Archive for the ‘U.N. Security Council’ Category

Mistral-class warship “The Vladilovstok” ready to sail; Hollande sets stage for a “mysterious” departure in the night

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

For the latest news reports, see

Isabelle Lassarre, “Mistral : le scénario qui inquiète les autorités françaises,” Le Figaro, 20 Novembre 2014.

For background, see

(1) “Mistral Warships: U.S. Congress should ban defense contracts with France until Hollande guarantees non-delivery to Russia,” The Trenchant Bserver, November 17, 2014.

(2) “Update on Delivery of Mistral-Class Warship “The Vladilovstok” to Russia: François Hollande’s unilateral “conditions” for delivery, and the high risk of a treacherous fait accompli,” The Trenchant Observer, October 30, 2014.

(3) “The End of NATO: France proceeds with plans to deliver the first of two Mistral-class warships to Russia,” The Trenchant Observer, October 29, 2014.

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

(5) “Ukraine — EU imposes serious sanctions on Russia: Council Regulation (EU) No 833/2014 of 31 July 2014 —- with link to full text,” The Trenchant Observer, August 1, 2014.

The treachery of Francois Hollande knows no bounds.

Now he has arranged a mysterious set of circumstances that will allow the Mistral-class warship”The Vladilovstok” to slip out of the harbor at Saint Nazaire under the control of the Russian crew France has trained, blaming it all on some misunderstanding he had no control over.

The Russian crew have now placed their personal belongings on the “The Vladilovstok”.

The ship is very likely to sail, surrepticiously, in a manner which seeks to allow Holland to claim he never decided to deliver the ship to Russia.

Consider these facts:

1. An invitation from the French went out on October 8 for a delivery ceremony on bNovember 14.

2. The ship’s tracking number was changed to Russian ownership within the last week, and then changed back again.

3. The Russian crew apparently turned off the esignal that allows the ship to be tracked by satellite on one or two occasions, in the last week or so.

4. The sister ship, “The Sevastopol”, which is due for delivery to Russia in 2015, was put put into the water earlier this week, taking the berth in Saint Nazaire of “The Vladilovstok”, which has now moved to a staging area near the entrance to the harbor.

All of these unusual coincidences point to one conclusion: Hollande will allow “The Vladilovstok” to sail in the next few days.

To stop this from happening, NATO and NATO member states should demand that the France take the following steps:

1. The Russian crew shoukd be ordered to remove their personal gear from the Vladilovstok, under military supervision, and should not be alliwed to board the ship again. They should return to Russia until further notice.

2. The ship should be moved by a French crew to a secure berth where it will remain until a new purchaser is found.

3. European and world media should be all over this story, night and day, and maintain a stakeout to ensure that the ship does not “slip away’ in the middle of the night.

4. Hollande should formally commit to NATO not to deliver the warship to Russia without first discussing his decision at a ministerial meeting of NATO.

Hollande’s perfidy has gone far enough. He must be stopped, by other NATO members, from sneaking delivery of “The Vladilovstok’ to Russia, through whatever subterfuge he can find.

The Russian media are paying extremely close attention to the delivery.

Cancelation of delivery woukd bring home to Putin the real costs of his military aggression against the Ukraine.

Delivery, however disingenuous the means, would confirm that appeasement rules in the West, and Russia has little to fear from further aggression.

The Trenchant Observer

Russian military intervention in the Ukraine: THE FACTS

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

Draft

NATO and Western nations charges that Russia has invaded the Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Russian President Ladimir Putin and the propanda mouthpieces under him, including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, deny that Russia has intervened mikitariky in the Ukraine.

In determing whi is right, it is useful to take a look at the facts while remembering each oarty’s record if veracity as regards the Ukraine.

See:

(1) Konrad Schuller und Friedrich Schmidt, “Ukraine: Ein offenes Staatsgeheimnis; Von Anfang an spielten Russlands Soldaten im Konflikt in der Ukraine eine entscheidende Rolle. Selbst in Moskau wird deren Engagement nur noch heruntergespielt, aber nicht mehr geleugnet,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 22. November 2014.

(2) Reinhard Veser, Russische Tatsachen; Der Kreml ist am Krieg in der Ukraine beteiligt, das bestätigen auch die Separatisten ganz offen. Wer das noch leugnet, verschließt die Augen vor den Tatsachen,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 22. November 2014.

The Trenchant Observer

Human rights abuses by Putin’s puppets: The seventh report of the OHCHR on the human rights situation in the Ukraine (with link to full report)

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Draft

By launching a war of aggression in the Crimea and the eastern Ukraine, in flagrant violation of Article 2 paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter, Russian President Vladimir Putin is directly responsible for the deaths, both military and civilian, that have occurred in the Ukraine.

The latest (Seventh) report by the U.N. OHCHR on the human rights situation in the Ukraine (see below) makes for chilling reading.

Behind all the lies and distortions of Putin and his war propaganda machine, lie the grisly facts regarding what has been happening in the Donbass and the Crimea following the Russian invasions of these regions.

The so-called “separatists” in the Donbas were led by Russian special forces and intelligence agents from the very beginning, when they lauched a highly sophisticated and coordinated campaign to seize government buildings and then to organize the establishment of so-called “People’s Republics” in the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk. When the Ukrainian government sought to put down this “rebellion”, as permitted by domestic and international law, regular Russian military forces intervened directly, engaged them, and pushed them back.

On September 5, 2014, in an effort to forestall the imposition of harsher “stage 3″ sectoral sanctions by the EU and the U.S., Russia and the leaders of the two “People’s Republics” signed an agreement with the Ukrainian government to implement an immediate ceasefire and follow a 12-step process for the restoration of peace and stability in the region.

The resulting Minsk Protocol of September 5 and the ceasefire and other measures it provided for, including a withdrawal of foreign fighters and a sealing of the frontier with Russia, has broken down.

Full compliance with its provisions remains, however, the best hope for ending the war and reestablishing peace in the Donbas.

For insights into the atrocities and other violations of fundamental human right committed by the so-called “separatists” in the Donbas and in the Crimea, see

United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Serious human rights violations persist in eastern Ukraine despite tenuous ceasefire – UN report,” November 20, 2014.

For the full text of the 49-page Report, wich is summarized below, see

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Report on the human rights situation in Ukraine,” 15 November 2014. The text is found here.

See also “U.N. report describes widespread violations of human rights in areas of Ukraine under Russian or Russian puppet control,” The Trenchant Observer, October 9, 2014.

The OHCHR summary of the Report states the following:

GENEVA (20 November 2014) – Civilians have continued to be killed, unlawfully detained, tortured and disappeared in eastern Ukraine, and the number of internally displaced people has risen considerably despite the announcement of a ceasefire on 5 September, according to a new UN human rights monitoring report released Thursday.

“Violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law persist,” the report states. “The situation in the conflict-affected area is becoming increasingly entrenched, with the total breakdown of law and order and the emergence of parallel governance systems in the territories under the control of the [self-proclaimed] ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and the [self-proclaimed] ‘Luhansk people’s republic’.”

“The continuing presence of a large amount of sophisticated weaponry, as well as foreign fighters that include servicemen from the Russian Federation, directly affects the human rights situation in the east of Ukraine,” the report adds. “Guaranteeing the protection of those who live within the conflict-affected area must be of the highest priority. A peaceful solution must be found to end the fighting and violence, to save lives and to prevent further hardship for those people living in the eastern regions.”

According to the UN Human Rights Office, from mid-April to 18 November, at least 4,317 people were killed and 9,921 wounded in the conflict-affected area of eastern Ukraine. Since the ceasefire began, from 6 September up to 18 November, 957 fatalities were recorded – 838 men and 119 women, although some may have been killed prior to the ceasefire, with the data only recorded later. The number of internally displaced people (IDPs) has also sharply increased from 275,489 as of 18 September to 466,829 on 19 November, according to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine.*

The report itself, the seventh produced by the 35-strong UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, covers the period between 17 September and 31 October 2014. The report states that serious human rights abuses by the armed groups continued to be reported, including torture, arbitrary and incommunicado detention, summary executions, forced labour and sexual violence as well as the destruction and illegal seizure of property.

The report itself, the seventh produced by the 35-strong UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, covers the period between 17 September and 31 October 2014.
The report states that serious human rights abuses by the armed groups continued to be reported, including torture, arbitrary and incommunicado detention, summary executions, forced labour and sexual violence as well as the destruction and illegal seizure of property.

Reports on the use of cluster munitions in both urban and rural areas must be urgently and thoroughly investigated, the report states, as must all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law.

“Accountability and an end to impunity are at the core of ensuring peace, reconciliation and long term recovery,” the report stresses, adding that crimes must be promptly investigated, perpetrators held accountable and victims provided with an effective remedy, as well as with the required help and support.

It notes that secret and illegal places of detention continue to be in operation, with individuals detained incommunicado and allegations of torture and ill-treatment. Thousands of individuals remain missing. Ad hoc graves continue to be found and exhumed to establish the identities of those buried in them and to allow their bodies to be handed over to relatives.

There were also worrying accounts of the conduct of prisoner exchange processes, including reports that individuals were actually deprived of their liberty for the purpose of the exchange, the report says.

Severe curtailment of the economic, social and cultural rights of people in Ukraine is also of grave concern. One particularly pressing concern is the threat of interrupted treatment of nearly 60,000 HIV-positive and around 11,600 multi-drug resistant tuberculosis patients in all regions, due to non-completed tenders for the purchase of essential life-saving medicine.

“Discontinuation of treatment is life-threatening for more than 70,000 patients and may lead to the uncontrolled spread of epidemics,” the report warns. “Provision of essential medicines is one of the core obligations of the State to ensure the satisfaction of the minimum essential level of the right to health.”

The situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea is marked by reports of increasing human rights violations and protection challenges, especially for vulnerable minority and indigenous groups, and most notably for the Crimean Tatars.

issioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein welcomed the decree, which he hoped would place a greater, sustained emphasis on the promotion and protection of human rights in the country. However, he stressed that good laws and policies need to be accompanied by a genuine political commitment to implement them.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein … Zeid expressed deep dismay at the lack of significant progress on accountability for violations and abuses perpetrated so far, and for continued violations of the ceasefire.

“The list of victims keeps growing. Civilians, including women, children, minorities and a range of vulnerable individuals and groups continue to suffer the consequences of the political stalemate in Ukraine,” Zeid said.

“Respect for the ceasefire has been sporadic at best, with continued outbreaks of fighting and shelling resulting in an average of 13 people a day being killed during the first eight weeks of the ceasefire,” he added. “All parties need to make a far more whole-hearted effort to resolve this protracted crisis peacefully and in line with international human rights laws and standards.”

* Figures contained in this paragraph have been updated beyond the period covered by the report. The casualty figures are estimated by OHCHR and WHO; and the figures for displacement by the State Emergency Service of Ukraine.

The Trenchant Observer

Mistral Warships: U.S. Congress should ban defense contracts with France until Hollande guarantees non-delivery to Russia

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Developing

For the latest machinations by France and Russia regardind delivery of “The Vladilovstok” Mistral-class attack warship to Russia, see

www.nomistralforputin.com

, and here.

The registration of “The Vladilovstok”, the Mistral-class warship, has reportedly passed to the Russian federation and then back to France again, while the ship itself has “disappeared” from the maritime vessel satellite tracking system several times during the last week.

Former President Nicholas Sarkozy, who pushed the Mistral deal through when he was in office, is now shamefacedly pushing for delivery of “The Vladilovstok” to Russia. In doing so, he has demonstrated that he is not fit to play an important role in determining the defense policy of France, or NATO.

Current French President Francois Hollande, who has a treacherous record vis-a-vis his NATO allies in dealing with Russia regarding the Mistral warships, could easily connive with other officials, both French anf Russian, to pass the warship to Russian possession at any hour.

To date, NATO has done nothing to protect itself from the loss of the ten-year technological advantage in naval warfare that will occur if “The Vladilovstok” ends up in Russian hands. A Russian crew capable of sailing the ship has just been trained by the French at Ste. Navarre in France, where they remain.

To forestall a defense disaster that could take place literally at any minute, the following steps should be taken immediately:

1. Legislation should be introduced in the U.S. Congress, and adopted, that will immediately halt the performance of or entering into any defense contracts of any kind with French companies, until French President Francois Hollande orders the departure from France of the Russian navy crew of the “Vladilovstok” that has been trained in France, and definitively cancels the contract for the delivery of two Mistral-class warships to Russia.

2. Other NATO member states should adopt similar legislation at the eraliesr possible date.

3. Officials such as U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel should think three times before ever repeating again the statement that the decision to deliver the Mistral-class warship is a matter exclusively within the perogatives of French national sovereignty.

4. NATO should immediately convene an emergency ministerial meeting to adopt decisions recommending a ban the sale of the Mistral-class warships to Russia, while the EU should immediately add a ban on the performance of the Mistrals contract, and any delivery of “The Vladlovstok” to Russia.

These steps may take some time, while France and other states friendly to Russia could block any further EU sanctions related to the defense industry. That is why steps (1) and (2) need to be taken immediately.

If NATO can’t defend itself from its own members, how can it ever defend its members against Russian military aggression?

NATO members will not be able to rest until the decision to deliver or not deliver the Mistral-class warship is taken out of the hands of Francois Hollande, whose perfidious character has already been amply demonstrated with respect to Russia, Vladimir Putin, and the Mistral deal itself.

The Trenchant Observer

Putin at G-20 in Brisbane: Shun the Aggressor!

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Latest Developments and Overview of Situation Regarding Ukraine

See:

(1) Julia Smirvova, “Die Angst vor der Eskalation in der Ostukraine,” Die Welt, 14. November 2014.(Aktualisiert um 9:54 Uhr)

Kämpfer in Uniform strömen über die russische Grenze in die Ostukraine, die Separatisten rücken vor. Russland nennt das “propagandistische Fälschung”. Merkel zeigt sich sehr besorgt.

(2) “Vor dem G20-Gipfel: Nato-Chef greift Putin scharf an,” Der Spiegel, 14. November 2014 (7:09 Uhr).

Die Waffenruhe in der Ostukraine ist gebrochen. Der Westen gibt Russlands Präsidenten die Schuld – überraschend geht Nato-Generalsekretär Stoltenberg jetzt Putin persönlich an. Beim G20-Gipfel wird Kanzlerin Merkel wohl wieder eine Schlüsselrolle zukommen.

(3) “Go for Putin!”, The Trenchant Observer, November 13, 2014.

(4) “Merkel points to needed approach toward Putin,” The Trenchant Observer, October 19, 2014. The text follows:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in a striking photograph showing her pointing sharply at Vladimir Putin, has offered a powerful symbol of the attitude the West and other civilized countries should adopt toward the Russian dictator:

–Call him out for his aggression in the Crimea and the eastern Ukraine, at every meeting, and every time he speaks.

–Earnestly rebut every argument Putin and his foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, make to justify their seizure and annexation of the Crimea, and their invasion of the eastern Ukraine.

–Don’t let Putin and Russia forget, not even for a moment, that none of their arguments and lies have any persuasive power, given the lies they have told and the ongoing Russian aggression against the Ukraine—in open and flagrant violation of the prohibition of the threat or use of force contained in Article 2 paragraph 4 of the U.N. Charter and mandatory or peremptory international law (jus cogens)

–Be as relentless as Putin and Lavrov and any other Russian official or propaganda mouthpiece in defending the most basic values of the civilized nations of the world, embodied in the U.N. Charter’s fundamental principles and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

–Follow Winston Churchill’s advice to the graduating class at his high school after World War II: “Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.”

See the photograph of Merkel pointing at Putin, and the context, in the article below:

LAURENCE NORMAN and GIOVANNI LEGORANO in Milan and JAMES MARSON in Moscow, “Leaders Make Little Progress in Ukraine Crisis Talks; Merkel, Putin Spar Over Crimea in ‘Terse’ Exchange,” Wall Street Journal, Updated Oct. 17, 2014(2:37 p.m. ET).

The Trenchant Observer

Go for Putin!

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

Commentary

The contempt Vladimir Putin evidently feels for Barack Obama and the West was revealed in a split-second at the APEC summit in Beijing these last two days, when Putin slapped Obama on the back in a gesture which is often friendly but here was one of utter contempt.

We advised Obama years ago to be reticent with physical contact with foreign leaders from very different cultures, but he has not followed the advice. He puts his hands all over people, with backslaps, grabbing an arm or an elbow, in what is easily identifiable as Alfa-male behavior.

Well, this time, Putin returned the favor, with backslapping that hardly concealed his feelings of contempt for the U.S. president.

Putin was a very interesting character to watch at the summit, from his backslapping of Obama to his draping a coat or shawl over the shoulders of Chinese Leader Xi Jinping’s wife, which she immediately discarded.

How would you like Adolf Hitler draping his coat over your shoulders as he was invading “rump” Czechoslovakia in March 1939?

Watching Putin move about the conference, with an irrepressible smirk on his face instead of a smile, you could almost hear the derisive laughter in his head as he knew full-well what was underway in the Ukraine.

The other APEC leaders could do and say as they liked, but they would soon learn, once again, the value of all their pleasantries and high-minded thoughts, all of their moral appeals and “moral pressure”, in the face of the iron and steel of the Russian military machine, deploying once again its might disguised behind the veil of his brilliantly conceived and now proven new form of “stealth warfare”.

Russia had the military might and was more than willing to use it, almost with “joy”, against the feckless and spineless West, “led” by that tall man he had just stretched to slap on the back.

See Naftali Benadavid (Brussels) and Gregory L. White (Moscow), “NATO Sees ‘Significant Buildup’ of Russian Forces in Ukraine; Large Convoys Reported to be Moving Into the Region,” Wall Sreet Journal, Updatedy November 12, 2014 (7:55 p.m. ET).

Watching Putin in Beijing, one might easily feel with indignation that he, the great and rising Dictator of 2014, had no right to be present among these other leaders, heads of state of civilized nations which still stood by the United Nations Charter, and its obligations to settle international disputes by peaceful means, and not to resort to the threat or use of force against another state except in self-defense or perhaps in other narrowly circumscribed cases such as to halt genocide.

No, Putin didn’t belong there, and he doesn’t deserve to be treated with ceremony as a head of state, at least not while he is engaged in the invasion of another country.

He should be shunned, the way he was shunned prior to François Hollande’s invitation to attend the D-Day commemoration exercises at Normandy on June 6, and then to have dinner at the Elysée palace–the same evening Obama had to dine with Hollande at a Parisian restaurant–and then Hollande’s lifting of the suspension of the delivery of the Mistral-class warship.

The delivery has been suspended again, to avoid inclusion in the new EU “stage 3″ sanctions list on September 5, but who knows for how long? Invitations to a delivery ceremony on November 14 were even sent out on October 8, though French officials then said conditions were not “ripe” for delivery “at this time”.

Yes, Putin should be shunned! In general, those who launch aggressive wars, presumptive war criminals, should be shunned.

No more telephone calls from other world leaders. No more meetings between John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov. No more pretense of civility when the Russians are invading another country and killing innocent people, military and civilians alike. No more handshakes with rogues who threaten nuclear conflict, or to invade other neighbors if they don’t get their way.

And while we’re shunning Putin and his supporters, in Russia and abroad, maybe the leaders of the West can drop their delicacy and call things by their real names, like “invasion” instead of “incursion”.

Maybe we can even get some of our leading newspapers, like the Wall Street Journal, to drop the practice of reporting NATO and Ukrainian charges about Russian military aggression, while dutifully noting that Russia denies the charges, e.g., that they have sent troops and tanks into the Donbas.

Yes, maybe we could even get an American newspaper to boldly report the facts of the Russian infiltration and invasion of the eastern Ukraine!

And if we could do that, maybe we could even take the battle directly to Putin, and go directly after his monstrous lies and deceptions by demonstrating, in the U.N. Security Council and elsewhere, that there is irrefutable evidence that his assertions are false, and that Russia has invaded the eastern Ukraine, that Russia is at this very moment intensifying its invasion, and that there are hundreds of Russian tanks, artillery pieces, air-defense systems, and other equipment, and thousands of Russian combat and other irregular troops in the Donbas.

U.S. military and other intelligence agencies undoubtedly have massive amounts of proof that the denials of the Russians of military involvement in the eastern Ukraine are blatant and outrageous lies.

Understandably, methods and sources need to be protected, within limits. But surely in Washington there must be some “big picture” officials who understand the importance of rebutting Putin’s lies, destroying his credibility, and laying out the truth with evidence–e.g., satellite photos showing the movements of tanks and troops, accounts from captured soldiers, intercepted communications, and a marshaling of what is already in the public record.

In a word, Washington should lay out the facts, the truth, with concrete evidence to back up its factual assertions.

If the Russians still deny the obvious facts, as they undoubtedly will, the U.S. should put forward a resolution in the U.N. Security Council establishing an impartial fact-finding commission, drawing on the work of other U.N. bodies such as the Human Rights Council, to investigate and report the truth about what has happened in the Donbas, who the “separatists” really are, and who among Russia, the “separatists” and the Ukraine is complying with and who is violating the provisions of the Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014.

Go after Putin! Refute his propaganda with impartial determination and reporting of the facts!

Show the world, beyond any doubt, the truths that rebut Putin’s shameless lies.

Shun him. Let him threaten the U.S. with his long-range bombers. The U.S. knows how to shoot them down. If Putin harbors any misconceptions over who would prevail in a nuclear showdown with the West, Washington should make it clear to him that he will be facing not only Barack Obama but the united military and security forces of the United States, NATO, and other allies.

But the U.S. needs to get its act together. To do so, the U.S. will have to do better than the incoherence in communications revealed by the following quote from the Wall Street Jounal article cited above:

Russia is sending fresh convoys of troops and tanks into eastern Ukraine, NATO said, and threatening to dispatch warplanes on maneuvers over the Gulf of Mexico, flexing its military muscles in a Cold War-style escalation with the West.

U.S. officials said they couldn’t confirm the new incursion into Ukraine announced by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and an international monitoring group in the region, but accused Russia of repeatedly violating the terms of a peace pact signed two months ago.

Really! The U.S. can’t confirm statements by U.S. General Philip Breedlove, the Supreme Allied Commander for Europe and Commander of NATO?

As “U.S. officials couldn’t confirm the new incursion into Ukraine”, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power was denouncing it at an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

See

(1) United Nations Security Council, Press Release, “Security Council Briefed on Fast-Breaking Developments in Ukraine, as Political Official Warns Failure to Secure Russian-Ukrainian Border Obstructing Peace, ” U.N. Security Council, 7311th Meeting (PM), U.N. Doc. SC/11645 (2014), November 12, 1014.

(2) Ukraine – Security Council, 7311th meeting, 12 Nov 2014 – 7311th meeting of the Security Council on the situation in Ukraine, Webcast (English)

(3) The Webcast of the 7311th Meeting of the Security Council on November 12, in the original language of the speaker, is found here.

Obama needs to bring experienced adults in to take charge of his national security team and its spokespersons, at the earliest opportunity.

We need to communicate clearly and strongly to Putin. This kind of incompetence does not help.

The Wall Street Joutnal, for its part, didn’t even bother to report on the Security Council meeting, which suggests the need for adult supervision there as well.

The Trenchant Observer

U.N. Security Council meets in emergency session (link to video); NATO confirms columns of Russian tanks, artillery and troops crossing border into eastern Ukraine; Kiev denounces imminent large-scale invasion

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

Developing

See

(1) Ewen MacAskill (defence correspondent), “Russian tanks and troops crossing into Ukraine, says Nato commander General Philip Breedlove warns of renewed war as border between two countries becomes ‘completely porous’,” November 12, 2014 (13.00 EST).

Nato’s chief military commander has said that columns of Russian tanks, artillery and troops have been spotted crossing the border into Ukraine over the last two days, amid fears of a renewal of all-out conflict in the war-torn east of the country.

Moscow has denied that any columns have crossed the border and challenged Nato to produce evidence.

Philip Breedlove, the US general who is supreme allied commander Europe, speaking in the Bulgarian capital Sofia on Wednesday, said: “What worries me the most is that we have a situation now that the former international border between Ukraine and Russia is completely porous, it is completely wide open.”

He added: “Forces, money, support, supplies, weapons are flowing back and forth across this border completely at will and that is not a good situation.”

(2) Osten der Ukraine: Nato bestätigt Militärtransporte aus Russland; Panzer, Artillerie und Truppen: Die Nato hat Berichte bestätigt, wonach Russland seine militärische Präsenz im Osten der Ukraine ausbaut. Die Regierung in Moskau dementiert,” Der Spiegel, 12. November 2014 (14:32 Uhr).

Kiew/Sofia – Die Nato beobachtet, dass “zahlreiche Kolonnen” mit militärischer Ausrüstung von Russland aus in den Osten der Ukraine transportiert werden. “In den vergangenen zwei Tagen haben wir dasselbe gesehen, was die OSZE berichtet: Wir haben Kolonnen russischer Ausrüstung gesehen, vor allem russische Panzer, russische Artillerie, russische Luftabwehrsysteme und russische Kampftruppen, die in die Ukraine gebracht werden”, sagte Nato-Oberkommandeur Philip Breedlove. Die genaue Anzahl der Einheiten sei unklar, doch bestünde Einigkeit, dass es “zahlreiche Kolonnen” seien.

(3) U.N. Security Council Meeting on Ukraine; The U.N. Security Council held a meeting on Ukraine, as Russian combat troops, tanks, and artillery moved into the country, C-SPAN, November 12, 2014. The video link is here.

The Trenchant Observer

Ukrainian military expert and politician charges OSCE Observers with bias

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

After reading various anodyne OSCE observer reports which note, for example, that so many columns of tanks and military vehicles without license plates or insignia were observed moving within the eastern Ukraine, or so many trucks carrying soldiers with no identifying insignia were similarly on the move, one must question whether the observers are adequately fulfilling their assigned role, or are going out of the way not to report evidence that the tanks, artillery, GRAD rocket launchers, troops and material they are observing are in fact Russian, and in fact part of a continuing influx of Russian weapons and troops into the Donbas.

It seems elementary that members of the observer teams should not include individuals from the country which is allegedly invading the Ukraine, but this is apparently not the case.

There appear to be grounds to suspect that the OSCE observer mission, charged with overseeing the ceasefire established by the September 5 Minsk Protocol, and overseeing the integrity of the Russian-Ukrainian border, are not performing their duties in a vigorous and impartial manner.

Why else would their reports be so lacking in conclusions and indeed in utility? The border is wide open, according to NATO and Ukrainian sources, and the ceasefire has broken down as military clashes escalate in Donetsk and also other areas of the Donbass.

Why are the OSCE observer reports telling us so little about what is going on in the Donbas and who is responsible for the violations of the ceasefire and other provisions of the Minsk Protocol?

A leading Ukrainian military expert and politician has now changed that the OSCE observers have been biased, citing a number of specific instances.

See “‘Einseitige Berichte': Ukrainische Kritik an OSZEDer Militärexperte und künftige Abgeordnete Dmytro Tymtschuk erhebt schwere Vorwürfe gegen die OSZE,” Die Presse (Wien), 11. November 2014 (19:36 Uhr).

Why are we not getting full, informative and unbiased reports from the OSCE on ceasefire violations and who is responsible for them, and on compliance with the other commitments among the 12 points of the Minsk Protocol, including monitoring of the border and border incursions?

Instead of reporting on intensive observational and investigative activities, with a view to finding out who is responsible for violations, what we are getting are essentially reports on what the observers heard when they went and met with different people on visits that sound arranged. There is no overarching narrative, and no easy way to access all of the reports that have been filed by searching on the OSCE website. The information provided in the reports is not aggregated, either geographically or on a time line.

It would be useful for the terms of reference to be piblished on the OSCE website.

Perhaps it is time to take the Minsk Protocol to the U.N. Security Council, and to table a resolution for adoption which would provide for additional and much more vigorous monitoring of the Minsk Protocol’s provisions by U.N. monitors, who would reinforce the efforts of the OSCE.

for that matter, given the lackluster performance of the OSCE in the Ukraine, it may be time to question the utility of the organization itself, in Europe today, when countries like Russia no konger demonstrate through their actions any commitment to the principles upon which the organization was founded,

Has the OSCE become an anachronism, an organization which now only serves to feed the illusions of European pacifists and appeasers who refuse to look current realities in the face and call them by their true names?

in a word, does the OSCE today only operate, in effect if not intent, to serve the purposes a Russia now bent on military aggression and conquest?

See

“Full text of Minsk Protocol on Ceasefire in Ukraine (September 5, 2014),” The Trenchant Observer, September 7, 2014.

“Poroshenko’s capitulation: The new “special status” law and implementation of the Minsk Protocol,” The Trenchant Observer, September 17, 2014.

The Trenchant Observer

REPRISE: Veterans’ Day, 2011: “Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?”

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

First published, November 11, 2011

My uncle died in a field in northern France with a German bullet in his head. To him, and all the other veterans of America’s wars, I am immensely grateful for his, and their, sacrifice.

The Vision of Peace After World War II

At the end of World War II, the leaders of the world had a clear vision of the horrors of war, and acted with resolution to bring wars to a halt through the creation of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945, and by codifying the international law governing the use of force in Article 2 paragraph 4 and Article 51 of the U.N. Charter. Article 2 paragraph 4 prohibited the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of members of the organization, a prohibition later extended to include all states. Article 51 provided for an exception in the case of an “armed attack”. These provisions have become customary international law and, importantly, also aquired the status of jus cogens or peremptory law from which there can be no exception or derogation by agreement.

A Vision of Perpetual War

Unfortunately, President Barack Obama and the United States are currently embarked on a policy based on the assumption of perpetual war. The implementation of this policy includes targeted assassinations through drone strikes and other means, the establishment of new drone bases throughout the northern part of Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, and the development of new generations of drones some of which are as small as insects.

This policy has been implemented with little regard for the international law governing the use of force, and even less regard for the duty of the United States to contribute to the development of international law and institutions that can help ensure the security of the United States and other countries in the future.

These actions indicate that the United States has no current vision of peace as an overriding goal to be achieved, and no coherent strategy for actually achieving this objective.

Without the goal of peace, we are not likely to take the actions necessary to achieve peace, or to give those actions the urgent priority they should receive.

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?

In these circumstances, one is reminded of Pete Seeger’s famous song entitled “Where have all the flowers gone?” For the lyrics, click here.

Pete Seeger’s performance of this song is available on YouTube here.

See also, pasquetflowerponderings.blogspot.com, “Grandpa’s War – A Veteran’s Day Post,” November 11, 2011, which contains recollections of America’s recent wars, and a link to a clip of Pete Seeger singing ” Where have all the flowers gone” with a moving montage of photographs evoking American experiences of war, created by the TheSpadecaller in 2008.

Joan Baez, in a more recent performance of the song, can be found on YouTube here.

Marlene Dietrich’s recording of this song in English is also found on YouTube here.

For Dietrich’s performance of the song in French, see “Qui peut dire ou vont les fleurs?” here.

For her performance of the German version of this song, see “Sag mir wo die Blumen sind”, here.

Marlene Dietrich, in a version of perhaps her most famous song, “Lili Marleen”, written in 1915 and later a hit among troops on both sides during World War II, takes us back to November 11, 1918 and the terrible war that preceded the armistice on that day. Her recording of the song, in English, is found on YouTube here. The original German version of the song is found here.

Obama’s Vision of Perpetual War and International Law

In his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech in Oslo, on December 10, 2009, President Obama said:

In the wake of such destruction (World War II), and with the advent of the nuclear age, it became clear to victor and vanquished alike that the world needed institutions to prevent another world war. And so, a quarter century after the United States Senate rejected the League of Nations – an idea for which Woodrow Wilson received this prize – America led the world in constructing an architecture to keep the peace: a Marshall Plan and a United Nations, mechanisms to govern the waging of war, treaties to protect human rights, prevent genocide, restrict the most dangerous weapons.

I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war. What I do know is that meeting these challenges will require the same vision, hard work, and persistence of those men and women who acted so boldly decades ago. And it will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace.

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

To begin with, I believe that all nations – strong and weak alike – must adhere to standards that govern the use of force. I – like any head of state – reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation. Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards, international standards, strengthens those who do, and isolates and weakens those who don’t.

Closely parsed, these statements are full of contradictions, as when President Obama affirms:

(1) “We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.”
(2) “To begin with, I believe that all nations – strong and weak alike – must adhere to standards that govern the use of force.”
(3) “I – like any head of state – reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation”; and
(4) “Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards, international standards, strengthens those who do, and isolates and weakens those who don’t.”

Affirmation (1) accepts violent conflict as inevitable. (2) states that all nations must adhere to the norms that govern the use of force. (3) states that he, the president, “like any head of state”, reserves the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend his nation; and (4) states he is convinced adhering to “international standards” strengthens those who do.

These contradictions in Obama’s thinking, it is submitted, have contributed to the incoherence of U.S. foreign policy, particularly when measured against the requirements of international law, and the historical burden of strengthening international law and building better international institutions, which is no less important today than it was in 1945.

Reading these excerpts and the whole speech reveals that the president does not have a clear vision of peace as the goal, or a strategy on how to achieve that goal. While he pays lip service to observing international law, he insists that he has the paradoxical right–“like any head of state”–to violate it if necessary, in his view. So much for the concept of international law governing the use of force.

Without the clear and overriding goal of peace or a strategy for achieving peace, it is hard to see how we and other nations can view as the highest priority taking the steps necessary to achieve peace.

President Obama and the United States currently seem to have no overarching vision of peace, or strategy for achieving peace. As a result, their policies and actions are not guided by the pursuance of this goal in a strategic sense, but rather only by the demands of meeting with expediency the challenges of the moment.

By way of contrast, consider, if you will, the vision of the founders of the United Nations in 1945, particularly as set forth in the Preamble and Articles 1, 2, and 51 of the Charter.

We in the United States, like citizens in other countries, need a strong vision of peace and a coherent strategy for achieving it. Consequently, we need a president who has such a vision, and is guided by it.

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