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

Ukraine Update: Overview and signficance of the continuing Russan invasion

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Developing

See

Matthew Schofield, “A year after Russia took Crimea, stronger Ukraine military braces for long fight, McClatchyDC, March 5, 2015 (updated 4:17 p.m. EDT).

“Russischer Soldat beschreibt Einsatz bei Debalzewe; Von der Grenze zur Mongolei wurde er in die Ukraine geschickt, erzählt ein russischer Soldat. Er beschreibt auch, wie Panzer umlackiert und Abzeichen abgelegt wurden. 4. März 2015 (19:34 Uhr).

CARSTEN LUTHER, ALEXANDER SCHWABE UND STEFFEN DOBBERT, “OPPOSITION IN RUSSLAND: Die wenigen, die nicht schweigen. Boris Nemzow ist tot, Putins Politik der Einschüchterung wirkt. Sieben Beispiele, die davon erzählen, wie schwer es in Russland ist, Kritik an der Regierung zu üben,” Die Zeit, 3. Marz 2015 (16:16 Uhr).

News of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine has become “old hat”, no longer “hot” news because it continues on a daily basis.

Vladimir Putin has adapted the “salami technique”, used by the Soviet Union to take first one, then another country in Eastern Europe after World War II, to the new demands of the hybrid hidden war, executed first in the Crimea and then in the eastern Ukraine.

Why follow the details of the ongoing Russian invasion of the Ukraine?

Why follow the continued faltering response of the West, led by pacifists and appeasers who have failed to respond to Russian military aggression in Europe with more than economic sanctions?

Yet those sanctions have always been “too little, too late”. They always seem to come long after the most serious and definite of threats to deter some move or another by Putin, which he ignores, and which have then repeatedly been forgotten–not carried out. Instead, they are recycled and converted to threats to forestall his and Russia’s next act of military aggression.

As a result, such threats are not credible.

It is almost as if Western leaders and their foreign ministers are too busy flying around to meet with each other, and with Putin, to read the newspapers and form a coherent view of what is going on, what has worked and not worked, and what needs to be done.

Just today, less than a week after the assassination in Moscow (some 100 meters from the Kremlin’s walls) of Boris Nemtsov, a leading opposition figure who was an outspoken critic of Putin’s military aggression in the Ukraine—a cold-blooded execution that was almost certainly ordered by Putin or carried out with his approval—Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi flew to Moscow for a “quick visit” with Putin.

His attempt to have it both ways, by visiting the scene where Nemtsov was executed, was pathetic. What counted was that he traveled to Moscow to see Putin, sending the signal that Italy will not push for harsher sanctions against Russia for its current invasion of the Donbas. No doubt Renzi hopes for some kind of gas deal or other concession in exchange.

According to the U.S. military, Russia now has some 12,000 soldiers in the Donbas leading and fighting alongside the so-called “separatists”– which Putin called into being in April, 2014. Further, Russia has an estimated 50,000 troops threateningly poised on its border with the Ukraine, in addition to the 28,000 troops it has stationed in the Crimea.

Today, March 5, 2015, Russia continues its overflights near NATO countries flexing its military muscles, seeking as it were an incident that might provide a further “provocation”.

Yet beyond Russia and the Ukraine, there is so much more going on in the world, such as the advance of Iraqi army and militia forces, and Iranian-led forces, on Tikrit in an effort to reconquer that city from ISIS or the Islamic State group.

In Europe, the Greek crisis has slowed but not let up, leaving Greece’s participation in the Euro Zone and the possibility of a collapse of its financial system very much up in the air.

In Africa, Boko Haram continues its massacres in northern Nigeria and beond.

In Argentina, the ex-wife of Alberto Nisman, a prosecutor who wss drafting a complaint against President Cristina Kirchner, says she has proof Nisman was murdered. He was killed by a gunshot to the head at close range the evening before he was to testify about a conspiracy with Iran not to bring to justice the authors of a 1994 bombing of a synagogue in Buenos Aires which claimed 84 lives. Nisman had no gunpowder trace on his hands.

In Washington, Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a strong speech to the U.S. Congress attacking the deal Obama and the P5+1 are negotiating with Iran to resolve the nuclear issue.

With all of this going on, why should we continue to pay close attention to the Russian invasion of the Ukraine and the response of the West?

The answer is stark and unyielding.

So long as Russia continues to defy the most fundamental norms of the United Nations Charter and international law, through its invasion of the eastern Ukraine but also through its continued military occupation of the Crimea, Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory conquered by military force, the entire international political and legal order established after World War II under the U.N. Charter (1945) is swaying under the assault of Russia, one of the five permanent members of the Security Council.

We must pay close attention to the Russian military aggression against the Ukraine, and its military threats elsewhere, because the resolution of all the other international conflicts that face the world today, including the Iranian nuclear question and the future of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, depend on upholding the U.N. Charter’s fundamental norms and the rules and mechanisms it lays out for the maintenance of international peace and security.

The threat represented by Putin’s and Russia’s policies of military aggressiom is also an existential threat to the West and the rest of the world.

Putin and Russia possess thousands of nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems which if used–and Russia has raised the possibility of nuclear war–could result in destroying the world.

Managing the risks of accidental nuclear war, or even the intentional use of nuclear weapons, outside the framework of international law and the U.N. Charter, and their definitions of legitimate state actions, is several orders of magnitude more difficult than managing these risks within that framework.

That is why we must pay close attention to Russian policies of military aggression and annexation, however familiar the headlines may become.

So long as Russia defies the postwar international legal and political order established under the U.N. Charter, no nation will be safe, as citizens throughout the world face an unacceptably high risk of nuclear war and annihilation.

The Trenchant Observer

U.N. Security Council unanimously adopts Resolution 2202 (17 February 2015) —with full text, annexes and summaries of interventions by delegates

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

See

“Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2202 (2015), Security Council Calls on Parties to Implement Accords Aimed at Peaceful Settlement in Eastern Ukraine,” United Nations Security Council Press Release (Doc. SC/11785), February 17, 2015.

The resolution unanimously adopted by the Security Council reads as follows:

HOME Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2202 (2015), Security Council Calls on Parties to Implement Accords Aimed at Peaceful Settlement in Eastern Ukraine
17 FEBRUARY 2015 (SC/11785)

Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2202 (2015), Security Council Calls on Parties to Implement Accords Aimed at Peaceful Settlement in Eastern Ukraine
7384th Meeting (PM)
SECURITY COUNCIL
MEETINGS COVERAGE
Expressing the Security Council’s grave concern at the tragic events and violence in eastern regions of Ukraine, the 15-member body today unanimously adopted a resolution endorsing last week’s ceasefire agreement.

By resolution 2202 (2015), the Council called on all parties to fully implement the “Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements”, adopted on 12 February 2015 in Minsk, Belarus. Firmly convinced that the resolution of the situation in eastern regions of Ukraine could only be achieved through a peaceful settlement to the current crisis, the Council welcomed the declaration by the Heads of State of the Russian Federation, Ukraine, France and Germany in support of the “package of measures” and their continuing commitment to implement the agreements.

The 13-paragraph “package of measures”, contained in Annex I of the resolution, called for a number of actions. Those included an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine and its strict implementation as of 15 February 2015, as well as the withdrawal of all heavy weapons by both sides by equal distances in order to create a security zone. Measures also included the withdrawal of all foreign armed formations, military equipment and mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine under the monitoring of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as well as the disarmament of all illegal groups.

In addition, the package called for carrying out reform in Ukraine with a new constitution entering into force by the end of 2015. That document had to provide for decentralization, as well as adopting permanent legislation on the special status of certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in line with eight measures until the end of 2015.

Following the resolution’s adoption, some speakers expressed concern about ongoing intense fighting and called for an end to violence. Speakers also supported the Council’s role in urgently addressing an increasingly troubling humanitarian crisis that had seen more than 5,000 killed and 1.5 million displaced. Council members had also emphasized that perpetrators must be held accountable for the 2014 downing of the Malaysian airliner that killed 298 people.

Echoing a common view, the representative of France said it was the Council’s collective responsibility to “silence the guns”. The representative of Germany said the resolution was of utmost importance, conveying a stern message to those who violated the ceasefire.

Agreeing, the representative of Ukraine called on the Security Council’s permanent members to prevent violations. He also emphasized that the Russian Federation needed to secure its borders with his country and urge militants to honour the Agreements.

The representative of the Russian Federation said his country had continually done its utmost to ensure that open dialogue be established between the parties to the conflict. Underlining that the current package of measures presented an opportunity to “turn this tragic page in history”, he warned against unilateral measures that would contradict the spirit of the Minsk Agreements.

Also speaking were representatives of the United Kingdom, United States, Spain, Chile, Malaysia (speaking for Australia, Belgium, Canada, Indonesia, Netherlands, New Zealand and the Philippines), New Zealand, Nigeria, Lithuania, Chad, Venezuela, Jordan and China.

The meeting began at 3:07 p.m. and ended at 4:28 p.m.

VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said that the events that had taken place in Ukraine in recent months were tragic. Thousands had died and over a million civilians had left the conflict zone, many of them seeking shelter in Russian territory. The agreement of 12 February in Minsk presented a genuine opportunity to “turn this tragic page in history”, he said, warning against unilateral measures that would contradict the spirit of the Minsk agreement. The Russian Federation had continually done its utmost to ensure that open dialogue be established between the parties to the conflict, he added.

MARK LYALL GRANT (United Kingdom) said that his country had voted in favour of the resolution, as it recognized the importance of backing the recent agreements unanimously in the Security Council. The parties to the conflict must commit to the recent ceasefire, and “this time, we must see commitments translated into action,” he said. To date, the ceasefire had been in place for two and a half days, and it appeared that it had been respected with the exception of a “flagrant” disregard in the Ukrainian town of Debaltseve. It was totally unacceptable that rebel leaders had made statements to the effect that the ceasefire did not apply to Debaltseve. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) must have immediate access to that town. “We call on Russia to use its influence on the separatists” to uphold the ceasefire, he said, adding that he also expected to see the withdrawal of heavy weapons by both sides within the next two weeks. The Council must play its full role to ensure that there was complete compliance with the ceasefire and to ensure the full territorial integrity of Ukraine.

SAMANTHA POWER (United States) said it was ironic that the Russian Federation had called the meeting to adopt a resolution on a conflict that it had fuelled. Amid conflicting reports about whether or not Debaltseve had fallen, the ceasefire that had been in effect since Sunday had not been respected, with many civilians enduring the terror of ongoing assaults. In addition, forces that the Russian Federation had trained and armed were still active. Her Government had, since the outset of the crisis, supported Ukraine’s sovereignty, the ending of violence and, today, the “package of measures”, which was a road map to fulfilling the Minsk Agreements made in September 2014. All parties must implement all commitments made. Too often, Council debates occurred in a vacuum that did not consider reality on the ground, she said, calling on the Russian Federation to take action to end the violence.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said the emergency in Ukraine had called for action. Given the troubling humanitarian situation, it was the Council’s collective responsibility to “silence the guns”. The path towards peace hinged on diplomacy and resolution 2202 (2015) reflected the Council’s action in tracing that path. Sadly, fighting had continued, he said, calling for an end to violence immediately. Establishing an expanded buffer zone and removing heavy weapons over the coming two weeks were among the steps to be taken towards peace. All parties should fully and lastingly shoulder their responsibilities to move forward on the path towards peace.

ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain) said he had voted in favour of resolution 2202 (2015) because the Council must urgently act. Grateful for the steps taken by France and Germany, he said it was clear that a military option would not solve the crisis. The recently released Security Council press statement had recognized that the ceasefire had not been respected. The success of the package of measures was essential for peace and stability in Ukraine, the region and the world, with the European Union and OSCE playing key roles and both acting responsibly and together to resolve the crisis.

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile) said the ceasefire would lead to an end of the crisis and that resolution 2202 (2015) contained important elements in that regard. He said the 13 points of the Minsk Agreement would benefit the people of Ukraine. With a view to ending the violence, he called on all parties to comply with the ceasefire until a solution was found to resolve the current crisis.

HUSSEIN HANIFF (Malaysia), also speaking on behalf of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Indonesia, Netherlands and the Philippines, said that his country believed that the resolution just adopted conveyed the Council’s full support for the negotiated ceasefire and peace agreements. However, recent developments in eastern Ukraine proved that the situation was more urgent than ever. The conflict had gone on far too long and had claimed the lives of too many innocent people, including those on board flight MH17 which was tragically shot down over the conflict area on 17 July 2014. All States must cooperate fully with efforts to bring those responsible for that tragedy to justice. The resolution adopted today was unambiguous in that respect, he said, reiterating that international standards regarding accountability applied to all Member States. He called on the parties to the conflict to adhere to the Minsk agreements, as well as the sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence and unity of Ukraine.

JIM MCLAY (New Zealand) said that it was no secret that the Council had struggled to negotiate a mutually acceptable text for the resolution adopted today. However, that should not obscure the simple truth: the overall objective must be to see lives saved, to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and to bring an end to external support for the separatists. Ceasefires did not always hold with consistency at all times in all places, but the Council had today sent a strong signal of its support by unanimously adopting the resolution. In addition, the Council’s previous decisions on the downed aircraft, MH17, were clear. The victims of that tragedy must not be forgotten, and those responsible must be held accountable. Therefore, the amnesty offered by the resolution adopted today should not apply to those responsible for that crime. The Russian Federation, in particular, should use its “undoubted” influence on the separatists to ensure that they uphold the ceasefire.

KAYODE LARO (Nigeria) said it was important for the Council to send a message that it was imperative to find a lasting solution to the crisis in Ukraine. There would be no military solution to the conflict, he said, noting that all parties should pursue a resolution to the situation through dialogue that did not impinge the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

RAIMONDA MURMOKAITĖ (Lithuania) said the humanitarian crisis, with more than 5,000 deaths and 1.5 million displaced persons, had been exacerbated by an influx of Russian weapons. Even while the “package of measures” was being drafted, foreign tanks had rolled into Ukraine and heavily armed criminals had continued their onslaught against Debaltseve, with threats to continue their “deadly march” up to Kharkiv and further. Ceasefires, including the most recent, had been violated, with militants waging a war with the Russian Federation’s help. Peace would have been possible without that country’s support to the militants. While the package was flawed, its elements must be respected and the Minsk Agreements must be implemented. “We know well what needs to be done,” she said, emphasizing the need for monitoring and for the Russian Federation to end its support for militants.

BANTE MANGARAL (Chad) said his country strongly supported the resolution for its contribution towards addressing the situation. He also urged all actors to implement every element of resolution 2202 (2015) to help to put an end to the crisis in Ukraine.

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela) said his country supported the resolution as diplomatic means were the only solution to the conflict. The resolution and the Minsk Agreements needed to have full political support for their full implementation, he said, adding that he trusted that parties would commit to those efforts. In addition, a transparent international investigation must be undertaken with regard to the downing of the Malaysian Airlines passenger jet. It was not a time to spread hate but to promote peace, dialogue and diplomacy.

MAHMOUD DAIFALLAH MAHMOUD HMOUD (Jordan) said that a political settlement was the right way to help Ukraine regain its stability. The parties to the conflict should fully implement the peace agreements of September 2014 in line with the agreed time frame. It was important to note that the package of measures adopted did not in any way change the content or provisions of the Minsk agreements, which should be implemented by all countries. He also expressed concern about the non-respect of the ceasefire in Debaltseve and asked the secessionists to put an immediate end to the violence there.

LIU JIEYI, speaking in his capacity as the representative of China, welcomed the Minsk agreement reached by the leaders of the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Germany and France, which he said were integral to the peace process. That agreement should be fully observed by all parties. The Security Council, for its part, should scale up its support, in order to de-escalate tensions in eastern Ukraine. The resolution adopted today was a demonstration of support by the international community for the agreement by the four countries. “We must stay the course of a political solution”, he said, adding that any long-term solution must be balanced, and address the legitimate concerns of all parties and respect the long-standing realities of the region.

YURIY SERGEYEV (Ukraine) said his country welcomed support for recent agreements reached last week. While the Russian side had positioned itself as a devoted proponent for peace and had even suggested the resolution that had just been adopted, what happened in reality was different. Unfortunately, despite hope from all the parties over the fulfilment of all the commitments, non-compliance with the agreements had ruined the prospect for peace, he said.

Militants had violated previous arrangements, as well as the entire package of the Minsk Agreements, he said, adding that Ukrainian targets had succumbed to more than 160 shellings and weapons arriving in Ukraine after the ceasefire deadline. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s military had remained silent, respecting the agreement. The situation in Debaltseve was incredibly tense, with militants moving ahead, undermining the essence of the peace process. He called on the Security Council’s permanent members to prevent violations and emphasized that the Russian Federation needed to secure the borders and urge militants to honour the agreements.

HARALD BRAUN (Germany) said the ceasefire had been mostly holding, with the deplorable exception of Debaltseve. The continued attacks not only threatened the ceasefire, but undermined the political settlement process as agreed upon in the framework of the Trilateral Contact Group and as endorsed by the Normandy Heads of State and Government at Minsk. The Council’s resolution was of utmost importance, he said, as it conveyed a stern message to those who violated the ceasefire.

Taking the floor for a second time, Mr. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) expressed his disappointment with the outcome of the debate. The adopted resolution was to have laid a solid foundation for the work of the Security Council. However, “our hopes were only partially filled”, he said, adding that some members of the Council were engaging in their usual rhetoric. He called for the appropriate implementation of the resolution just adopted. Responding to his counterpart from the United States, who had spoken of an “upside-down world”, he said he regretted that his country had been accused of triggering the crisis in Ukraine. “But is it we who toppled a president? What is it that triggered the conflict?” he asked. It had been the decision of the Kyiv authorities to launch a military operation in eastern Ukraine. They could have acted more nobly, preventing the death of their soldiers, he stated.

Recognizing the fate of the civilian population in Debaltseve, he asked why Western countries did not raise concerns about the populations of Donetsk and Lugansk. He assured Council members that the Russian Federation had tried to organize collectively for humanitarian convoys. Regrettably, Ukraine had refused to inspect their loads. Finally, addressing the two delegations who had spoken of Crimea, he said that, according to a poll, 93 per cent of the inhabitants of Crimea support reunification with the Russian Federation. Regarding the territorial integrity of Ukraine, he recalled that the Council had adopted a resolution in that regard in February 2013.

Also taking the floor for a second time, Ms. POWER (United States) welcomed the agreement, stating, “We will do everything we can to support it.” However, she asked the Russian Federation to stop the separatists and to stop sending heavy weapons across the border. “Stop pretending you do what you do not do,” she stressed, asking that country to meet its obligations.

Taking the floor again, Mr. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said his country was not pretending, and voiced hope that the agreements would be fully implemented.

Taking the floor for a second time, Mr. SERGEYEV (Ukraine) argued that what the Russian Federation called “reunification of the Crimea” was actually “an occupation, annexation following aggression.” The Russian Federation had trampled on international law and was interfering in the internal affairs of Ukraine. “We will decide ourselves how to organize our lives and interact with our people,” he insisted.

Mr. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) responded that in order to organize its affairs, Kyiv must establish a dialogue with the inhabitants of its eastern region.

Ms. MURMOKAITĖ (Lithuania), taking the floor for a second time, stressed that it was not easy to work on a draft constitution “with a gun against your head”. She said she also noticed that activists in Ukraine, “criminals”, were better armed than some European armies, like that of her country. Such weapons could only come from the other side of the border. Furthermore, she noted her surprise that the Russian Federation should demand Kyiv to ask its own soldiers to surrender. How many countries would simply accept their cities being surrounded by criminals? Any country on the Council would defend its territory to the end, she said.

Mr. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) invited Council members to read the Minsk agreements, which he said discussed the reinstatement of Ukraine. He took offense that Ukrainian soldiers had fired on the frontline. Responding to his counterpart from Lithuania, he said that her country was the only State that had admitted it gave arms to Ukrainian forces.

Responding, Ms. MURMOKAITĖ (Lithuania) said it was incorrect to say that her country was providing arms to Ukraine. While Lithuania had taken Ukrainian citizens for medical treatment, even if her country did provide armaments, it would be a “drop in the ocean” and would not make a difference, she said.

Also taking the floor again, Mr. SERGEYEV (Ukraine) said while leaders had met in Minsk and made very clear statements, his delegation could not agree with the interpretation just heard from the Russian Federation’s delegate. “We are not here to create Minsk III,” he said.

Mr. CHURKIN (Russian Federation), taking the floor again, said the Minsk agreement should be read, interpreted and implemented word for word.

Resolution

The full text of resolution 2202 (2015) reads as follows:

“The Security Council,

“Recalling the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and reaffirming its full respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine,

“Expressing its grave concern at the tragic events and violence in eastern regions of Ukraine,

“Reaffirming its resolution 2166 (2014),

“Firmly convinced that the resolution of the situation in eastern regions of Ukraine can only be achieved through a peaceful settlement to the current crisis,

“1. Endorses the “Package of measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements”, adopted and signed in Minsk on 12 February 2015 (Annex I);

“2. Welcomes the Declaration by the President of the Russian Federation, the President of Ukraine, the President of the French Republic and the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany in support of the “Package of measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements”, adopted on 12 February 2015 in Minsk (Annex II), and their continuing commitment therein to the implementation of the Minsk Agreements;

“3. Calls on all parties to fully implement the “Package of measures”, including a comprehensive ceasefire as provided for therein;

“4. Decides to remain seized of the matter.

“Annex I [to the resolution]

“Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements

Minsk, 12 February 2015

“1. Immediate and comprehensive ceasefire in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine and its strict implementation as of 15 February 2015, 12am local time.

“2. Withdrawal of all heavy weapons by both sides by equal distances in order to create a security zone of at least 50 km wide from each other for the artillery systems of caliber of 100 and more, a security zone of 70 km wide for MLRS and 140 km wide for MLRS “Tornado-S”, Uragan, Smerch and Tactical Missile Systems (Tochka, Tochka U):

-for the Ukrainian troops: from the de facto line of contact;

-for the armed formations from certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine: from the line of contact according to the Minsk Memorandum of Sept. 19th, 2014;

“The withdrawal of the heavy weapons as specified above is to start on day 2 of the ceasefire at the latest and be completed within 14 days.

“The process shall be facilitated by the OSCE and supported by the Trilateral Contact Group.

“3. Ensure effective monitoring and verification of the ceasefire regime and the withdrawal of heavy weapons by the OSCE from day 1 of the withdrawal, using all technical equipment necessary, including satellites, drones, radar equipment, etc.

“4. Launch a dialogue, on day 1 of the withdrawal, on modalities of local elections in accordance with Ukrainian legislation and the Law of Ukraine “On interim local self-government order in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions” as well as on the future regime of these areas based on this law.

“Adopt promptly, by no later than 30 days after the date of signing of this document a Resolution of the Parliament of Ukraine specifying the area enjoying a special regime, under the Law of Ukraine “On interim self-government order in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions”, based on the line of the Minsk Memorandum of September 19, 2014.

“5. Ensure pardon and amnesty by enacting the law prohibiting the prosecution and punishment of persons in connection with the events that took place in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.

“6. Ensure release and exchange of all hostages and unlawfully detained persons, based on the principle “all for all”. This process is to be finished on the day 5 after the withdrawal at the latest.

“7. Ensure safe access, delivery, storage, and distribution of humanitarian assistance to those in need, on the basis of an international mechanism.

“8. Definition of modalities of full resumption of socioeconomic ties, including social transfers such as pension payments and other payments (incomes and revenues, timely payments of all utility bills, reinstating taxation within the legal framework of Ukraine).

“To this end, Ukraine shall reinstate control of the segment of its banking system in the conflict-affected areas and possibly an international mechanism to facilitate such transfers shall be established.

“9. Reinstatement of full control of the state border by the government of Ukraine throughout the conflict area, starting on day 1 after the local elections and ending after the comprehensive political settlement (local elections in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions on the basis of the Law of Ukraine and constitutional reform) to be finalized by the end of 2015, provided that paragraph 11 has been implemented in consultation with and upon agreement by representatives of certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the framework of the Trilateral Contact Group.

“10. Withdrawal of all foreign armed formations, military equipment, as well as mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine under monitoring of the OSCE. Disarmament of all illegal groups.

“11. Carrying out constitutional reform in Ukraine with a new constitution entering into force by the end of 2015 providing for decentralization as a key element (including a reference to the specificities of certain areas in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, agreed with the representatives of these areas), as well as adopting permanent legislation on the special status of certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in line with measures as set out in the footnote until the end of 2015. [Note]

“12. Based on the Law of Ukraine “On interim local self-government order in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions”, questions related to local elections will be discussed and agreed upon with representatives of certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the framework of the Trilateral Contact Group. Elections will be held in accordance with relevant OSCE standards and monitored by OSCE/ODIHR.

“13. Intensify the work of the Trilateral Contact Group including through the establishment of working groups on the implementation of relevant aspects of the Minsk agreements. They will reflect the composition of the Trilateral Contact Group.

“Note

“Such measures are, according to the Law on the special order for local self-government in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions:

-Exemption from punishment, prosecution and discrimination for persons involved in the events that have taken place in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions;

-Right to linguistic self-determination;

-Participation of organs of local self-government in the appointment of heads of public prosecution offices and courts in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions;

-Possibility for central governmental authorities to initiate agreements with organs of local self-government regarding the economic, social and cultural development of certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions;

“-State supports the social and economic development of certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions;

-Support by central government authorities of cross-border cooperation in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions with districts of the Russian Federation;

-Creation of the people’s police units by decision of local councils for the maintenance of public order in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions;

-The powers of deputies of local councils and officials, elected at early elections, appointed by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine by this law, cannot be early terminated.

“Participants of the Trilateral Contact Group:

Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini

Second President of Ukraine, L. D. Kuchma

Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Ukraine, M. Yu. Zurabov

A.W. Zakharchenko

I.W. Plotnitski

“Annex II [to the resolution]

“Declaration of the President of the Russian Federation, the President of Ukraine, the President of the French Republic and the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany in support of the ‘Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements’, adopted on 12 February 2015 in Minsk

“The President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, the President of the French Republic, François Hollande, and the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Dr. Angela Merkel, reaffirm their full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. They firmly believe that there is no alternative to an exclusively peaceful settlement. They are fully committed to undertake all possible individual and joint measures to this end.

“Against this background, leaders endorse the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements adopted and signed on February 12, 2015 by all signatories who also signed Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014 and Minsk Memorandum of September 19, 2014. Leaders will contribute to this process and will use their influence on relevant parties to facilitate the implementation of that Package of Measures.

“Germany and France will provide technical expertise for the restoration of the segment of the banking system in the conflict affected areas, possibly through the establishment of an international mechanism to facilitate social transfers.

“Leaders share the conviction that improved cooperation between the EU, Ukraine and Russia will be conducive to the crisis settlement. To this end, they endorse the continuation of trilateral talks between the EU, Ukraine and Russia on energy issues in order to achieve follow-up stages to the gas winter package.

“They also support trilateral talks between the EU, Ukraine and Russia in order to achieve practical solutions to concerns raised by Russia with regards to the implementation of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between Ukraine and the EU.

“Leaders remain committed to the vision of a joint humanitarian and economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific based upon full respect for international law and the OSCE principles.

“Leaders will remain committed to the implementation of the Minsk Agreements. To this end, they agree to establish an oversight mechanism in the Normandy format which will convene at regular intervals, in principle on the level of senior officials from the foreign ministries.”

To stop Russian tanks in Ukraine: (1) Ban Russia from SWIFT; (2) Boycott / change venue of 2018 World Cup; and (3) Add Putin to sanctions list

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Developing

See

AFP, “Rebels claim to capture key Ukraine rail hub of Debaltseve
Fighting breaks out for first time inside flashpoint town in east Ukraine, say officials, with rebels claiming victory in harsh blow to a fragile ceasefire,” The Telegraph, February 17, 2015 (12:56 p.m. GMT).

To stop Russian tanks from advancing in Ukraine:

(1) Ban Russia, effective immediately, from participation in SWIFT international payments system;

(2) Boycott / change venue of 2018 FIFA World Cup Championship; and

(3) Add Putin to the Ukraine sanctions list, with exception by special authorization for diplomatic travel.

The Trenchant Observer

What’s the hurry? Russia pushes hard for U.N. Security Council resolution endorsing Minsk II agreement—a “Munich II” agreement reached under the pressure of Russian military aggression

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande may assume they have achieved something notable in the Minsk II agreement of February 12, but in point of fact they have forged an agreement at the end of the barrel of a Russian gun which weakens the provisions already agreed upon on September 5, 2014 in the Minsk Protocol.

Bearing in mind that the Minsk II agreement represents paper promises by Vladimir Putin, who used the paper promises in the Minsk Protocol to lull the West to sleep while pouring more Russian troops, tanks, artillery and other war machines into the eastern Ukraine, then lauching military offensives with Russian troops leading and fighting alongside “separatist” forces (Putin  puppets) to produce the territorial gains now in place on the ground, one has to ask why Russia wants the Security Council to endorse the Minsk II agreement.

The answer is manifestly clear. The Minsk II Agreement represents an outstanding victory over the pacifists and appeasers who lead the West, a victory which Putin now wants to put into stone with a U.N. Security Council resolution.

Moreover, he apparently has the support of France, Germany and Ukraine for such a resolution. The threat, hardly veiled, is that Russia will continue its military onslaught in the eastern Ukraine if it doesn’t get its way.

That is the same threat the West will face if Putin doesn’t get his way in the future negotiations called for in the Minsk II agreement, over future elections in the separatist-controlled areas of the Donbass, or the legal and constitutional reforms that are conditions for a return of the border to the Ukraine, and in practice a withdrawal of Russia troops, irregulars and war machines from the territory of the Donbas.

What would a Security Council resolution endorsing Minsk II add to the latter?

Absolutely nothing.

The Minsk II agreement depends on Putin for its implementation, and if he doesn’t cooperate there is nothing the West can do about it through direct military means, other than begin the delivery of lethal weapons to Kiev. That, while advisable for a number of reasons, will hardly be decisive against the largest land army in Europe.

Instead of endorsing the terms of Minsk II, the Security Council should be called upon to vote on a draft resolution demanding an immediate withdrawal of Russian troops and irregular forces, and their military equipment, and immediate restoration of Ukrainian border control in the Donbas.

The role of the Security Council is to halt aggression and restore international peace and security at the earliest possible moment.

It is not to become embroiled in a ceasefire charade or an illusory political solution as it did with Resolutions 2042 (2012) and 2043 (2012) on Syria, and the wholly illusory 6-point peace plan of Kofi Annan, which led to the useless Geneva I and Geneva II peace conferences, while over 200,000 Syrians were being killed –with full Russian backing of the government and diplomacy of Bashar al-Assad.

Hollande and Merkel have given us the 2015 equivalent of the Munich Pact of 1938, surrendering to Vladimir Putin and Russia on all real issues likely to affect military developments on the ground in the Donbas.

They now want to accede to Russia’s demands for a Security Council resolution to further placate the Russian Aggressor, while covering over their own fecklessness in concluding the Minsk II agreement, accepting at face value the promises of a known and pathological liar while ceding to him huge military concessions on the ground.

There is no reason for haste in adopting any U.N. Security Council resolution on the Ukraine,

Any such resolution should in any event refer specifically to the  Russian military occupation of the Crimea, sovereign territory of the Ukraine, and the steps that will be taken to secure the withdrawal of Russian troops, perhaps establish an international authority, and after a period of years hold a plebiscite under international supervision and control on the future of the Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.

The postwar international political and legal order must be restored, and the fruits of Russian military aggression rolled back.

The Trenchant Observer

U.S., France, U.K. and other members should vehemently oppose any Russian-backed Security Council resolution endorsing Minsk II agreement

Saturday, February 14th, 2015

News reports speak of the intention of Russia to bring a resolution to the U.N. Security Council which would incorporate the terms of the Minsk II agreement reached on February 12.

See

“Ukraine-Krise: Poroschenko will bei Scheitern der Waffenruhe Kriegsrecht verhängen,” Der Siegel, 14. Februar 2015 (18:30 Uhr).

“Russland brachte einen Resolutionsentwurf in den Weltsicherheitsrat ein, mit dem die Vereinbarungen der Minsker Friedensgespräche vom Donnerstag festgehalten werden sollen. Wie die Staatsagentur Tass berichtete, könnte das mächtige Uno-Gremium an diesem Sonntag darüber abstimmen. Frühere Uno-Resolutionen hatte Russland blockiert.”

While such a resolution endorsing the original Minsk Protocol might have been a good idea, the U.S., France, the United Kingdom and other Security Council members should oppose and vote against any resolution that would endorse the Minsk II agreement.

What is at issue is the fact that Article 2 paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter prohibits “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”

This is a principle of jus cogens or mandatory international law to which there can be no exception, even by agreement. As we pointed out yesterday, this means that the provision in the Minsk II agreement that would delay restoration of control of the border to the Ukraine up to the end of 2015, contingent on the “separatists” agreeing to various measures called for in the Minsk II agreement, is null and void under international law.

Consequently, Russia is under an international legal obligation to withdraw its troops, tanks, artillery, irregular fighters and other war equipment immediately, and to halt its military aggression in the eastern Ukraine immediately.

If a U.N. Security Council resolution endorses or incorporates the terms of the Minsk II agreement, this could change. Security Council resolutions under Chapter VII of the Charter are binding on all member states.

If such a resolution were to be adopted, Russia could then argue that the Security Council had authorized it to remain in the eastern Ukraine until at least the end of 2015, and that the provisions requiring approval by the Donetsk and Luhansk “separatist” leaders were binding on all states under international law.

In this way, while the Western powers are asleep, Putin and Russia will have succeeed in creating  “a frozen conflict” that is backed by a legally binding Security Council resolution.

Some experts in international law might still argue that the Security Council had exceeded its powers, but this would be a purely academic debate of no relevance to the national decision makers responsible for acting to manage and resolve the conflict in the eastern Ukraine.

If states want to freeze the conflict in the eastern Ukraine by backing the Minsk II agreement with a binding Chapter VII resolution, they should vote with the Russians.

If they want Russian military aggression against the Ukraine to cease forthwith, they should vehemently oppose and vote against any such Russian-backed resolution.

Any Security Council resolution on the Ukraine should call for:

(1) the immediate withdrawal of all Russian forces and war machines and equipment from the eastern Ukraine;

(2) the immediate withdrawal of all other Russian irregular and special operations forces and equipment from the eastern Ukraine; and

(3) the immediate cessation of Russian supplies of weapons, machines of war and other equipment to the so-called “separatists” in the Donbas region of the Ukraine.

The Minsk II Agreement has a lot of well-sounding language in it, as did the original Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014.

Putin through systematic violations of the Minsk Protocol, with the direct participation of Russian military forces and equipment in the fighting in the eastern Ukraine, has changed the facts on the ground, and forced Petro Poroshenko and his French and German supporters to make further concessions in the Minsk II agreement.

Virtually all of the changes from the original Minsk Protocol of September 5 and the implementing Minsk Memorandum of September 19 have been secured through further, intensified, and more transparent Russian aggression against the Ukraine.

This Russian perfidy should not be endorsed by the Security Council, or anyone else.

Russia needs to get its troops, weapons, special operatives and irregular forces out of the Ukraine along with all their weapons, to immediately halt their supply of weapons and equipment to the so-called “separatists”, and to comply fully with the ceasefire and heavy weapons withdrawal provisions of the Minsk II agreement.

Meanwhile, the U.S. the EU and NATO should prepare to ban Russia from the SWIFT international payments system, boycott or move the 2018 FIFA World Cup competition from Russia to a non-aggressor state, prepare crippling sectoral economic sanctions against Russia, deliver lethal defensive weapons to Kiev, and begin moving NATO troops to the eastern front with Russia, should Russia or the “separatists” (Putin’s puppets) fail to comply with the ceasefire, withdrawal and other provisions of the Minsk Protocol and the Minsk II Agreement of February 12.

Putin should have no illusions that continued military aggression against the Ukraine will be able to avoid a hardball conflict with the West, in which his tanks and war machines will prove no match for the economic weapons at the disposal of the West, which can bring the Russian economy to a halt.

The Trenchant Observer

February 11 Minsk Summit on the Ukraine: Latest update and analysis (Updated February 10, 2015)

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Updated February 10, 2015

BACKGROUND

The following articles, by some of the most experienced and incisive commentators writing on international affairs, provide the context and background necessary to understand the negotiations planned for the Minsk summit on November 11:

(1) Anne Applebaum, “The long view with Russia,” Washington Post, February 8, 2015.

(2) Roger Cohen, “Western Illusions Over Ukraine,” New York Times, February 9, 2015.

(3) Julia Smirnva, “Was erhofft sich Putin von Verhandlungen? Diplomatie auf höchster Ebene soll die Ukraine-Krise beenden. Russlands Präsident Putin scheint bei den Gesprächen mit dem Westen darauf zu setzen, dass die Krise zum “eingefrorenen Konflikt” wird,” Die Welt, 9. February 2015.

Angela Merkel, François Hollande, Petro Poroshenko and Vladimir Putin are to meet in Minsk on Wednesday, February 11, 2015, to see if they can hammer out some kind of a “deal” that will include a ceasefire in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of the Ukraine known as the Donbas, and perhaps other areas where the so-called “separatists” (Putin’s puppets) have, with active Russian military participation, extended the territory under their control.

Putin’s objectives will be to make just enough concessions to confuse the Europeans and make the renewal of existing economic sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine as problematic and uncertain as possible, while sowing divisions among the EU’s members that will make the imposition of new and really tough sectoral sanctions impossible given the unaniminity requirement for action by the EU.

He will also seek to forestall any decision—much less action!—by President Barack Obama to send “lethal” military weapons and other assistance to Kiev, or for European countries to even consider doing so.  Here he will be trying to intimidate both the Europeans and the Americans and make them fear his reaction if they do send weapons, and certainly to make them have qualms about sending arms in a quantity and manner than could really make a difference on the ground.

Today’s leaders, in Europe as in the United States, seem to have little grasp of history, international law, or the origins and history of the United Nations. Their response to Russian military aggression against the Ukraine, beginning in the Crimea in February, has been one of incredulity followed by laughable “sanctions” against Russia that were always “too little, too late”.

Throughout, their fear of the aggressor and unwillingness to contemplate any military moves–such as sending arms to Kiev–has given Putin an open playing field where, having militarily dismantled the border between Russia and the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of the Ukraine, he has been left free to move tanks, artillery, advanced air defense weapons systems, and other advanced electronic equipment, as well as thousands of Russian special operations forces, irregular forces, and regular Russian troops and equipment back and forth across the border at will.

If Western leaders did know something of history, they might remember that the United Nations was established to provide international peace and security, above all else, to the nations of the world, based on the concept of collective security. Thus, when a state was the object of aggression, the U.N. Security Council was to be called upon to take action to restore international peace and security, including binding measures and the authorization of the use of military force to secure that objective.

However, given the veto in the Security Council which was granted to the five great and victorious powers in 1945–the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France, and China–the U.N. Charter also provided for the taking of measures of “collective self-defense” up to and including the use of force whenever an “armed attack” was committed against one of its members, (a rule later extended to include all states).

The concept was not that some states would come to the collective self-defense only of other states in a military alliance to which they belonged (such as NATO, which was not formed until 1949), but rather that any and all willing states could come to the defense of any state which was the victim of an armed attack.

This concept is worth preserving, since the alternative is a large number of overlapping military alliances (such as the Warsaw Pact, or the system of regional collective security under the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (or “Rio Treaty”) established in the Americas under the auspices of the Organization of American States.

The original Charter scheme of collective security made sense in 1945, and it makes sense now.

Any state should feel free and legally authorized to take measures to aid the Ukraine in collective self-defense in repelling Russian aggression, as authorized by Article 51 of the U.N. Charter. This includes sending arms, or even troops.

The idea was and remains that any country that was the victim of an “armed attack” had the right to benefit from military assistance from any other states in order to repel and bring to an end the armed attack. Thus, from its very inception, the United Nations Charter created a system in which a country such as the Ukraine which was the victim of an armed attack carried out by a country such as Russia would as a matter of course be entitled to receive military assistance, including lethal arms or even troops, from other states acting in collective self-defense under Article 51 of the U.N. Charter.

The United Nations Charter also embodied another idea: the sovereign equality of all states, and their rights under the Charter and international law not to be coerced by large military powers to adopt policies and actions in subordination of their sovereign will.

In other words, the old “balance of power” system from the 19th century, which had led to two world wars in the 20th century, was to be replaced by a system based on the basic principles of the Charter, which included the prohibition of the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, and the obligation of states to conduct their international relations in accordance with the Charter, international law, and treaties to which they were parties that had been validly concluded under international law.

That is the scheme of the United Nations Charter, and the system of international peace and security which up until 2014 never encountered a frontal rejection such as that represented by Russia’s military aggression against the Ukraine during the last year, and its “annexation” of the Crimea, Russian-occupied territory of the Ukraine.

The biggest issue the delegates to the Minsk summit on Wednesday will face may not be at the top of the list of their immediate concerns, but it remains the biggest issue nonetheless:

What is to be done about the Russian invasion, occupation and purported “annexation” of the Crimea?

As news stories about the latest negotiations in Minsk hit the headlines, it will be useful for the readers bear in mind the broader context in which the negotiations are taking place.

They should bear in mind the monstrous lies Putin and his propaganda machine, including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, have been telling–denying for example that Russia has sent any troops and tanks, etc. into the Donbas.

They should bear in mind that Putin has not honored a single agreement Russia has made on the Ukraine.

They should bear in mind what the United Nations Charter and international law have to say about military aggression by one country invading another.

See “Russia’s utter and continuing violation of international law in the Ukraine: U.N. General Assembly Resolution A/RES/25/2625 (1970) on Principles of International Law and Friendly Relations Among States,” The Trenchant Observer, February 8, 2015.

They should bear in mind the risks of inadvertent nuclear war in view of the present collision course on which NATO and Russia are embarked, and the risks of further acts of appeasement leading to heightened risks of further conflict driven by an emboldened Vladimir Putin, whose goals appear to include disabling NATO and Europe, and not just winning in the Ukraine.

See “Strategy beyond the Ukraine: It’s time to start thinking about the risks of nuclear war with Russia, and of appeasement,” The Trenchant Observer, February 8, 2015.

“Putin’s Larger Plan: The sobering facts of Russia’s assault on Europe and the West,” The Trenchant Observer, December 1, 2014.

They should bear in mind that the real issue is the prompt adoption of really biting sectoral sanctions against Russia so long as it keeps its troops and ongoing military operations underway in the Ukraine.

Sanctions which might be adopted now include the following:

Immediate steps that can be taken would be to block Russia’s access to the SWIFT international payments system, to impose much broader sectoral sanctions on the Russian economy, to organize a boycott of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia (militating for a change of venue to a non-aggressor state), and to add Vladimir Putin himself to the sanctions list, including the freezing of all of his assets abroad.

Putin has machines of war and soldiers in and near the Ukraine to continue his military aggression against that country. The West has far more powerful economic weapons that it can use to defend the Ukraine, and if necessary to bring Russia’s economy to a halt. With an active Russian military invasion of the eastern Ukraine in progress, and accelerating, while Russian military occupation of the Ukrainian territory of the Crimea continues, the West should use those weapons now, decisively.

The Trenchant Observer

REPRISE: Kiev caves in to Russian military threats, offering far-reaching concessions in eastern Ukraine; Pacifism and appeasement grip Wasington and Europe; First signs of Russian military intervention appear, as troops on border are poised to strike

Saturday, February 7th, 2015

Originally published April 12, 2014

The Atmosphere in Washington

On Saturday, April 12, The New York Times did not have a story (or even a reference) on its front page on the Ukraine.

The Wall Street Journal, however, in a superb article by Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes, published a penetrating account of the extent to which top U.S. civilian and military leaders are in the grip of President Obama’s pacifism and approach of appeasement.

See Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes, “U.S. Tries to Help Ukraine, Reassure Allies Without Riling Russia; Obama Administration, NATO Face Quandary as They Plan Response to Moscow’s Annexation of Crimea, April 12, 2014.

Entous and Barnes offer a few illustrative examples:

(1) Seeking to demonstrate strong American support for Ukraine, U.S. military planners considered using Air Force planes to ferry food rations to outnumbered and underequipped Ukrainian troops facing superior Russian forces across the border.

Pentagon leaders settled instead for a less-conspicuous operation: They sent the promised meals-ready-to-eat, or MREs, in commercial trucks from storehouses in Germany.

(2) “Ukrainian forces got the MREs late last month, about two weeks after requesting aid. The White House says it is still reviewing other items on Kiev’s wish-list, including medical kits, uniforms, boots and military socks.

“‘You want to calibrate your chest-thumps,” a senior military official said of the step-by-step American response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military moves. “He does something else in Ukraine, we release the socks.'”

Yatsenyuk’s Offer on of Sweeping Concessions, and Escalating Unrest in the East

Meanwhile, in Donetsk on Friday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, in a move signaling a cave-in to Russian pressures and military threats–as few signs suggested that the West would support the Ukraine in defending its territory against a second Russian invasion–offered concessions so broad that they would undermine the unity and sovereignty of the Ukrainian state, if they were ever accepted and implemented.

Protesters, however, seem to be following a different script, dictated by Moscow. An escalating wave of seizures of government buildings by armed protesters continued on Saturday, promising to make the holding of Ukrainian national elections on May 25 all but untenable in the eastern parts of the country where the protests are centered.

The Guardian has provided an overview of the latest developments in the Ukraine, including the concessions offered by Yatsenyuk in Donetsk on Friday:

Protesters in Donetsk have called on Russia to deploy peacekeepers to facilitate a referendum on independence by 11 May.

Yatsenyuk did not agree to a referendum but suggested the system of regional administrations appointed by the president should be replaced by executive committees elected by regional parliaments, which would have “all financial, economic, administrative and other powers to control the corresponding region”.

He also recommended that the parliament approve legislation that would change the constitution to allow for local referendums, a move strongly supported by the leaders of the Donetsk occupation.

Yatsenyuk said changes to the country’s constitution should be approved before a presidential election planned for 25 May that the Kiev regime has said will fully legitimise the new government.

–Alec Luhn in Donetsk, Oksana Grytsenko in Luhansk and agencies, “Ukraine fails to break stalemate with pro-Russian protesters in east; Arseniy Yatsenyuk promises devolution to local government in hope of staving off demands for their independence from Kiev,” The Guardian, Friday 11 April 2014 (15.03 EDT).

The tactics being used are from the Crimea playbook, with reported escalations today (Saturday, April 12) involving military units not wearing military insignia.

See Gregory L. White and Lukas I. Alpert, “Pro-Russian Protests Spread in Eastern Ukraine; Armed Men in Military-Style Uniforms Move to Commandeer Government Offices, Wall Street Journal, April 12, 2014 (updated 7:23 p.m. ET) .

White and Alpert report:

Witnesses said the men who took over the buildings in Slavyansk weren’t the local activists who had led protests in the region in recent weeks.

Instead, they appeared better-equipped and trained, carrying military-style gear and weapons, but with no insignia on their camouflage uniforms.

Such descriptions were similar to the thousands of troops who moved into and took over Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula last month, leading quickly to Russia’s annexation. Those troops were later confirmed to be Russian, though Moscow never officially admitted that.

See also:

“Kämpfe in mehreren Städten der Ostukraine; Im Osten der Ukraine bekämpfen sich prorussische Aktivisten und Sicherheitskräfte. Präsident Alexander Turtschinow berief für den Abend den nationalen Sicherheitsrat ein,”Die Zeit, .”12. April 2014 (19:20 Uhr).

The growing protests and incipient violence appear to be setting the stage for Russian military intervention, by the 40,000-80,000 troops that have been mobilized in preparation for such action.

The Diplomatic Front

On the diplomatic front, Russia is playing the same delaying game it played in Syria, talking of diplomatic solutions and illusory “agreements”, while gaining time for other kinds of solutions produced by the use of military force on the ground.

The strategy has been successful in Syria, and it should come as no surprise that the Russians are following a similar script in their diplomacy vis-à-vis the Ukraine.

The near-constant diplomatic contacts between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Secretary of State John Kerry, and others, serve two important Russian purposes.

First, they allow the Kremlin to monitor with great precision the intentions and potential actions of the at times compulsively transparent Obama administration, and its Western allies.

Second, they offer excellent opportunities to divide the Western countries by planting false seeds of hope. For example, Lavrov offered earnest reassurances to Kerry that Russia had no intention of violating the territorial integrity of the Ukraine, only days before the Russian invasion of that country. Similarly, Russian President Vladimir Putin assured German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Russian troops on the border with Ukraine would be withdrawn (or significantly reduced). No such drawdown has occurred, and indeed the build-up has continued.

A similar hope, in all likelihood also illusory, has been offered that if the West does not anger Russian President Vladimir Putin by its responses to Russia’s actions, he will not invade the eastern Ukraine.

Under current circumstances, it is a very bad idea for the U.S. and the EU to meet with Russia on April 17 to discuss the Ukraine’s fate, even with the Ukraine also participating.

See The Trenchant Observer, “Munich II: The meeting in Geneva between the U.S., the EU, the Ukraine and Russia, April 11, 2014.

The meeting, to find a “diplomatic solution” to “the “Ukrainian Crisis” provides Russia with an excellent opportunity to continue its strategy of deception and delay, dividing the West and offering illusory hopes to defuse the momentum for the adoption of any serious responses.

John Kerry, Sergey Lavrov, Catherine Ashton of the EU, and the Ukraine will meet in a context in which only Russia can gain, either by securing “Munich II”-style concessions from the West at the expense of the Ukraine, or by sowing division and doubt among the countries of the West.

Yatsenyuk’s proffered concessions on April 11 suggest that “Munich II”-style concessions are already being crafted, probably under pressure from the U.S. and the EU.

The Costs of Further Delay in Imposing Really Significant Sanctions

Further delay by the West in taking military steps and adopting really meaningful “third-stage” sanctions (such as a ban on financial transactions with Russia and/or a freezing of Russian assets in the West) will enable Russia to proceed with its destabilization of the eastern Ukraine and what may be its plan to have local “referendums” held on May 9, Russia’s Victory Day (celebrating the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War II). Demands for such referendums are now being heard from pro-Russian protesters.

The Russians are following Adolf Hitler’s playbook for the Anschluss with Austria and the annexation of the Sudetenland to the letter. The first took place on March 12, 1938. The second took place six months later, with the approval of France and Great Britain at Munich on September 30, 1938.

See
“Is Putin like Hitler?” The Trenchant Observer, April 4, 2014.

“Putin’s seizure of the Crimea and Hitler’s seizure of the Sudetenland: The comparison is accurate,” April 1, 2014.

Because of the complexity and time-consuming nature of EU and NATO decision processes (unanimity is required, in both cases), only the U.S. is in a position to lead and to act quickly.

The additional sanctions announced by Obama on April 11, 2014 (adding seven individuals and a major Crimean gas company seized by the Russians to those on the list of targeted sanctions) represent small steps in the right direction. But no one should imagine for an instant that they are sufficiently serious to affect Russia’s decisions, including any which may have already been made to invade the Ukraine for a second time.

The United States and the West are speaking the language of peace and reason. Russia is speaking the language of war and military action on the ground.

If only Obama and his “groupthink” coterie could come to their senses, grasp these realities, and react with forceful actions that are executed, not threatened, much might still be salvaged from the current debacle. After the invasion and annexation of the Crimea one would think they might have learned a thing or two.

But the roots of pacifism grow deep, and it is not easy for those who are committed to appeasement to discern–much less react to–realities which are dramatically changing, hour by hour, on the ground.

The Trenchant Observer

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Observateur Incisif
El Observador Incisivo

Leftist victory in Greece threatens continuation of EU sanctions against Russia

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Developing

See

(1) Julia Smirnova und Boris Kalnóky, “Mit Tspiras hat Russland einen neuen Verbündeten; Die neue griechische Regierung verfügt über bemerkenswert enge Kontakte nach Moskau; Premier Tsipras fordert schon lange ein Ende der Sanktionen, Außenminister Kotzias ist ein Fan von Putins Guru,” Die Welt, 28. Januar 2015.

(2) Daniel Friedrich Sturm, “POLITIK LAUT GABRIEL: Bundesregierung ist gegen neue Russland-Sanktionen Die EU-Außenminister dürften bei ihrem Treffen am Donnerstag vor allem intern nach einem Konsens suchen. Die vorgeschlagene Verlängerung der Sanktionen ist laut Vizekanzler Gabriel längst nicht sicher,” Die Welt, 28. Januar 2015.

(Vizekanzler Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) sieht wenig Spielraum für neue Sanktionen gegen Russlan.)

It appears that, as a result of the election of a leftist government in Greece on Sunday, January 25, Vladimir Putin may now have secured a blocking veto within the 28 members of the EU.

EU countries at present can only adopt economic sanctions by unanimous consent.

Consequently, a Greek veto could block renewal of the sanctions against Russia, which come up for re-authorization between March and September, 2015. This would occur even as Putin continues his illegal occupation of the Crimea and his ongoing military invasion and intervention in the eastern Ukraine, with Russian troops, armor and material.

This latest development demonstrates that Merkel’s and the EU’s austerity demands on Greece were too harsh, producing unexpected and sharply counter-productive consequences.

Even if the sanctions are eventually renewed, the battle within the EU is likely to be limited to re-authorizing existing sanctions, rather than adopting new and harsher sectoral sanctions in response to Puutin’s latest military moves in the Donbas, particularly against Mariupol.

Our current political leaders don’t seem to understand a fundamental truth: Everything is connected. We need leaders of great strategic vision, but have none.

The new Tspiras government, as a party, has been a strong critic of EU santions against Russia. Its top keaders are reported to have close ties to Moscow.

The EU voting requirement urgently calls out for a constitutional change, if Europe is ever to become an effective actor in the world. Yet even if there were support for changing the voting requirements–highly dubious at present– it could take years to adopt and implement any such changes.

Mr. Putin turns out to be a much better chess player than the pacifists and appeasers who lead the West. Many of them, including Barack Obama, don’t seem to have looked at the chessboard in over a month.

Moreover, it seems never to have occurred to them that they need to develop a strategy to take a queen, and even a king.

The Trenchant Observer

Putin attacks Mariupol, may seek land corridor to Crimea

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

Developing

See

(1) Julia Smirnova, “Mariupol wäre für die Separatisten wertvollster Ort; Die Angriffe auf Mariupol markieren eine neue Eskalation des Kriegs in der Ostukraine. Greifen die prorussischen Milizen nach der wirtschaftlichen Schlüssel-Metropole des Südostens?,” Die Welt, 25. Januar 2015.

(2) “Raketenangriff auf Mariupol: CDU und Grüne fordern neue Sanktionen gegen Russland; Beim Raketenbeschuss auf die ukrainische Stadt Mariupol wurden mindestens 30 Menschen getötet, womöglich mit Unterstützung russischer Truppen. Erste deutsche Politiker fordern noch schärfere Sanktionen gegen den Kreml,” Der Spiegel, 25. Januar 2015 (16:10 Uhr).

(3) Pilar Bonnet, “La violencia en Ucrania se dispara al nivel previo al inicio del diálogo; Treinta civiles muertos y 97 heridos en un ataque con misiles a Mariúpol, El Pais, 24 de enero 2015 (22:47 CET).

(4) Konrad Schuller (Berlin), “Ukraine-Krise: Niemand hat die Absicht, eine Stadt anzugreifen: Nach dem Raketenangriff auf Mariupol droht eine neue Eskalation der Gewalt in der Ostukraine. Vieles spricht für einen Angriff der Separatisten. Russland könnte die Kontrolle von Mariupol sehr nutzen, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 25. Januar 2015.

(5) Tom Parfitt (Zhelanne), “Tank troops fight to contain rebel expansion in eastern Ukraine: War escalates as 27 civilians killed in rocket attack and Kiev accuses Moscow of sending more soldiers and hardware across the border,” The Telegraph, January 24,2015 (48PM GMT).

Vladimir Putin may now be moving decisively to take Mariupol, opening the way for seizure of a land corridor linking the Russian-occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions of the Ukraine with the Russian-conquered and occupied Crimea and city of Sevastopol.

This would solve Russia’s huge logistical problem of supplying the Crimea with goods and materiel, which at present can be done only by sea.

Russia and the “separatists” earlier took down the border between the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and Russia, permitting Putin to move armor, fighters and materiel into the Donbas at will.

The strategic logic underlying such a move on Mariupol has been laid out here, and has been clear at least since April, 2014.

With the EU, NATO, and the U.S. not considering any further sanctions or NATO actions against Russia, despite Putin’s current intensification of its aggression in the eastern Ukraine, and with some 9,000 Russian regular forces in the Region (not counting Russian irregular forces), it is hard to see any deterrent force that could stop Putin and Russia from taking such actions.

Angela Merkel even put forth the idea of a broad customs union with the EU and Russia and its friends this week, that being her response to further Russian aggression in the Ukraine, and Putin’s immediate violation of the Berlin agreement of January 21 between Russia and the Ukraine to withdraw their heavy weapons from the demarcation line established by the Minsk Memorandum of September 19, in implementation of the Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2015.

Merkel could not have given Putin a brighter green light for further military aggression.

Putin, on the other hand, may just be probing, to see if he meets any resistance to his attack on Mariupol. If he doesn’t, as occurred when he was taking over the Crimea, he may then act decisively to expand the territories under Russian control, from Mariupol to the Crimea.

Meanwhile, Europe, the EU, NATO, and the U.S. are asleep, under the leadership of the same pacifists and appeasers who to date have utterly failed to contain Russian militarism and aggression in the Ukraine, and beyond.

Stay tuned. Events of great historical importance are underway, as the system of international security established under the United Nations Charter in 1945 is beginning to buckle and collapse.

The Trenchant Observer

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