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

The Ukraine: Continuing Russian aggression, and the actions the circumstances require

Friday, July 25th, 2014

How the West and other civilized nations should respond–at this point–to Russian aggression in the Ukraine

Advice for foreign policy decision-makers in Europe and the United States:

1. Speak first of real “sanctions”, not “targeted sanctions”.

Jettison the illusions that the latter will change Russia’s course of action. Call the latter “targeted individual measures”, not “sanctions”– which is a highly misleading term when used to refer to “pinprick” measures in this context.

2. Immediately provide the Ukraine with military assistance.

Provide Ukraine with modern military equipment with which the armed forces can defend themselves and their country. Supply modern aircraft with advanced air-defense systems, at least one for every plane shot down by Russia or Russian-supplied missiles.

Provide other substantial military assistance, including sophisticated modern weapons.

3. Prepare contingency plans to respond to any nuclear threats by Putin.o

Prepare military contingency plans to be used in case Putin resorts to threats of using nuclear weapons. He and Mededev have made such veiled threats in the past. Putin has undertaken a course which could put his regime at risk.

See Maksym Bugriy (The Jamstown Foundation) “Nuclear Deterrence in the Context of the Ukrainian-Russian Conflict,” Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 11 Issue: 135, July 24, 2014 (06:48 PM).

Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine has led to a hot war where four nuclear powers support opposite sides (Russia and the U.S., as well as NATO members Great Britain and France).

Prepare for all contingencies.

4. Immediately halt delivery of all military equipment and technology to Russia.

Immediately halt all deliveries of military equipment and training of Russian forces (e.g., on how to operate Mistral-class warships, currently underway in France).

Avoid the political temptation to block only future contracts and deliveries. This is a matter of national security for all of the countries of NATO and the EU, as well as other civilized countries.

This is not an issue of honoring contracts, but rather of implementing the peremptory government decisions necessary for national defense.

The U. N. Charter authorizes measures of collective self-defense under Article 51, in response to armed attacks in violation of the prohibition of the threat or use of force contained in Article 2 paragraph 4 of the Charter.

These norms are universally recognized as jus cogens, i.e., peremptory norms from which there can be no exception by way of agreement. They override all other treaty norms, and any penalty clauses in the French contracts for the delivery of two Mistral-class warships to Russia, for example. Consequently, an international court or arbitral panel would be unlikely to uphold the penalty provisions in these contracts.

5. Move large numbers of NATO troops to Eastern European states that border Russia.

Lead NATO in reaching firm decisions to move NATO forces to forward bases in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, and Romania. Begin initial deployments immediately.

6. Select a strong EU foreign minister who can lead responses to Russian aggression.

Eschew normal political bargaining and elect Radoslaw Sikorski, or someone with his qualities (extensive experience as foreign minister, strong record on standing up to Russia and of successful negotiations) to be the new EU foreign relations chief. The Italian candidate, Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini, is hopelessly compromised because of her dealings with Russia after the invasion of the Crimea, in addition to her lack of experience, and should not receive further consideration.

Avoid selection of a compromise candidate who represents the lowest common denominator in Europe.

Sikorski was taped in a private conversation allegedly speaking disparagingly of American relations with Poland. U.S. Assistant Secretary od State State Victoria Nuland in a much more significant official though private communication, said, “F… the EU!” Call it even, and elect Sikorsky. He has demonstrated great abilities as foreign minister of Poland, and is uniquely qualified to lead the EU in meeting the challenge of Russian aggression in the Ukraine.

7. Stop threatening and start implementing sectoral sanctions.

Stop threatening serious sanctions in illusory attempts to influence Putin’s and Russia’s actions, and start implementing sectoral, stage-three sanctions immediately.

The threats have not worked, and they are extremely unlikely to work in the future. Empty threats only confirm Putin’s belief that he can “outfox” the West, and that he can continue to act with virtual impunity.

The “rational actor fallacy” should be avoided. The authoritarian state of Russia, caught up in the extreme emotions of xenophobic nationalism and unchecked military aggression, is not likely to act as a single rational mind calculating both long-term and short-term benefits. What drives Putin and his coterie is greed and the unquenchable thirst to remain in power.

Instead of talking about imposing “additional costs” on Russia, a formulation which implicitly rests on “the rational actor fallacy”, the West should be speaking of halting Russian aggression and reversing its effects.

The focus should not be on attempting to change Putin’s behavior through threats of future sanctions, but rather on changing NATO and EU minds so that forceful actions can be taken now to stop Putin and Russia.

8. Publish detailed white papers.

Publish detailed white papers detailing Russian acts of aggression in the Crimea and in the eastern Ukraine.

9. Publish detailed legal memoranda.

Publish detailed legal memoranda setting forth Russian violations of international law, including in particular Article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter, and justifying measures taken in response under Article 51 of the Charter and other provisions of international law.

10. Lobby governments not to abstain on votes in the General Assembly.

Actively lobby all governments, including in particular the BRICS and other countries which abstained on General Assembly Resolution A/RES/262 approved on March 27, 2014. Make it clear to these countries that their votes in the General Assembly affect the vital national security interests of Europe, NATO, and the United States, and that they will weigh heavily in considering bilateral issues and concessions. In short, make it clear to them that they will pay a significant price in the future if they vote against or abstain on resolutions such as G.A. Resolution 262 (March 27, 2014).

11. Stop “telephone diplomacy” and meeting publicly with Russian officials.

Stop the constant telephone calls to Putin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and other Russian officials, and stop public meetings with them. These actions have led to an excessive informality, and the cutting out or by-passing of other officials and experts in government decision processes. These two consequences have undermined the interests of the Western countries. Such informal conversations and meetings allow Putin to finely gage the resolve of leaders from different countries, and to use this information to divide them, particularly whenever the threat of the imposition of really serious sectoral sanctions becomes real.btrg

In a word, get serious and take forceful action in response to the Russian aggression in the Ukraine. Take actions that are commensurate with the gravity of Russian violations of international law that have been committed and and are still underway.

These violations constitute grave threats to peace and the national security interests of each nation concerned.

The Trenchant Observer

Keeping our eyes on the all: Sectoral sanctions must be imposed against Russia, NOW, for its invasion, purported “annexation”, and continuing occupation of the Crimea

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Developing

What is needed at this point to stop Russian aggression and reverse its effects are serious third-stage sanctions against Russia itself, including important sectors of its economy.

There will be a cost for Europe and the United States to pay.

Do the leaders of these countries think, however, that liberty and the freedom which they currently enjoy in democratic societies can be maintained without any sacrifice, without paying any price at all?

Do the members of the EU and the U.S. imagine for an instant that Hitler’s aggressions and annexations might have been stopped by “targeted sanctions” directed against less than 100 German individuals, and some banks and companies?

If the pacifists and the appeasers in Europe and the United States can always find new reasons not to respond seriously to Russian aggression against the Ukraine, we should not be surprised, because it is easier to constantly shift attention from one detail to another in the never-ending quest to avoid looking at the elephant in the room, at the harsh, bold facts, to wit:

(1) Russia has invaded the Ukraine and purported to “annex” the Crimea, including the city of Sevastopol, in fagrant violation of Article 2 paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter, which prohibits “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence” of any state.

The presence of Russian troops and naval forces in the Crimea as a result of this invasion and occupation represents an ongoing violation of Article 2(4) of the Charter. Individual states are authorized under Article 51 of the Charter to use all necessary and proportionate measures necessary to repel this aggression, including economic sanctions and other measures up to and including the use of force.

(2) Russian invasion of the eastern Ukraine, which is continuing with the supply of weapons and fighters, constitutes a separate and ongoing violation of Article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter, giving right to the adoption of measures of collective self-defense, from economic sanctions up to and including the use of force.

The invasion of the eastern Ukraine by special operations, intelligence and other irregular forces is continuing, under overall Russian direction and control. The latter fact is manifest to any outside independent analyst who puts together all of the pieces of the new Russian form of “stealth warfare”.

(3) The shooting down of Malaysian Flight MH17 over territory of the Ukraine controlled by so-called “pro-Russian separatists” is merely a continuation of a pattern of military actions by “separatists” who all evidence suggests are coordinated and directed by Moscow.

The repercussions of the downing of Flight MH17 are international, and bring home to nations whose citizens on that flight were murdered by Moscow-backed separatists that there is a hot war going on in the heart of Europe, caused and continued by one nation, the Russian Federation.

Calls from Western leaders for a “ceasefire” and negotiations between the “separatists” and the Ukrainian authorities are so unprincipled as to be almost criminally naive.

These calls are being made by leaders of the countries which have chosen appeasement as the response to Russian aggression.

Any calls for a cease-fire which are not directly tied to an immediate end of the Russian aggression should simply be ignored.

The Ukraine has the inherent right as part of its sovereignty and political independence to reestablish public order within its territory. It should be allowed to do so without meddling by outside powers, or measures recommended as acts of appeasement in the face of threats of intensified aggression by Russia.

Some serious third-stage sanctions should be imposed against Russia now, for its continuing illegal occupation of the Crimea.

One economic sanction that would be supported by powerful logic would be a ban of business with any company or individual in the Crimea (except as may be authorized by the Ukrainian government), and a ban on any trade or business or financial transactions with any company doing business with any companies or individuals in the Crimea, as outlined above.

What is needed at this point to stop Russian aggression and reverse its effects are serious third-stage sanctions against Russia itself, including important sectors of its economy.

There will be a cost for Europe and the United States to pay.

Do the leaders of these countries think, however, that liberty and the freedom which they currently enjoy in democratic societies can be maintained without any sacrifice, without paying any price at all?

They would do well to reflect on the sacrifices their parenta and grandparents made, paid in blood and tears and not just money, when deciding how to act now to halt Russian aggression and to roll back its recent territorial conquests.

Do they think that the problem of Russian xenophobic nationalism and irredentism will be solved without the Crimea being returned to the Ukraine?

International law is absolutely unequivocal in its position that the Russian “annexation” of the Crimea is without legal effect, and does not change its status as territory of the Ukraine illegally occupied by Russian forces.

Do the members of the EU and the U.S. imagine for an instant that Hitler’s aggressions and annexations might have been stopped by “targeted sanctions” directed against less than 100 German individuals, and some banks and companies?

The situation is similar now with Putin.

It is time now to contain Russian irredentism and aggression with forceful actions. Such actions are explicitly permitted under international law.

Russian aggression will not be stopped by empty threats or words. Only forceful actions, beginning with real economic sanctions, have any chance of producing the desired effects.

The Trenchant Observer

Obama hides behind European appeasers on sanctions; France blocks defense sector measures

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Developing

For recent news and commentary, see:

(1) Jennifer Rubin, “Truth telling at the U.N., obfuscation at the White House,” Washington Post, July 20, 2014.

(2) Carsten Luther, “MH17-ABSCHUSS: Keine Sanktion ist zu hart, Die Zeit, 22. juli 2014 (19:29 Uhr).

Der Abschuss von MH17 über der Ostukraine ist noch nicht endgültig aufgeklärt. Trotzdem darf der Westen nicht wieder den Fehler machen, zu lange auf Russland zu warten.

The Presidency of France is not what it used to be. Former President Nicholas Sarkozy is under criminal investigation for interference in judicial proceedings against him, notably for calling a high judge for details of how a corruption case against him was going.

Francois Hollande, the current president, has become an appeaser of Vladimir Putin, breaking the latter’s isolation from the West by extending invitations to Putin to attend the 70th anniversary celebrations of D-Day at Normandy, and dinner at the Elysee Palace, while simultaneously announcing his government’s decision to proceed with delivery of two Mistral-class helicopter transports and amphibious attack vessels to Russia, with the first delivery due this fall.

Now he is blocking the adoption of EU sanctions banning the export to Russia of military arms and equipment. The deal for the two warships is valued at $1.8 billion dollars.

In the last few days, Hollande has apparetly indicated that he would be willing to suspend the delivery of the second warship, but not the first.

That puts the price of France’s integrity and good name at somewhere under $1 billion.

That is what the United States and the rest of Europe get, today, in return for the Allied liberation of France in 1944 and 1945, and the Marshal plan which enabled it and the rest of Europe to emerge from the aftermath of World War II and achieve the prosperity that it knows today.

Cynics say they always knew France had a price, and that it is not unusual for French commercial interests to trump security and political interests, but that they simply didn’t know that the price could be so low.

In the United States, Barack Obama, under pressure from big business groups not to adopt unilateral sanctions against Russia that are not matched by the EU, sits and waits for Europe to take the lead.

Above all, the reigning illusion that pinprick “targeted measures” against a small number of individuals and highly-calibrated “targeted measures” against a few companies and banks will cause Putin and the Kremlin to change course retains its grip on political leaders’ imaginations, in Washington as in Europe.

The evidence that such “pinprick” measures potentially might change the course and foreign policy of a powerful state under the authoritarian control of Vladimir Putin and his coterie is utterly lacking, whereas the failure of this approach with respect to the Crimea and the eastern Ukraine is clear for all to see.

The pacifists in Washington and Europe remain in the delusional grip of beliefs that by empty threats and words they can change Putin’s course. They want to give him “one last chance” to halt his support of the so-called “separatists” in the eastern Ukraine.

They have made many such peremptory threats and “one last chance” requests for Putin to desist from his aggression in the Ukraine. Each time, the former KGB operative has cunningly offered them just the verbal concessions necessary to take the wind out of the sails of any movement to impose serious sectoral sanctions, i.e., sanctions against the Russian state and not just individuals or a few companies.

They also shrink from placing the one most obvious candidate on their sanctions list: Vladimir Putin himself.

Nor are they even thinking of rolling back the Russian invasion and annexation of the Crimea.

Given the transparent nature of their decision-making processes, their pacifism and appeasement manifested in a permanent lack of resolve, and their unwillingness to take even the most obvious measures to protect NATO members bordering Russia–e.g., by moving NATO troops from the safe heartland of Europe to forward bases in Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania–the leaders of Europe are like children in the woods with the Big Bad Wolf, Vladimir Putin.

Anyone who expects good results to emerge from this constellation of dispositions and forces will surely be disappointed.

Despite her notable successes on the economic front in Europe, Angela Merkel’s legacy is likely to be defined in terms of her failure to respond to Russian aggression in the Ukraine. Hollande will likely be remembered for responding to challenges requiring great courage and statesmanship with the mentality and actions of a small-town merchant.

Instead of Winston Churchill and Charles De Gaulle, their names in the future will likely evoke memories of Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier, the English and French leaders who in Munich delivered the Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia to their fate at the hands of Adolf Hitler and the Wehrmacht of the Third Reich.

As for Barack Obama and his indecisiveness and lack of resolve, what can be said, other than that he is the most incompetent president of the United States in foreign policy at least since 1932, who is laying the groundwork for a triumphant Republican sweep of the 2016 presidential elections by running on a strong national security platform and a repudiation of the Democrats’ withdrawal from world leadership in international affairs?

The Trenchant Observer

OSCE report details serious human rights violations against pro-Kiev Ukrainians in the Crimea and the eastern Ukraine

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has published a report based on the work and findings of its Observer Missions in the Ukraine from March 6 to April 17.

See

“HUMAN RIGHTS ASSESSMENT MISSION IN UKRAINE; HUMAN RIGHTS AND MINORITY RIGHTS SITUATION (ODIHR HRAM: 6 March – 1 April 2014 HCNM HRAM: 8 March – 17 April 2014),”. The Hague/Warsaw 12 May 2014.

The text of the OSCE report is found here.

For news accounts describing the report, see:

(1) OSCE, Press Release, “OSCE/ODIHR and HCNM release report by Human Rights Assessment Mission in Ukraine,” WARSAW / THE HAGUE 12 May 2014.

The ODIHR section of the report identifies a significant number of serious human rights violations, including murder and physical assaults, as well as cases of intimidation and enforced disappearances. The victims of these were primarily pro-Maidan activists and journalists, and those in Crimea also included Ukrainian military personnel and members of the Crimean Tatar community.

(2) Reinhard Veser, “Ostukraine; OSZE dokumentiert Menschenrechtsverletzungen,” Frankfurte Allgemeine, 13. Mai 2014.

Nach der Annexion der Krim sind ethnische Ukrainer und Tataren dort wachsendem Druck ausgesetzt. In der Ukraine wurden vor allem Anhänger der Demokratiebewegung Opfer von Gewalt. Dies geht aus einem Bericht der OSZE hervor.

The findings of the report provide a detailed, fact-based rebuttal to lies and distortions of the Russian propaganda machine, which has smothered the Crimea and the Ukraine with its falsehoods while Russian special operations forces and their agents cut off access to national Ukrainian television stations by force and intimidation wherever they could.

See also,

Office of the United Nations, High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Report on the human rights situation in Ukraine, 15 April 2014.

Vladimir Putin’s lies, and those of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, stand starkly revealed by the findings in the OSCE report.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and German Chancellor Angela Merkel deserve great credit for their dogged persistance in getting the OSCE observers to the Ukraine, with an authorization that included the assent of the Russian Federation.

The Trenchant Observer

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Observateur Incisif
El Observador Incisivo

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

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Trenchant Observer

Le Figaro reports diplomatic sources at UN believe Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine imminent

Saturday, April 26th, 2014

Latest News and Opinion

Reports are coming in to the effect that a Russian invasion of the eastern Ukraine appears “imminent” or “inevitable”.

See:

(1) Maurin Picard, “L’ONU redoute une invasion russe; La Russie serait sur le point d’envahir militairement l’est de l’Ukraine, peut-être dès ce week-end, selon des sources diplomatiques concordantes,” Le Figaro, le 25 avril 2014 (Mis à jour le à 22:45).

(2) Natalia Antelava, “Ukraine crisis: ‘Sense of inevitability of Russian invasion’,” BBC News, 26 April 2014 (Last updated at 10:33 BST).

We should not forget that the two biggest nuclear powers are on opposite sides of this conflict, and the risk of developments spinning out of control is real.

This fact argues for prudence on all sides in terms of moving troops or aircraft across international frontiers.

Putin must be stopped, in an extremely careful manner, but without succumbing to pacifism and appeasement.

What is more likely than a nuclear showdown, however, is an economic showdown, in which Russian tanks will not be able to ensure the export of Soviet goods or financial transfers from abroad to pay for them.

The Trenchant Observer

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

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Trenchant Observer

After Geneva: Putin’s double game, and what to do about it

Monday, April 21st, 2014

(Developing—check back for updates)

Geneva agreement delays further sanctions; Russian non-compliance and new conditions; tacit acceptance of Crimean annexation; 40,000 combat-ready troops on border continue to threaten invasion; Western response

For recent commentary, see

(1) Andreas Umland (Kommentar), “KRIM-ANNEXION: Wie Putin den Westen austrickste,” Die Zeit, 18. April 2014 (1949 Uhr).

“Wladimir Putin hat sein Ziel erreicht: Die Genfer Erklärung imnpliziert, dass die Krim nicht mehr zur Ukraine gehört. Der Westen lässt Russland wieder einmal gewähren.”

(2) David J. Kramer, “Action, not words, needed for Ukraine,” April 21, 2014 (10:29 AM).

The response of the EU, the U.S., and NATO to Russian aggression in the Ukraine continues to be one of pacifism and an unwillingness to confront Putin which is so great that it amounts to appeasement.  For example, there was no mention of the invasion and annexation of the Crimea in the communiqué which was issued at the end of the four-party meeting between Russia, the EU, the U.S. and the Ukraine in Geneva on April 17, 2014.

The West has adopted no sanctions which can seriously be considered as aimed at forcing Russia to undo the annexation and return the Crimea to the Ukraine restoring the situation to the status quo ante prior to the invasion.

The West has adopted no serious sanctions against Russia for threatening an invasion of the eastern Ukraine with 40,000 combat-ready troops on the border fully equipped for an invasion.

The West has adopted no serious sanctions against Russia for having invaded the eastern Ukraine with special operations forces and others under their control, which have seized and continue to occupy public buildings through the use of armed force.

The next stage of sanctions which the West is threatening to adopt if Putin expands his invasion of the eastern Ukraine with regular military forces appears to be limited to the addition of more individuals and companies to the list of those targeted by individual sanctions.

On the military front, NATO and the U.S. have announced some token deployments of troops (e.g., 150 U.S. troops) to Poland and one or more of the Baltic nations which are members of NATO.

What the West has Forgotten

The West has forgotten the history of the Soviet Union, and Russia. Europe and the U.S. seem to have no memory of the methods, lies and subterfuge which were essential elements of Soviet diplomacy after World War II, as they took over one Eastern European country after another with lies, subterfuge, and where necessary assassinations of democratic opponents. The West has both forgotten this history and failed to recognize the fact that the new Russian leaders and apparatchiks have resumed the use of such methods in the conduct of Russian foreign policy.

Hitler, Goebbels, and Soviet leaders since Stalin have understood that the public has a very short memory, that the “Big Lie” must be endlessly repeated, and that non-official sources of news and information must be ruthlessly suppressed. Every assertion by the enemy that is at variance with the official propaganda and narrative of the party or the state must be vigorously, endlessly disputed, so as to create confusion in the minds of the public and to effectively suppress the real news about what is going on.

The greatest enemy of official propaganda, both Hitler and Soviet dictators have always known, is the truth.

It is not difficult to see and understand the implementation of this strategy by the current Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and his apparatchiks such as foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.

Among the constantly repeated lies the Russians are propagating, and which are repeated again and again, is the assertion that the Kiev government, which was elected by a vote of parliament after President Viktor Yanukovych fled first Kiev and then the country, assumed power as a result of a “military coup”.  Yet there was no military coup, and indeed the military had nothing to do with Yanukovych abandoning the government and fleeing Kiev.

Another lie, constantly repeated, has been that the Kiev government is controlled by neo-Nazis and fascists. Even if in fact the Rightist sector is represented in the government, to a limited degree, it is very far from the truth to say they control the government, when the President and the Prime Minister come from the party most closely associated with Iulia Timoshenko.

The point is that, nurtured by 25 years of illusions that Russia might become like a Western country, Europe and the U.S. are having a very difficult time disabusing themselves of these illusions despite growing and incontrovertible evidence that they are false.

This evidence includes:

(1) Russian aggression against Georgia in 2008 and the fact that it still has troops occupying several Russian-speaking enclaves in that country;

(2) The harsh repression of fundamental human rights in Russia, including the right to a free press and freedom of expression, the right to engage in peaceful demonstrations, and the right to a fair trial; and

(3) Russia has become an authoritarian dictatorship where alternative versions of reality are no longer permitted to be transmitted through the press or the media. In a highly revealing move, Russia stopped transmissions by the Voice of America on local frequencies only weeks before the Crimean invasion.

Alternative versions of reality which question official facts cannot be permitted. The greatest enemy of Russian propaganda is the truth. That is why the truth must be suppressed and factual reports from outside the area whose media Russia controls must be vigorously contested and contradicted at every step of the way.

The greatest enemy is the truth, because if the truth is allowed to penetrate the bubble of propaganda, the whole bubble will burst.

It is in this context that we must understand Sergey Lavrov’s assertions that the U.S., the EU and the U.S. are violating the “agreement” reached in Geneva on April 17, 2014, or engaged in actions which violate international law, or his assertions that the government in Kiev is violating the Ukrainian constitution. This propaganda, which is dutifully and endlessly repeated in the Russian television and press, and by U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin in the Security Council whenever that body meets, is an integral part of a strategy which is based on (1) the “big lie” that Russian-speakers in the Crimea or the eastern Ukraine are under threat or being attacked; and (2) the “need” or asserted “right” of Russia to respond by the use of military force to protect those threatened Russian-speakers, or cultural nationals.  Hitler used the term “Volksdeutsche” in referring to cultural nationals as he claimed the same right Putin claims to intervene on their behalf.

It is in this context that the armed clash which occurred at a checkpoint in the eastern Ukraine on Sunday, resulting in the death of at least one person, must be considered. Russian camera crews were suspiciously on the scene very quickly, and it is far from clear that Ukrainian “Rightest Sector” supporters were behind it, as was immediately asserted in the Russian media. Students of history will recall that Adolf Hitler staged a fake attack on German soldiers by Polish forces, to provide a pretext for his invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939.

The Rightest sector forces in Ukraine deny that they were behind the attack. It is entirely possible, if not probable given the unusual circumstances such as the presence of Russian television crews, that the operation was executed by Russian special forces in an effort to continue building a case for Russian military intervention in the eastern Ukraine.

In the light of Vladimir Putin’s uncompromising speech on April 17, delivered as his foreign minister was agreeing in Geneva for the militia and “protesters” to withdraw from the buildings they had seized in a number of localities in the eastern Ukraine, their subsequent refusal to do so, and the attack on the checkpoint on Sunday, such an intervention may indeed be likely, if not imminent.

As for the Geneva agreement, it served the obvious purpose of throwing a monkey-wrench into Western plans to adopt stronger sanctions against Russia for  (1) its military seizure and annexation of the Crimea; (2) its attacks in the eastern Ukraine by Russian armed forces and others under their control, who seized and continue to occupy a number of public administration buildings; and (3) its massing of 40,000-50,000 combat-ready troops on the Ukrainian border, in an obvious threat of invasion if Kiev does not accede to its demands regarding internal constitutional arrangements and other matters within its domestic jurisdiction.

The vagueness of the agreement in Geneva also leaves open to Russia the argument that the refusal of the militia and “protestors” in the government buildings seized in the eastern Ukraine is beyond their control, since Russia has no military or other forces in the eastern Ukraine, and exerts no control over the pro-Russian “demonstrators”.

Furthermore, in analyzing the conduct of Russia vis-à-vis any agreement, such as the April 17 agreement in Geneva, one must bear in mind that Russia was working very closely with Bashar al-Assad when he signed an Arab League peace agreement in November 2011, the agreements pursuant to Security Council resolutions 2042 and 2043 (2012) under which al-Assad agreed to ceasefire provisions and observers to verify compliance, and the June 30, 2012 Geneva I agreement which established a process (clearly illusory) for a ceasefire and resolution of the conflict.

Al-Assad complied with none of these agreements, while blocking Western sanctions initiatives and gaining valuable time through signing them. It should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with this history, and Russia’s diplomatic and military role in supporting the al-Assad regime, to see similar behavior now from Russia in relation to the Ukraine.

The Significance of the April 17 Geneva Agreement

At Geneva on April 17, Russia achieved a tacit recognition that its invasion of the Crimea should not be the subject of further dispute, while derailing efforts then underway to adopt stronger sanctions against Russia for the behavior described above.

What the West achieved was an agreement for an expanded team of OSCE observers to deploy to the region.  They also “achieved” the illusion of progress on the ground with withdrawal of militia and “demonstrators” from public buildings they have seized and still occupy in the eastern Ukraine, and a further undertaking not to continue such seizures.

If the U.S. and the EU quickly adopt really serious sanctions, e.g., for the invasion and annexation of the Crimea, and expand military moves in eastern countries of the NATO alliance, and the OSCE observers are robustly backed by the West, it is possible that the Geneva agreement of April 17 may play a useful role in defusing tensions in the eastern Ukraine.

However, it must be recognized that Putin and Russia represent a powerful military force that is moving, with great momentum, which will not be stopped or slowed until it encounters an equally strong opposing force. That force may consist of real economic sanctions that are implemented, and military moves by NATO that should make Russia think twice.

This would be a good time, for example, to launch a vigorous discussion within NATO about the need to permanently move the deployment of U.S. and other NATO troops forward to Poland, Romania, and Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. U.S. troops were stationed during the Cold War within hundreds of kilometers of East Germany and Czechoslovakia, where opposing Warsaw Pact forces were stationed. Given the changes in geopolitical realities revealed by the Russian invasion of the Crimea, a strong case can now be made that to deter future Russian military aggression against member states, NATO forces should be forward-deployed to where they might have a significant military impact in deterring or halting any such action.

Real, permanent economic sanctions should now be imposed against Russia for its invasion and annexation of the Crimea. As suggested previously, a good start would be to impose a total ban on financial transactions with, or doing any other business with, companies in the Crimea, or with other companies doing business with such companies. These sanctions should have the goal of eventually reversing the effects of the invasion and annexation of the Crimea, and should not be lifted until those conditions are met. They are limited and proportional measures of collective self-defense, which Kiev has or will formally request from NATO, the U.S. the EU countries, and other countries.

The U.S. should adopt these sanctions immediately, because it can, while the EU should adopt these measures or the closest approximation they can reach, as soon as they can. Other NATO allies or U.S. allies, such as Canada and Australia, should adopt such measures as quickly as they can.

Can we expect such concentrated attention and concerted action from Barack Obama and Europe’s leaders?

It does not appear likely on the record they have established to date for pacifism and appeasement. If Germany is not willing to sacrifice one half of one percent of its GDP in order to impose sanctions that might help to uphold the postwar military, political and economic order, appeasement may carry the day.

But at some point, hopefully soon, they will see behind Putin’s mask, and understand that he and Russia are a force, moving with great momentum, that will not be stopped until it encounters a countervailing force of equal strength. To reach that point, we can only hope that they experience a sudden infusion of insight and political courage.

Is the effort to uphold the U.N. Charter and the prohibition of the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of another state worth what it will cost, even when we are talking about a country that is not a member of NATO or any other military alliance with the United States?

Ask the war veterans who fought in the Korean War to repel North Korean aggression.

Ask the 500,000 veterans who fought in the 1990-91 Gulf War to repel the Iraqi invasion and attempted annexation of part of Kuwait.

Ask any serious student of diplomatic history or international law.

The Trenchant Observer

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Observateur Incisif
El Observador Incisivo

Ukraine: U.N. Security Council meeting, latest news reports, and opinion (with link to April 13 Security Council meeting webcast)

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

Check back for updates

We should not be fooled by the faux outrage of Russia and its calling of an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council today, Sunday, April 13.

Everyone knows who the fox in the chicken coop is, and no one is fooled by the fox’s loud complaints that it is being attacked by the chickens.

While the statements made tonight in the Security Council were informative, they should not distract our attention from what is taking place on the ground, and the actions we need to take to effectively counter ongoing Russian aggression.

Latest News Reports

For news on the latest devopments in and relating to the Ukraine, see:

(1) U.N.Security Council Meeting on the Situation in the Ukraine, U.N. News Centre, Webcast, April 13, 2014. The video of the webcast is found here.

U.N. Security Council Press Release, 7154th Meeting, u.N. Doc. SC/11351, April 13, 2013.

UKRAINE SITUATION ‘MORE COMBUSTIBLE THAN EVER’, ASSISTANT SECRETARY-GENERAL WARNS SECURITY COUNCIL, CALLING FOR ACTION TO DE-ESCALATE CRISIS

The press release, which summarizes the meeting including the comments of different delegations, if found here (English).

(2) News Reports and Opinion

Agencias/Donetsk/Moscú, “Kiev lanza una operación antiterrorista a gran escala para desalojar a los rebeldes; El presidente ucranio exige a los prorrusos que se rindan antes de las ocho de la mañana del lunes; Moscú endosa a Occidente la responsabilidad de evitar una guerra civil en el país,” El Pais, 13 Abril 2014 (20:25 CET).

Pilar Bonet (Slaviansk), “Kiev moviliza al Ejército para aplastar la rebelión prorrusa en el este; El presidente ucranio exige a los rebeldes que se rindan antes de las ocho de la mañana del lunes; “Depende de Occidente evitar una guerra civil en el país”, dice el Ministerio de Exteriores ruso,” El Pais, 13 Abril 2014 (22:13 CET).

Matthew Kaminski (Opinion), “The West Leaves Ukraine to Putin; As Russian special forces invade the country’s east, Kiev’s leaders feel betrayed by the EU and America, Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2014 (7:00 p.m. ET).

Commentary by The Observer

The U.S. and Europe continue to issue threats to Russia of further sanctions if it doesn’t stop its bad behavior.

These threats, which have not been backed by meaningful actions–real, hard-hitting sanctions, have had no effect on Russian leaders, and in fact seem to goad them on to further bad deeds, precisely because they are viewed as signs of weakness, as empty threats that will not be backed up, like Barck Obama’s red line on the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Washington is deliberating and speaking to itself, but also to Europe, NATO and Russia, in a language of fine intellectual distinctions and reasoned discourse. As in Syria, the strongest actions it is taking amount to little more than words.

Meanwhile, Russia is speaking the language of military force and actions on the ground.

Threats of future sanctions will only gain credibility if heavy sanctions are imposed, now, for Russia’s past and on-going behavior.

The specific actions that should be heavily sanctioned, today, are:

1) Russian military aggression, invasion and takeover of the Crimea, territory of the sovereign state of Ukraine;

2) Russian annexation of the Crimea;

2) Russian infiltration of “black” military forces and other agents into the eastern Ukraine, where they have provoked and indeed directly instigated civil strife including the armed takeover of government buildings; and

4) Russia’s ongoing threat of the further use of force against the Ukraine, having mobilized 40,000-80,000 troops for an invasion, with some 40,000 poised on the border ready for an immediate strike.

For these actions the United States should immediately impose broad and deep sanctions against Russia itself, not merely 38 targeted individuals and two companies (a Russian bank, and the seized gas company of the Crimea). As soon as they can reach agreement, the 28 states of the EU should adopt similar sanctions.

A good start would be an immediate ban on all financial transactions involving the Crimea or companies doing business in the Crimea, and all financial transactions or doing buiness with any companies that are engaged in such activities.

In the forthcoming meeting in Geneva on April 17 with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the U.S., the EU, and the Ukraine should begin the discussions with an absolute demand for Russia to undo the annexation of the Ukraine and to return the situation to the status quo ante existing prior to the Russian invasion.

Second, the U.S. and the EU should inform Russia of the stiff sanctions it will have put into effect this week in response to the acts of aggression described above.

Third, the U.S. and the EU should announce the curtailment of high-level discussions with Russia pending the withdrawal of Russian forces from the border and Russian “covert” intervention in the eastern Ukraine. Instead, the West should focus on developing and implementing actions that respond to and are aimed at halting and undoing the effects of Russian aggression.

Are the leaders of the West up to these tasks?

We shall see.

The Trenchant Observer

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Observateur Incisif
El Observador Incisivo

Russian threats to invade Ukraine proper: NATO commander has suggested 80,000 Russian troops mobilized; Hagel rules out use of force in response to any invasion

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Developing

Supreme Allied Commander for Europe (NATO) U.S. General Philip Breedlove, has reportedly told Congress in classified briefings that Russia has mobilized 80,000 troops for a potential invasion of Ukraine proper. He is reported to have urged more vigorous support of the Ukraine military with communications equipment and intelligence. His superiors reportedly do not share his views.

The pacifist leaders of the U.S., including President Obama, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen have a different approach, seemingly dictated by fear of angering Russian President Vladimir Putin.

As 40,000 to 80,000 troops are mobilized for a potential invasion of the Ukraine, and in any case are in a posture that constitutes a threat of the use of force in violation of Article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter, U.S. military assistance to the Ukraine has consisted, to date, of 300,000 “ready meals”.

These are not likely to anger Putin.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reiterated once again that the U.S. would not use force in the Ukraine, even in response to a Russian invasion.

Aggressors and invaders are never angered and always welcome the pacifist responses of leaders who have chosen the path of appeasement.

Meanwhile, as the U.S. prepares to meet with Russia, the EU, and Ukraine on April 17, they seem not to understand the international law implications of Russia’s actions.

The absence of a distinguished and forceful State Department Legal Adviser (the position has been vacant for over a year) may be in part responsible for the fact that Obama and his administration don’t seem to fully grasp the implications of the Russian invasion and annexation of the Crimea.

Do Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry fully understand, for example, that any agreement with Russia that accepts the annexation of the Crimea, or which is concluded under the threat of a Russian invasion of the Ukraine, would be null and void under jus cogens principles of international law? These include the prohibition of the threat or use of foce against the territorial integrity or political independencev of any state.

News Updates

See:

Eli Lake, “Key General Splits With Obama Over Ukraine,” The Daily Beast, April 11, 2014 (10:02 am EDT)

The commander of NATO is insisting that the West do more to protect Ukraine from a possible Russian invasion. But the Obama administration has other plans.

The Trenchant Observer

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Observateur Incisif
El Observador Incisivo