Julia Smirnova, “Die wundersame Rückkehr des Wladimir Putin In der New Yorker UN-Woche drängt Putin ins Zentrum der Weltbühne. Durch die aktive Rolle im Syrienkonflikt hofft der Kreml-Chef auf seine Rehabilitierung. Warum er auf einmal wieder salonfähig ist,” Die Welt, 25. September 2015 (15:54 Uhr).
Peter Baker and Michael R. Gordon, “White House Says President Obama and Vladimir Putin Will Meet Next Week,” New York Times, September 24, 2015.
Vladimir Putin and Russia are driving events and decisions in the Middle East and the Ukraine far faster than the U.S., NATO and Europe can devise coherent policies and strategies to counter them.
One has the impression that Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have a broad strategy which they are implementing with vigor, taking full advantage of the policy disarray they see on the part of the West, which in fact no one is leading.
It is like they see the whole chessboard, nimbly moving their pieces around at will, constantly keeping their opponents off balance, while the U.S., NATO and Europe can only focus on one move at a time.
In two weeks the U.S. has moved from trying to block military shipments to new Russian air bases in Syria, to accepting these Russian strategic and military moves with passivity while “thinking about” whether U.S. interests and Russia’s overlap in Syria.
In the same time period they have moved from a policy of demanding Bashar al-Assad leave office as a condition for any political settlement in Syria, to openly accepting that he will not have to leave “on the first day or in the first month”.
In a word, they have caved in to the Russian position, not having anticipated Russia’s major military move into the country, in coordination with Iran.
At the same time, France has agreed to sell to Egypt the two Mistral-class warships originally sold to Russia, whose delivery was blocked following the Russian invasions of the Crimea and the Donbas region in the eastern Ukraine. It would be interesting to see Russia’s role in the deal, which includes the prospect of selling Russian helicopters for the two Midstral-class warships to Egypt. One has to ask, moreover, where the money for the warships is coming from, Moscow or the Gulf States?
France and Russia have settled the financial details in the dispute over non-delivery of the Mistrals, without France having to pay any penalties. An appreciative Francois Hollande has started calling for a lifting of the EU sanctions imposed on Russia because of its aggression against the Ukraine.
This week Angela Merkel appeared together with former SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Putin’s leading and most shameless apologist in Germany, on the occasion of the presentation of a biography of Schroeder. Merkel was full of praise for Schroeder, downplaying their differences in foreign policy.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the leader of the SPD, Sigmar Gabriel, has just come out with a full-throated appeal for an end of EU sanctions against Russia.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Barack Obama now appear willing to negotiate with al-Assad over the future of Syria, as Russian military forces move into the country to militarily ensure his survival.
Suddenly Barack Obama has plans to meet with Putin on the sidelines during the upcoming session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, in a visit that shows all the signs of being thoroughly unprepared. It was first announced in Moscow, and appears to have been requested by Putin. His spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, is quoted as saying that the two presidents will talk about the Ukraine “if there is time”.
Given the antipathy between the two men, one would have thought that Obama’s advisers would have done their utmost to avoid a meeting between them, particularly one without the usual policy planning and broad government preparations for a summit.
In the meantime, Putin has directed his puppets in the eastern Ukraine to observe the Minsk II ceasefire, which has been holding for several weeks now.
The outlines of the Western appeasement of Putin are starting to emerge.
In exchange for Putin’s bringing al-Assad to the negotiating table and working toward a political settlement in Syria, provided the cease-fire continues to hold in the eastern Ukraine, EU sanctions against Russia will be greatly eased, with the Americans acting in parallel.
The West will in effect accept and tacitly acknowledge the Russian conquest of the Crimea, and will accept the “frozen conflict” in the eastern Ukraine, with the Russians keeping troops and irregular forces in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, while continuing to control the open border between the eastern Ukraine and Russia.
Putin wins, in Syria and in the Ukraine, while the harshest sanctions are lifted in response to the ceasefire holding, without full implementation of the Minsk II agreement’s provisions.
The impact on the U.N. Charter prohibition of the use of force is likely to be great.
Whether this acceptance of military aggression by Russia in the Ukraine and its fruits will have any impact on China in the East and South China Seas appears to be a question that has not been seriously considered by Obama or the other appeasers of Putin in Europe.
The U.N. Charter’s prohibition of the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state (Article 2 paragraph 4) will have lost much of its deterrent force, with Russia having annexed the Crimea, frozen the conflict in the eastern Ukraine through ongoing military invasion, and through military intervention having ensured the hold on power of Bashar al-Assad, a leader who has committed some of the greatest war crimes and crimes against humanity since World War II.
In Syria, Putin is building Russian military bases and introducing combat aircraft and other combat forces, shifting the military balance of power in the region. All of this Russia is doing before a supine and leaderless West.
This is the deal with Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad that Barack Obama, François Hollande, and Angela Merkel are cooking up.
Only if those with a memory of the last four years in Syria, the last two years in the Ukraine, and the most basic norms of the United Nations Charter and international law speak up, and mobilize, will this disaster be avoided.
The Trenchant Observer