture of Alexander Dubček on my wall when I was a student studying international law. He represented the hope of many in Czechoslovakia and beyond that the communist party might evolve from within. He and the President of Czechoslovakia, Ludvik Svoboda (whose last name meant “freedom” in Czech), were for a brief moment during “the Prague Spring” the team that stood for the triumph of the human spirit, of freedom, within a communist party and under a communist government.

The threat was too great for the leaders of the Soviet Union, and after a summer of feints and betrayals and illusions, they sent their tanks across the frontier into the sovereign territory of Czechoslovakia, on August 20, 1968.

29 years earlier, Adolph Hitler had sent his tanks into Prague, following the betrayal of Chamberlain at Munich which recognized the annexation of the Sudetenland, an area of Czechoslovakia settled by ethnic Germans.

In March 1938, the linking together or annexation (“Anschluss”) of Austria was consummated at the barrel of a gun. The infamous Munich Pact followed on September 30, ceding the Sudetenland to Germany. On March 15, 1939 Germany invaded and took direct control of the rest of Czechoslovakia. The invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, followed months later, setting off World War II.

These events, for a young international lawyer, seemed together to define the core values of the structure and body of international law and institutions, which had begun following a terrible “world war” in the 17th century, the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), which at the Peace of Westphalia and through the pen of Hugo Grotius gave birth to the modern system of nation states and to the basic framework of principles and norms of international law.

The devastation and suffering that took place during The Thirty Years’ War underlined the need for rules governing the relations of princes and states. Three centuries later Hitler’s Anschluss and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia defined, in a sense, the core values of international law.

Those core values, which had become clear by the 20th century, included the sanctity of the human person and the principle prohibiting the threat or use of force against the political independence or territorial integrity of any state, except in self-defense.

These values were defined by their utter violation, in much the same way that Albert Camus found that moral values were created by their brutal violation by Hitler’s armies and the Gestapo before and during World War II. Camus, who as editor of the French resistance newspaper Libération was a leader in the French resistance, articulated–particularly in “The Rebel” and his novel “The Plague”—a vision of how values acquired their substance and contours not through abstract logic, but more directly through the experience of the horrors of their violation.

So today, on August 20, 2010, let us salute the courage of Dubček and Svoboda in their struggle to put “a human face” on socialism. Years later, their countryman, Václav Havel, gave expression to the dream of freedom of the Prague Spring generation in a voice that resonated through Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and throughout the world. Havel became President of Czechoslovakia as a result of “the Velvet Revolution” in 1989.

I remember how in 1968, after the Soviet tanks had crushed the Prague Spring and the autonomous government of Alexander Dubček, it occurred to me that if there were ever a reform from within the Communist party led by a Soviet Dubček, there would be no Soviet tanks to crush the reform. As it turned out, I was only half right. Twenty years later, Mikhail Gorbachev, introducing glasnost and perestroika, led such a reform. Boris Yeltsin put down the reaction by overcoming tanks in 1991, leading to the breakup of the Soviet Union.

For insight into the Prague Spring, see Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984), and the 1988 American movie of the same title, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Lena Olin, and Juliette Binoche.

The Trenchant Observer