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

REPRISE — The fruits of pacifist foreign policies: Aggression in Ukraine, atrocities in Syria

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Viewing the developing Russian-Ukrainian war from the vantage point of March 3, 2014, it is striking to note how much of what has happened since was in effect a tragedy foretold. It has indeed been a tragedy foretold, like in a Greek tragedy where the audience (here, some in the audience) know the outcome, but the chief protagonists don’t, as they proceed to go about playing their tragic roles.

The question today (October 21, 2014), of course, is whether we can see further tragedies about to unfold and yet may still act to avert what the Greeks might have considered to be irreversible Fate.

*******

REPRISE — The fruits of pacifist foreign policies: Aggression in Ukraine, atrocities in Syria; Merkel’s fact-finding mission—a last chance to avert disaster?,” The Trenchant Observer, March 3, 2014.

First published on March 3, 2014

The new hybrid pacifism

The new, hybrid pacifism of Barack Obama and NATO countries has been obscured by Obama’s use of drones, and military operations begun long ago but now winding down in Afghanistan.

The military intervention of France and NATO in Libya pursuant to a U.N. Security Council mandate represented an exception to the general pacifism which characterizes Obama’s foreign policy, an exception and now rare case (outside of Africa) where military action is undertaken pursuant to authorization by the U.N. Security Council.

Other interventions by France and U.N. and African Union forces in Mali and the Central African Republic have reflected the paradoxical nature of current pacifist policies, which are hybrid in nature, admitting the use of military force to stabilize situations in African countries when there is a Security Council mandate or an invitation by the government of the target country.

However, often hiding behind simplistic interpretations of legal prohibitions, in effect ruling out the strong use of military force against powerful opponents when real blood and treasure must be put at risk, the new hybrid pacifism has the effect of ceding the playing field to ruthless countries such as Syria, Iran and Russia, allowing war crimes, crimes against humanity, and military invasions to effectively go unopposed.

On legal interpretations and justifications, see Sir Daniel Bethlehem QC, “Stepping Back a Moment – The Legal Basis in Favour of a Principle of Humanitarian Intervention,” EJIL Talk, September12, 2013.

The U.S. and other NATO countries, reeling from their losses in Iraq and Afghanistan, with little to show for their sacrifices, don’t want to live in a world where real military force may have to be used.

So they rule it out. U.S. and NATO military leaders, seemingly unaware of the impact of their words on adversaries, loudly proclaim they are ruling out the possible use of military force. This has occurred not only in the Ukraine, but also and repeatedly in Syria. These statements, like those of U.S. military leaders stressing the difficulty of taking military action in Syria, are essentially aimed at domestic audiences and allied governments while naively ignoring their impact on opponents.

Furthermore, it is painful to see military and NATO leaders allow themselves to get drawn into political debates, in public. These discussions should be conducted behind closed doors, without leaks to the press about what is going on or what leaders are thinking with respect to military action.

In Syria, this new, hybrid pacifism has been obscured behind cynical acceptance of Kofi Annan’s illusory six-point peace plan for Syria (and the promise of political settlement at the Geneva I and Geneva II peace conferences), and behind the simplistic legal argument that the U.N. Charter prohibits any military action (except self-defense) without the approval of the Security Council, even to stop the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity on a massive scale, as in Syria.

Under this interpretation, Russia would have been allowed to install nuclear missiles aimed at the United States during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October, 1963, the genocidal war in the former Yugoslavia would never have been halted, and Serbian ethnic cleansing in Kosovo in 1999 would have been allowed to proceed.

In a future world (after the Permanent Members’ veto has been eliminated), adherence to such a norm would be essential. In the meantime, we must rely on the closest approximations possible, limiting any such actions to the most narrowly circumscribed cases, where there is overwhelming support by the nations of the world for the action to be undertaken, and preferably when it is carried out under the authorization of another international organization.

In any event, this new form of hybrid pacifism has taken hold in America and NATO countries. As a result, Bashar al-Assad has been left free to commit his atrocities, which include not only the bombardment of civilian populations including hospitals and medical personnel, but also the arrests, torture, and executions in the night which do not make the daily news, and of which those who follow events closely only hear much later from international organizations when the latter report, for example, that maybe 80,000 people have “disappeared”.

Another, highly significant result has been Russia’s aggression against the Ukraine in February and March, 2014. This aggression follows that in Georgia in 2008, which NATO and the West allowed to stand, conducting business as usual with Russia afterwards. To be sure, Georgia was not blameless in the evolution of events. However, in the end Russian aggression through the illegal use of force across international frontiers was allowed to stand, without serious consequences for Russia.

Russia’s calculus in the Ukraine might have been very different had Anders Rasmussen, the Secretary General of NATO, not assured his members–and Russia–that options involving the use of force by NATO were not under consideration, and if, for example, NATO countries had put their military forces on alert, and NATO naval and air assets been strategically deployed within the region.

Now, however, absent a determined will to deploy force against the illegal threat or use of force, the pacifist leaders of the U.S. and Europe, and other NATO countries, must now resign themselves to the depredations of a Russian leader willing to invade neighboring countries in utter defiance of international law, and indeed the foundations of the post-WW II international legal and political order.

Given the current pacifism of the West, and given the fact that major consequences for Russia have already been triggered by its military intervention in the Ukraine, there is little to dissuade Putin from similarly using his military power to bring Georgia and Moldova (and other former Soviet Republics) back within the Russian “sphere of influence” or community of states.

China supports Russia, suggesting that it too might in the future be willing to settle its disputes with its neighbors through the use of military force.

Nonetheless, we need to recall certain hard-won lessons from history.

International law and order are in the end indivisible, for if the prohibition of the threat or use of force can be defied with impunity by one country in one part of the world, surely it can be defied by other countries elsewhere. When Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in 1983, it is worth recalling, the military operation was named “Operation Goa”, recalling the precedent set by India when it invaded the Portuguese colony and enclave of Goa in 1961.

Obama’s pacifism, and that of Europe and NATO, have left a vacuum in Europe which Vladimir Putin appears ready to fill with Russian military forces. Even if his actions are delusional, and make no sense in reality as the latter is understood in the West, they have already had momentous consequences which will reshape economic and political relations in Europe and beyond for decades to come.

Further, Putin’s actions have produced a situation in which the Ukraine has become a tinderbox, while madmen are running around with torches in their hands.

War is by its very nature wholly unpredictable. What could happen, for example, if Russians started killing Ukrainians, and Poland decided to send military forces to support Kiev in exercise of the right of collective self-defense?

Impact on Nuclear Proliferation

One impact from Russian intervention in Ukraine is of exceptional significance for the future of international peace and security. Following Russia’s violation of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum guaranteeing the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of the Ukraine in exchange for its surrender of its nuclear weapons, it is inconceivable that any arms control agreement with Russia could be ratified by the U.S. Senate so long as Putin remains in power–and probably long thereafter.

See Peter Spiegel, “Ukraine and the West: an international legal primer, Financial Times (Brussels Blog), March 2, 2014.

If one thinks carefully about the Russian military intervention in the Ukraine, it is obvious that Russia would have been extremely reluctant to engage in such behavior if the Ukraine still had the 1900 nuclear warheads on missiles it surrendered in 1994, when it also joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

One of the greatest impacts of the Russian military intervention in the Ukraine is likely to be the powerful impetus it will give to the forces of nuclear proliferation. Even in the context of the 5+1 nuclear talks with Iran, the invasion is likely to reduce the credibility of any guarantees of Iranian territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence to near zero, at least insofar as Russia is concerned..

A Last chance to draw back from the abyss? Merkel’s fact-finding mission

There may still be a slight chance to avoid unleashing the dogs of war, what the founders of the United Nations referred to as “the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind” (U.N. Charter, Preamble, below).

Russia and Putin appear to be under a kind of delusional spell which seems to result from believing their own propaganda, having stirred up a public which appears eager to use military force, in scenes reminiscent of the enthusiasm for war felt among the populations of the European powers in 1914 on the eve of and during the first days of World War I.

In these circumstances, Angela Merkel’s proposal to send an impartial fact-finding mission to the Crimea and the Ukraine should be implemented immediately. Putin has told Merkel that he agrees to the proposition.

The mission could be undertaken under the aegis of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), or even an organ of the U.N. such as the Human Rights Council where Russia does not have a veto.

At the same time, it could be useful for NATO to place some military forces on alert and move military assets into place in case a need arises for them to be used.

Russia is spewing lies about what is going on in the Crimea and the Ukraine, and seeking to provoke violence which might provide a thin veneer of legitimacy to its legal claims that it is intervening in the Crimea to protect its nationals.

These claims should be rebutted immediately in official reports published by NATO and other countries. The fact that the transitional president of Ukraine has vetoed a bill which would have revoked the 2010 language law allowing use of Russian as a second language should be made known to every citizen in Ukraine.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1963, John F. Kennedy and Nikita Krushchev exchanged letters at the most critical moments of the crisis, when nuclear war was a most palpable possibility. Khrushchev sent one letter to Kennedy on Friday, October 26 which was conciliatory in tone:

If, however, you have not lost your self-control and sensibly conceive what this might lead to, then, Mr. President, you and I ought not now to pull on the ends of the rope in which you have tied the knots of war, because the more the two of us pull, the tighter the knot will be tied. And a moment may come when that knot will be tied so tight that even he who tied it will not have the strength to untie it, and then it will be necessary to cut that knot, and what that would mean is not for me to explain to you, because you yourself understand perfectly of what terrible forces our countries dispose.

–“Krushchev letter of October 26, as received in the White House,” reprinted in Larson, “Cuban Crisis”, pp. 175-80, quoted in Graham Allison and Philip Zelikow, “Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis,” at p. 355 (2d ed. 1999).

Saturday, October 27, when an American U-2 was shot down over Cuba, a much harsher letter bearing the stamp of the Kremlin’s collective leadership was broadcast over the radio, adding new conditions to the offer in the Friday letter. Kennedy decided to ignore the second letter and to reply to the first (in what was referred to as “a Trollope ploy”, alluding to the acceptance of ambivalent gestures as a marriage proposal, in Anthony Trollope’s 19th century novels).

The West should now follow Kennedy’s example, and accept Putin’s acceptance of Merkel’s proposal for sending a fact-finding mission to the Ukraine, regardless of what he or the Russians have said since. Moreover, they should do so at breakneck speed, blasting through the diplomatic procedures that normally slow things down. The goal must be to get the first elements of the fact-finding mission on the ground in the Crimea within a matter of hours, not days. Time is of the essence.

Reports from the mission, including daily press briefings or updates, could then help defuse the war fever in Russia, affording Putin a gradual way to climb down should he become sufficiently enlightened to do so. Also worth bearing in mind is the fact that he may have unleashed organizational and bureaucratic forces which are not easily controlled, and may need time to be able to reverse course successfully when and if he comes to his senses and decides to do so.

The ends of the rope on which the knot of war has been tied must be loosened now, if at all possible, even at this late hour. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, assisted by her capable and experienced foreign minister, Walter-Frank Steinmeier, should lead the effort, with full support from the United States, France, Poland and other European and NATO countries.

The Trenchant Observer

Ommitted: Preamble to the United Nations Charter

International law and the use of military force against groups in Syria

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Preliminary draft – developing

There is considerable confusion over the legality under international law of taking military action against groups and targets in Syria.

This has led some governments participating in the coalition against the so-called Islamic State (or ISIS, ISIL, or Da’eesh) to support military action within Iraq but not within Syria.

It should be helpful to clarify the different legal authorities under international law under which military force may be used in Syria.

These break down into three broad categories:h

(1) Action againsr ISIL in Syria may be taken in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the U.N. Charter “in the case of an armed attack”. ISIL has launched and is currently engaged in such an armed attack.

If Iraq issues a request for military assistance in repelling that attack, other states may use force that is necessary and proprtional to defending against the attack.

Collective self-defense is a valid justification for U.S. and allied air strikes and land action against ISIL in Syria.

With respect to Kobane, in particular, given the scale of the attack on Iraq and in response to a request that country for assistance in collective self-defense, Turkey would be justified under international law in sending ground forces into Syria to attack ISIL forces and to repel the attack on that border city.

(2) The second justification for using military force in Syria, whether against ISIL or the Bashar al-Assad regime itself, would be to halt he commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity on a broad scale, until such time as the U.N. Security Council can take effective action to halt the commission of these crimes.

The justification is somewhat novel under international law, but it is submitted makes eminent good sense if narrowly drafted within the framework of the Security Council’s duty to implement the “responsibility to protect” resolution adopted in 2006.

See

(1) “The U.N. Charter, International Law, and Legal Justifications for Military Intervention in Syria—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #83,” The Trenchant Observer, September 1, 2012.

(2) “Humanitarian Intervention in Syria Without Security Council Authorization—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #24,” The Trenchant Observer, April 8, 2012.

In the case of ISIL, this would be a second legal justification, in addition to that of collective self-defense.

In the case of the al-Assad government, which has not committed an “armed attack” against Iraq, this would constitute the main legal justification for taking military action against Syria.

As set forth in considerable detail in previous articles on the legality of humanitarian intervention in Syria to halt al-Assad’s atrocities, the objective of such military intervention should be to halt the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the al-Assad government, under extraordinary circumstances and then only until the Security Council can take effective action.

Whatever objections Russia may have at one time been prepared to make to such an argument, resting on an overly mechanistic interpretation of Article 2 paragraph 4 of the U.N. Charter, it is hardly now in a position to make in view of its invasions of the Crimea and the eastern Ukraine.

(3) The third category of actions involve taking military action within Syria against jihadist or al-Qaeda related groups which have not been involved in an armed attack against Iraq or, arguably, even the large-scale commission of war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Here, the weakness of the international legal arguments used by the U.S. to justify drone attacks and other uses of force outside the Afghanistan-Pakistan war theater comes fully into view.

The U.S. argument turns essentially on assertions that the war against jihadists is global in nature with the result that the war theater is also global, and that certain interptetations by the U.S. of the laws of war or humanitarian law are (1) valid within the framework of humanitarian law itself; and (2) take precedence over the prohibition of the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political indedendence of any state contained in article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter, which is universally recognized as a kind of “super” or mandatory law (jus cogens), from which there can be no derogation.

The legal arguments used to support this third category of military actions within Syria are widely disputed outside the U.S. government, and do not appear to be supported by a wide number and variety of states.

That is why the recent U.S. air attacks on the Khorasan group, an al-Qaeda cell deemed to be particularly dangerous, at the same time the U.S. attacked ISIL targets in Syria, created much confusion, particularly in the absence of a detailed written legal justification for either kind of attack.

What was provided was a letter to the U.N. Security Council justifying the attacks both as collective self-defense and in the case of the attack on the Khorasan group as individual self-defense by the U.S.

The latter justification consisted in the mere statement of a conclusion, and failed to address the three self-defense requirements of immediacy, necessity, and proportionality.

The Trenchant Observer

Comments are invited.

If Putin invades Mariupol and seizes a land corridor to the Crimea, what will NATO, the U.S. and the EU do?

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

Developing

Russia’s continuing aggression in the Ukraine, and continuing appeasement in the West

The ceasefire in the Ukraine established by the Minsk Protocol is being violated on a grand scale. Russian troops remain in the Ukraine, as supplies of weapons and other military assistance to Moscow’s “separatists” presumably continue.

Russian troops illegally occupy the Crimea, which Russia has purportedly “annexed” following military invasion and conquest.

There appear to be no strategies or plans in the West to make Putin disgorge the Crimea, which with full compliance with the Minsk Protocol establishing a ceasefire in the Donbas and a plan to achieve peace, might open the path for Russia to turn away from its current policies of military aggression and to cease its open defiance of the U.N. Charter’s prohibition of the use of force.

Given Russian defiance of the international law norms governing the use of force, upon which the entire structure of the United Nations is based, Putin may in the absence of a strong countervailing force cede to the powerful logic of war that would unite the Crimea with Russia proper, by conquring Mariupol and other territory between the Donbass and the Black Sea fleet based at Sevastopol.

The question of the hour is: Where is that countervailing force?

Europe is focused on the approval by he European Parliament of the cabinet or team proposed by the new EU Commission president, Jean-Claude Junker. Several of his nominees do not seem acceptable to the parliament’s elected members.

Some EU member states, including the U.K. and France, are also distracted by their military engagement as participants in the activities of the coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

The United States is highly distracted by its ongoing military operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and the militarily grave situations that exist on the outskirts of Baghdad and in Kurdish regions in Syria close to the border with Turkey, whose parliament has just authorized military intervention in Syria.

Politicians in the U.S. are also focusing on the upcoming Congressional elections to be held on Tuesday, November 4, 2014. The Democrats, who currently control only the Senate while the Republicans control the House, are at serious risk of losing control of the Senate. If this were to happen, Barack Obama would be turned into a real “lame duck” president for the last two years of his term.

Attention is also focused on the frightening Ebola epidemic in West Africa, which has just registered its first American case in Dallas in the form of a passenger who arrived by air from Liberia. If 70% of new cases in West Africa are not confined to Ebola treatment centers by November (the current figure is 14%), the exploding number of cases is predicted to,number in the millions, with further risks of the disease being spread by travelers to other countries.

NATO is in transition, with the new Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the former Prime Minister of Norway, having taken office only on October 1. Not only must the Alliance proceed with rapid implementation of the decisions taken at the Wales summit on September 4-5, but also consider the potential invocation of Article 5 of the NATO Treaty by Turkey in the event it is attacked by ISIS. Further deployments of NATO troops in the East are also needed, and the issue should be receiving high-priority attention.

At the same time, the demonstrations in Hong Kong over the issue of universal suffrage have the potential, if not carefully managed by parties on all sides, to spin out of control generating responses that could be fateful not only for Hong Kong but also for the evolution of Chinese society as a whole.

In this mix of headline-gripping developments, it is easy for the Western nations to assume that the Ukraine crisis is under control and can be left to simmer on the back burner for a while.

In terms of facts on the ground, however, this is not the case. The ceasefire is not being observed in the Donetsk region, particularly around the airport where serious fighting continues. Other steps in the Minsk peace plan are not being complied with fully, if at all. Prisoner exchanges have come to a halt.

Putin’s modus operandi is to strike suddenly and with great surprise. The distraction of the Western countries, and the fact that they are not even talking about the imposition of further sanctions, may create an opportunity for Putin to strike while the West’s guard is down.

For those leaders in the West who seem to be distracted, asleep, or still in the grip of pacifism and appeasement, the central question in their minds should be:

“Why shouldn’t Putin just go ahead and invade Mariupol and seize the corridor between the Crimea and the Donbas, guaranteeing a secure overland supply route to the Crimea during the coming winter?”

See

James Rupert, “As Winter Nears in Ukraine, Will Moscow Attempt Another Strategic Invasion? Continued Attacks Show Kremlin May Be Preparing Drive Toward Crimea, Analysts Say,” Atlantic Council, September 29, 2014.

James Rupert, “Can US Support for Ukraine Help Prevent a New Russian Invasion?
Canadian Analyst Says US Should Signal Moscow To Avoid Any Assault in South,” Atlantic Council, October 3, 2014.

Mychailo Wynnyckyj, “10 reasons that a full-scale invasion of Ukraine is possible before winter,” EuroMaidan Press, October 3, 2014.

What is to be done?

The first thing that is required is for the leaders of the West to put the Russian-Ukrainian war at the top of their list of priorities.

Among the steps they should take, in order to demonstrate to Putin and Russia that a powerful countervailing force exists, are the following:

1. Take the Minsk Protocol to the U.N. Security Council and put a resolution incorporating its terms to a vote.

2. The U.S. should take the lead on further sanctions, including banning Russian banks from using the SWIFT system for the transfer of international payments.

3. The U.S. and the EU and their allies should push for decisions annulling the decision to award the World Cup to Russia in 2018.

The World Cup should not be held in a country which has launched a war of aggression against a neighboring state, annexed part of its territory seized through military conquest, and violated the fundamental human rights of the populations subjected to its control (e.g., freedom of expression, right to participate in free elections, right to life, integrity of the person, and not to be arbitrarily detained, right to due process and a fair trial),

4. U.S. provision of “lethal” military weapons and assistance to the Ukraine should commence immediately.

The White House rationale for not doing so is rooted in policies of pacifism and appeasement (fear of antagonizing the aggressor), and should be reversed now in the light of events since February.

Appeasement has not worked with Putin, and it will not work with him either now or in the future.

5. The U.S. and the EU should begin an active diplomatic campaign for support of a strongly-worded U.N. General Assembly resolution on the Ukraine, condemning Russian aggression and reaffirming the U.N. Charter’s prohibition of the threat or use of force. They should focus their diplomatic efforts in particular on South Africa, Brazil and India, and be prepared to take serious measures against states which vote with Moscow, whether with a negative vote or by abstention. The vote will count. A vote to support Russia should carry a heavy price.

6. Plans and decisions for the stationing of large numbers of U.S. and other NATO troops in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland and Romania should be made soon, and their implementation begun on an urgent basis.

The status quo cannot be accepted, if the crumbling international order and the U.N. Charter’s prohibition of the threat or use of force are to be preserved.

The Trenchant Observer

The Russia-Ukraine War: Putin, cunning judo master, versus Obama, NATO, and EU, conflicted and confused; Protagonists continue battle for Ukraine and vision of world order

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

Developing

Russian President Vladimir Putin, a cunning and brilliant tactician who has now taken on the entire international legal and political order through his invasions of the Ukraine and “annexation” of the Crimea, seems to seize every day on some new target of opportunity offered up by the West.

To their credit, the EU, the U.S. and NATO in the last two weeks have overcome the resistance of pacifists and appeasers within their midst and begun to take forceful decisions to use their economic power to counter the advances of Russian troops and tanks in the Ukraine, and to strengthen their military posture toward Russia in the East.

They are now embarked on a strategy which will cost Russia grievously in the long and even intermediate term.

Their antagonist, Valadimir Putin, who seems — perhaps deceptively — to represent an inreasingly arbitrary one-man rule tending toward a totalitarian future, is not a long-term strategist.

In strategic terms, his policy of support for Bashar Al-Assad as the latter committed war crimes and crimes against humanity on a massive scale, leading to the deaths so far of over 200,000 people, has been deeply flawed. Focusing on the play-by-play game of defeating U.S. President Barack Obama and his allies, day by day, he has failed to anticipate the growth of ISIS or the “Islamic State” (“IS”) which poses a grave threat to Russia and its southern republics in the Caucasus.

ISIS is attracting, training, and providing experience to thousands of fighters some of whom will one day return to Russia to wreak havoc with their nihilistic and barbarian policies of sowing fear, death and destruction.

In the Ukraine, through his military invasions and short-term victories, Putin has brought Ukrainian nationalism to a brightly burning flame, and ensured that the population of this strategically and economically critical country will distrust and hate Russia for generations.

By trying to prevent the Ukraine from moving toward Europe and the West by economic war and military force, he has ensured the opposite result, at least in the intermediate to long term. While absolutely determined to prevent the Ukraine from joining NATO, Putin has virtually assured that they will do so in the longer term, as the only means available to them so secure their Eastern frontier.

In short, Putin is not a particularly good long-term strategist.

Rather, he is a briliant tactician whose cunning in the pursuit of his own personal short-term objectives far exceeds that of the divided leaders of the West.

Moreover, he seems to be obsessed with playing the current short-term game in the battle for influence and ultimately control over the Ukraine.

His moves, like those of a champion judo master, are brilliantly executed. His method includes the following elements:

1) Stealth, as in the way he invaded and seized the Crimea, and launched his invasion of the eastern Ukraine in April (if not before).

The plausible deniability such stealth provides him is useful in dividing his opponents, as he gives pacifists and appeasers in the West reasons not to act, or to argue among themselves over whether to take any actions in response to Russian aggression.

2) Blatant lies, Misrepresentations, and War Propaganda

Useful both at the diplomatic level, in confusing leaders of countries which might oppose him, and in maintaining domestic support through his control of the media and television in particular, Putin’s lies and war propaganda are eventually recognized as outrageous by foreign observers (after they have served their short-term purposes), but now remain essential domestically for him to maintain his grip on power.

On open question is whether the preposterous lies and propaganda can maintain their effectiveness over the longer term. In this respect, Joseph Goebels’ domestic propaganda in the German Third Reich may have been superior over the longer term precisely because of the realism with which it was imbued.

Putin’s domestic propaganda bubble could burst, which accounts for the extreme reactions of his government when news of Russian soldiers dying in the Ukraine began to come out. One deputy who visited the grave of a soldier who died in the Ukraine was beaten up. A highly respected NGO representing the mothers of Russian soldiers was denounced as subversive when it pressed too openly for details regarding the fates of missing and other soldiers deployed to the Ukraine.

3) Surprise

Putin is a master of striking a blow when his opponent’s guard is down. Thus, following the wrenching struggle to proceed with implementation of the latest EU sanctions by the EU, the day after news sanctions were actually implemented, Putin sent a second convoy of white trucks purportedly carrying humanitarian aid across the border into the Donbas region, in a blatant violation of the Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. There was no prior inspection by the IRC or the OSCE, or authorization by Ukrainian authorities.

4) De-sensitization to violations of sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Putin has used this technique with great effect, both in the Crimea and in the eastern Ukraine. Executing small and low visibility violations of the border, repeatedly, by sending in irregular fighters, arms, and even sophisticated air-defense systems, Putin progressively de-sensitized leaders in the West to such border violations.

No single violation seemed worse than the preceding one, to which leaders had not objected. Once they had been de-sensitized, larger violations could take place without raising alarm, until finally thousands of Russian troops, and tanks, artillery pieces, and other equipment had entered the Ukraine and were engaged in fighting the Ukrainian forces.

Putin’s Latest Moves

Putin’s latest moves include sending the white truck convoy into the Ukraine beginning Saturday, without Ukraine’s permission or IRC or OSCE prior inspection and accompanying of the cargoes to their destination.

He has thus succeeded in de-sensitizing Western leaders by initially speaking to the IRC and OSCE, and even reaching some agreements on the first convoy in August, then violating them when he sent the first convoy into the Donbas without Kiev’s authorization or OSCE and IRC inspection and control.

This time he used great surprise, and unlike the first convoy which took weeks to travel from Moscow and cross the border, he quickly sent the second convoy across the border into the Ukraine with no inspections, no controL, and no authorization from Kiev.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko did not complain loudly, as he seems now to be buying in to the idea of appeasing Putin and responding to his threats–after the Ukrainian army was badly bloodied by the direct attacks of Russian troops–by going along with what he does, in order to maintain the viability of the Minsk Protocol cessefire and peace plan agreement.

This is the only way to understand Poroshenko’s statement in the last week that 70% of the Russian forces had been withdrawn, when NATO reported seeing no such activity.

At the same time, Putin has underlined the fragility of the ceasefire by resuming separatists attacks in Donetsk, with artillery and rockets being used in an attack on the Donetsk airport. The attack was successfully repelled by Ukrainian forces. But Putin made his point.

In the West, Obama, clueless, is focused on the wrong conflict

Meanwhile, as a showdown between Russia and the West is in full swing, Barack Obama is consumed with taking action in another conflict, with ISIS or the so-called Islamic State.

What the deaths of 200,000 people in Syria could not achieve, the beheadings by IS of two Americans produced within weeks: a decision by the Obama administration to engage militarily against ISIS both in Iraq and Syria, and to provide military aid to the “moderate” rebels within Syria.

The U.S. actions are necessary and appropriate, though perhaps not sufficient.

The important point here is that Obama has been focused on these decisions, and the dramatic change in his policies toward Iraq and Syria, instead of focusing on the war in the Ukraine.

In strategic terms, the war in the Ukraine is of paramount importance.

Obama and his administration should not be distracted from paying full attention, and being actively engaged in decision making with the EU, NATO and their allies,in deciding how to respond quickly to Putin’s next moves.

The Trenchant Observer

Inside Putin’s Brain: Musings on the Ukraine and what is going on inside his head — Part II

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

For analysis of Putin’s 7-point ceasefire proposal, EU sanctions decisions, and NATO decisions to be taken in the next few days, see

“Putin seeks to divide EU to avoid sanctions with Ukraine “cease-fire” proposal; Russian words should be ignored, harsh EU sanctions and hard NATO decisions adopted,” The Trenchant Observer, September 3, 2014.

In warfare, as in diplomacy, it is important to try to put yourself in the shoes of your adversary, to try to understand what is going on inside his head (or her head).

Vladimir Putin, through his actions and rejection of the postwar legal and political order, has become the adversary of the West, just as Russia has become the enemy of all civilized countries which seek to uphold the United Nations Charter and its foundational principles prohibiting the threat or use of force across international frontiers.

Following are musings by the Observer on what may be going through Putin’s mind right now.

*****

See Part I here (September 2, 2014).

PART II

My “separatists” were kind of on the ropes as the Ukrainian army tightened the noose around Donetsk and Luhansk, after retaking Sloviansk. But then we tricked the Ukraine and NATO with our “humanitarian aid” convoy of trucks, repainted “white” with good foresight and admirable military efficiency, according to our master plan. The white truck convoy brilliantly captured the attention of the international media, for weeks, as I poured tanks, artillery, soldiers and other equipment across the border to bolster my “separatists” by joining them in the fighting.

Our plan to have the separatists call for military intervention to protect “Russians” (i.e., members of the Russian family) ran into a few snags, because as Lavrov pointed out we needed Ukrainians and not Russian intelligence officers to make the appeal for intervention. We got that all straightened out when I ordered “Igor Strelkov” (even my GRU operatives have plausible deniability!) and my other intelligence operatives to resign from their leadership positions among the rebels, turning their positions over to their local deputies.

Actually, this proved to be unnecessary, as the white truck convoy ploy proved so successful I was able to pour thousands of Russian troops across the “border” into the Donbass, with accompanying tanks, artillery, and other equipment, with hardly anyone noticing. Our earlier attacks on the border posts and their supporting command centers was an intelligent part of our plan, even though on this occasion we didn’t couldn’t go through the border crossings because there were too many press and international officials present.

A month later, the EU is still debating what sanctions to impose on us, while NATO has the “quick reaction force” concept to debate at the upcoming summit in Wales. They need a “quick reaction force because they are afraid to violate the 1997 undertakings under the NATO-Russia partnership agreement that prohibit the forward-basing of NATO troops.

Can you believe it? The NATO countries, and Angela Merkel in particular, are afraid to violate the 1997 agreements by deploying forces permanently in the Baltics! I am a lawyer, and I never cease to be amazed at the legal arguments my German friends can come up with when they don’t want to do something for other reasons. What are the other reasons? They are afraid of me! They are afraid they might anger or antagonize me!

I could have Berlin surrounded by Russian troops, and they would still be debating the legal technicalities of the Partnership Agreement, and whether it permitted them to respond with force. They are really incredibly stupid! Or incredible cowards, which gives me the same result.

This week the EU and NATO summits are considering what steps to take against Russia for our “invasion” of the Ukraine, despite my repeated explanations that there are no Russian soldiers in that country.

NATO members will congratulate themselves for adopting the rapid deployment force plan — without violating the 1997 Partnership Agreement! Can you believe it?

Once NATO has taken that action, it’s not likely to take any more decisions any time soon. Or maybe NATO will authorize the sending of “non-lethal” military aid to the Ukrainian military, such as personal armor, Meals Ready to Eat (MRE’s), and finally, if they are really bold, socks!

They may debate whether to fly the MRE’s in, or send them by commercial truck in order not to anger me as they did a few months ago. By truck!

Of course, the EU will probably adopt some so-called “third stage” sanctions (Oh! how they love to organize everything, even their own thinking, into little boxes!). I can’t remember how many times they’ve huffed and puffed and threatened to blow my house down if I didn’t do what they said by a deadline of a month, or a week, and then they let the deadline pass and did nothing.

I am working hard with Lavrov to limit the nature and reach of the new sanctions.

We’ve floated the idea of a settlement with a new referendum in the eastern Ukraine under U.N. auspices, in Minsk, I think it was. Remember the promises al-Assad made under the U.N. Security Council resolutions and Kofi Annan’s 6-point peace plan? Lavrov did a good job of leading the West around by the nose with that 6-point plan, with Kofi Annan’s endless willingness to help find a diplomatic solution.

Last night I had a long chat with Petro Poroshenko on the phone, away from his staff, and enticed him with the idea of a “ceasefire” which would stop the fighting, and the killing of Ukrainian soldiers who after making contact with the Russian army are on the verge of being routed. We published the “7-point ceasefire plan” today, and after all the confusion we ended up looking good.

We can distract them from focusing on the severe sanctions some of them want to impose with our “peace plan” or “7-point ceasefire plan”, which in a week will have served its purpose. If they accept it, and hand us a victory, I’ll need to think about accepting the victory in view of our longer-term plans for the Ukraine.

Whatever happens, these proposals are useful in making EU leaders have second thoughts about adopting harsh economic sanctions. Maybe my peace proposals won’t avoid sanctions altogether, but they may help dilute the severity of those that are adopted. And, of course, it makes me look magnanimous to my domestic television audience.

At the same time, I have threatened to take Kiev in two weeks by military force, in a plausibly deniable sort of way, so that EU leaders will have further arguments for not imposing drastic sanctions now. They can keep these sanctions in reserve, in order to “deter” me from taking Kiev!

Can you believe how gullible and what pacifists and appeasers they are! They will grasp at any straw to avoid taking really strong actions against Russia that could hurt their own business and trade relationships with this giant market, not to mention their energy needs for Russian gas.

Big business understands this, and will lobby hard in the U.S. and in Germany and other EU countries against taking strong measures.

Finally, of course, we have the nuclear threat to make our opponents in the West think twice before taking me on. We have “gamed” all kinds of nuclear show-downs with Barack Obama, and in almost every scenario he folds and we win. I knew this intuitively when I saw him flinch in Syria after al-Assad used chemical weapons at Ghouta in August 2013. We saw that when his “red line” was crossed he didn’t have the “stomach” for a confrontation. He didn’t even have the guts to pull the trigger against al-Assad’s military, despite his overwhelming military advantage.

He doesn’t have the “cojones” to face me down in a nuclear show-down, as Madeleine Albright would say.

If he wouldn’t confront al-Assad militarily, what are the chances that he would risk a nuclear war in a confrontation with me? I and Medvedev and Lavrov have dropped a number of not so subtle hints that confrontation could lead to a nuclear conflict. But Obama hasn’t even responded. He pretends that he doesn’t hear such references, which makes me even more certain that we would have nothing to fear from him if things in the Ukraine were to escalate sharply.

Looking at the situation as a whole, the main thing is that the West has helped me consolidate my grip on power in Russia. There will be no repeat of the demonstrations in Moscow a couple of years ago. The press and television are either under my control or cowed, and I can pick off individual opponents one by one. I hope the beating up of the Duma representative who went to the grave of the boy who was killed in the Ukraine will serve as a clear warning to all. If that doesn’t work, we have stronger measures that can be taken.

Let’s wait and see what happens. The one thing that is certain is that the West will provide us with further opportunities to secure our historic strategic objectives, at little or no cost.

You know, I could take Kiev in two weeks if I wanted to. Maybe I should think some more about that.

End of musings by the Observer on what is going on inside Putin’s head.

Putin’s War: the Russian invasion by regular troops and the West’s response—critical decisions loom (Updated August 30, 2014)

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

Updated August 30, 2014
Originally published on August 28, 2014

A new round of third-stage (Stage 3) sanctions must be really biting, with immediate effect. Otherwise, they will only stoke the fires of Russian military aggression in the Ukraine.

Latest News and Opinion

See

(1) Bertold Kohler (Kommentar), “Verbrannte Erde in der Ukraine: Putins Krieg,” Franfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 28. August 2014

Der Westen darf sich nicht länger von Putin an der Nase herumführen lassen. Der russische Präsident hat kein Interesse an der Befriedung und Stabilisierung der Ukraine. Er wünscht sich einen „failed state“ als Pufferzone zu Demokratie und Rechtsstaatlichkeit.

(2) Daniel Brössler, “Russland lässt alle Hüllen fallen,” Sueddeutsche Zeitung, 28. August 2014 (18:41 Uhr).

Wo vor Wochen zwei Flugzeuge standen, ist jetzt kaum noch Platz. Satellitenfotos vom Militärflugplatz Millerowo lassen keine Zweifel mehr. Die Russen haben an der Grenze zur Ukraine tausende Soldaten zusammengezogen. Die Nato spricht bei ihrer Präsentation im belgischen Mons von einer “hochmobilen, effektiven Offensiv-Streitmacht”.

(3) Shaun Walker (Kiev), “Ukraine: Emergency UN, Nato, EU meetings after Russian invasion claim; iNato says 1,000 Russian troops fighting in Ukraine as Kiev accuses Moscow of de facto invasion and opening second front,” The Guardian, August 28, 2014 (15.02 EDT).

August 30 EU Summit in Brussels: Further Step 3 sectoral sanctions; selection of new foreign policy chief, and new President of Council of Europe

If the EU yields to the pacifists and appeasers among its leaders, and decides to impose only mildly more serious sanctions on Russia or none at all, or delays acting once again, Vladimir Putin is likely to accelerate his strategic conquest of eastern Ukraine by seizing territory which provides a land corridor between the Crimea and Russia.

With these new facts on the ground, a new Cold War, from which there can be no return so long as Putin remains in power, will have been set in stone.

Inside Russia, any officials or advisers who may be seeking or in the future seek a reversal of Putin’s policies of military aggression and ennexation of conquered territories will be stripped of their last argument against such actions.

The stakes are enormous, and include the following :

–all arms control treaties to which Russia is an important party

–the U.N. Charter’s foundational principles governing the use of force, including the prohibition of the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.

Etc.

The two key decisions at the EU Summit, therefore, are:

First, who will be chosen as High Representative for forein affars, and for President of the European Council.

Four considerations should be given paramount importance in making the selection:

1) Does the person selected have a proven track record of dealing effectively with foreign policy issues? And does that person have the qualifications and visibility necessary for the job to be taken seriously? In short, is the person selected qualified for such a high-level position?

2) Will the person selected act independently of the political leadership of his or her state of origin in representing the interests of the European Union as a whole?

3) Does that person have the capacity and drive to transform the position into one of effective coordinator of the foreign policies of the 28 member states?

4) Will the person selected have the will, and the ability, to lead EU members in adopying sanctions and taking other measures which can slow or halt Russia’s aggression in the Ukraine and the East?

To put this is perspective, one can imagine how the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944 would have gone if each army had been calling its own shots, instead of Dwight D. Eisenhower effectively exercising leadership as Supreme Allied Commander.

It is clear that the foreign policy leadership function in the EU needs to be overhauled. Whether the person chosen is viewed as a placeholder or as a strong leader who can lead that process, will tell us a lot about the likely future coherence of EU foreign policy.

Moreover, given the current disinclination and inability of the United States to lead, the potential role of European leadership in containing Russian aggression is of critical historical importance.

Second, will the leaders at the summit decide to impose, or actually impose very harsh sectoral sanctions against Russia for its invasion, of the eastern Ukraine by both regular and irregular forces?

The importance of this decision has been analyzed above. Will the EU carry out its specific and earnest threats and actually implement measures that might slow or halt Putin’s military aggression?

Or will the leaders of EU nations at the summit fail to act, sending Putin a green light to proceed with his military advances in the Ukraine?

Timing is critical. Implementation of further “stage 3″ sanctions is extremely urgent, as Russian military forces roll into and seize more territory in the Ukraine.

It is indisputable that the policy of making threats to affect Putin’s future actions, and failing to carry them out, has not only failed utterly, but also emboldened him in escalating Russian aggression.

Will Europe finally turn away from empty threats and adopt hard measures in response to past and ongoing Russian behavior? Only such an approach has any chance of persuading Putin to pull back, either now or in the longer term.

September 4-5 NATO Summit in Wales

See Kurt Volker and Erik Brattberg,”NATO must stand up to Putin’s threat to invade Ukraine,” Washington Post, August 28, 2014 (8:02 PM).

What is needed urgently at this moment is for NATO to abrogate the 1997 partnersip agreement with the Russian Federation, in view of the changed security conditions in Europe, and Russia’s flagrant violation of the central obligations upon which the partnership is founded.

See “Abrogation of 1997 NATO Partnership Agreement with Russia urgently required — With excerpts from and link to text of Foundational Act,” The Trenchant Observer, August 26, 2014.

Decisions to deploy large numbers of NATO forces in countries bordering on Russia are urgent. The stationing of these troops in Central Europe when the threat has shifted to the East makes no sense. It amounts to NATO basing its security on the maintenance of a new Maginot Line which, like the one which failed to hslt the advance of German tanks in World War II, utterly fails to meet the requirements for nearby forces that can be rapidly deployed, and supplied, to meet any acts of aggression.

Concluding Thoughts

The arguments and analyses have all been set forth here, and elsewhere, in detail.

As the leaders of EU and NATO countries gather to meet, and take decisions which will have momentous historical consequences, each of them should spend some time alone and in prayer, however they understand that term, and ask themselves one transcendental question:

Would their fathers or grandfathers, and mothers or grandmothers, who lived through the ravages of war and the reconstruction of a Europe utterly destroyed by its depradations, be proud of the decisions they are about to take?

The Trenchant Observer

U.N. Security Council emergency meeting on Ukraine (August 28, 2014) —- with link to video webcast

Friday, August 29th, 2014

On Thursday, August 28, 2014, the United Nations Security Council meet in emergency session at the request of Ukraine to consider the Russian military invasion of that country.

The webcast of the 7253rd meeting of the Security Council, in English, if found here.

The webcast in the original language of the speaker is found here.

**********

SIDEBAR: Russian Medicare Fraud at the Russian Consulate and U.N. Mission in New York

The lies and prevarications of the Russian representative, Vitaly Churkin, are particularly noteworthy, and quite telling in terms of the blatant war propaganda one must resort to to keep one’s job in Putin’s foreign service.

Worth recalling is the fact that, in December, 2013, 49 officials at the Russian Consulate in New York and the Russian Mission to the U.N. were formally charges by U.S. officials for runnung a $1.5 million scheme of medicare fraud out of the Embassy, with charges not being brought only because of diplomatic immunity.

See Benjamin Weiser, “U.S. Says Diplomats Defrauded Medicaid,” New York Times, December 5, 2013.

Weiser reported,

The contours of the alleged insurance fraud seemed unusual enough: The participants, men and women, were accused of improperly seeking Medicaid benefits for pregnancies, births and postnatal care.

(T)hese were no ordinary Russians. They were diplomats posted to New York City, and their wives, accused of fraudulently applying for Medicaid benefits over the past nine years. Prosecutors characterized the scheme as an audacious swindle of the federal health benefits program for the needy, orchestrated by officials in the Russian Consulate in New York and its mission to the United Nations.

“Diplomacy should be about extending hands, not picking pockets in the host country,” said Prreet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, whose office announced on Thursday that it had charged 49 past or present Russian diplomats and their spouses in the $1.5 million Medicaid fraud case.

“The charges expose shameful and systemic corruption among Russian diplomats in New York,” Mr. Bharara said.

He said the State Department could seek a waiver of immunity from the Russian government to allow a prosecution to go forward. If no waiver was given, Mr. Bharara said, the State Department’s policy was to “require departure of that individual from the United States.”

The Trenchant Observer

Russian “Invasion” or Incursion” in Ukraine? Obama and the primacy of words over actions

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Barack Obama, as noted here before, places the highest priority on words, and conducting foreign policy through words, not actions.

See “ISIS or ISIL? A telling tale of the primacy of words over actions in Obama’s foreign policy,” The Trenchant Observer, uJune 19, 2014.

Now, with respect to the Ukraine, Obama is trying to be cute with words, refusing to characterize Russia’s invasion of the eastern Ukraine as an “invasion”, because of the pressures the use of that term could generate for him to take forceful action against Russia.

See Erin McCarthy, “So Far, NATO and U.S. Avoid ‘Invasion’ Talk,” Wall street Journal, August 28, 2014 (6:49 pm ET).

Peter Baker of the New York times quoted some of the president’s statements before the press Thursday, and also described differences between Obama and some of his key advisors.

Mr. Obama seemed equally intent on managing expectations about what the United States may do in response to reports that Russia has sent forces into Ukraine. Although he said he expected to impose additional sanctions, he declined to call Russia’s latest moves an invasion, as Ukraine and others have, saying they were “not really a shift” but just “a little more overt” form of longstanding Russian violations of Ukrainian sovereignty.

“I consider the actions that we’ve seen in the last week a continuation of what’s been taking place for months now,” Mr. Obama said. “The separatists are backed, trained, armed, financed by Russia. Throughout this process, we’ve seen deep Russian involvement in everything that they’ve done.”

In both cases, Mr. Obama took a strikingly different tone than his own advisers….

–Peter Baker, “Obama Urges Calm in Face of Crises in Ukraine and Syria,” New York Times, August 28, 2014.

Does the President understand what has been going on in the Ukraine while he was on vacation?

The point he is making here, however revealing it may be of Obama’s proclivities toward pacifism and appeasement in the face of Russian aggression, is totally irrelevant in terms of the prohibition against the threat or use of force in the United Nations Charter and international law.

There can be no doubt that the Russian “invasion” or “incursion”, or whatever you want to call it, constitutes an “armed attack” within the meaning of Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, giving rise to the “inherent right of individual or collective self-defense” through the use of force.

Any impartial international lawyer would agree that a flagrant violation of the Charter’s prohibitions has been and is taking place.

So what are we to make of the Obama administration’s trying to be cute with words?

One is reminded of Hillary Clinton’s refusal to characterize the genocide by the Sudanese government in the western Darfur region of the country as “genocide”, because to do so would create imperatives to do something about it.

While Obama is being cute with words, he is also not taking meaningful actions to halt and roll back Russian aggression in the Ukraine.

And despite his tough talk on ISIS, or “ISIL” as he prefers to call what has now morphed into what calls itself “the Islamic State”, the White House is now leaking that the bombing campaign against ISIS isn’t going to start any time soon.

Obama not only fails to connect the dots, not understanding how his actions or temporizing on military action against ISIS might affect Putin’s perceptions of his resolve, but also fails to understand the relative importance of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine in comparison with the recent actions of ISIS.

On a day when the U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting to discuss the invasion in progress by regular Russian troops of the eastern Ukraine, Obama can’t even focus the world’s attention on that enormous development.

The invasion of the Ukraine is by far the most significant challenge facing the West and the civilized nations of the world which don’t invade each other, or want to.

So, what does the President do?

He quibbles about the word “invasion”, while failng to address the impications for the world of Russia’s actions, or to lay out the harsh sanctions the U.S. should be planning to impose on Russia.

His continued use of the vocabulary of cost-benefit analysis (saying Russia will pay additional “costs”) reveals he is still firmly in the grip of “the rational actor fallacy” in dealing with Russia, a country now full of xenophobic nationalism and enthusiasm for aggression, which is under the cunning but demented authoritarian leadership of a former KGB operative who dreams of making history through conquering territories that were formerly part of the Soviet Union (read Russian Empire).

As if this were not proof enough of the President’s cluelessness, and the incompetence of his White House foreign policy team, Obama also admitted today before the cameras that the U.S. does not have a policy on how to deal with ISIS.

This was a shocking admission.

It is hardly excused by the fact that the president has been on vacation for the last two weeks. ISIS took Falluja months ago, and Mosul on June 10, 2014.

When might we expect the Obama administration to come up with a policy?

Democratic political leaders should be gravely concerned. If they don’t do something to reverse the current course of appeasement toward Russia, or the temporizing response to ISIS, they will be extremely vulnerable to a Republican candidate on strong national security platform in the 2016 presidential elections.

Obama lives in his own world, which is hermetically sealed from hearing and having to respond to criticism.

Ask Obama what his three greatest mistakes in foreign policy have been, and he would probably give a carefully calibrated response meant to be politically clever but which is wholly lacking in any genuine admission of error.

He cannot admit that he has made mistakes, because he believes that like a god his analysis and decisions are superior and not susceptible to error. He has thought everything through, or is still in the process, and none of his judgments have been wrong. His critics just don’t understand things as well as he does.

He can’t see or understand the foreign policy mistakes he has made. As a result, there are few grounds for hope that he can correct them.

Because Obama doesn’t respond to criticism, many critics have simply given up. What’s the point?

The point is that an educated citizenry is required for a democracy to work, particularly in the area of foreign policy where voters’ bread and butter concerns are usually not directly related to issues and decisions.

Criticism where due, and praise, are the fuel of democracy, the essential combustible on which it runs.

The Trenchant Observer

Putin redraws the map of Europe with Russian troops, as Western leaders slumber through the summer of appeasement of 2014

Monday, August 25th, 2014

Western leaders, caught in the incapacitating net of their own illusions about Russia, and their own deep-seated pacifism and appeasement, are in effect slumbering through the summer of 2014, as the map of Europe is being redrawn by Russian troops.

One of the first tenets of warfare, and diplomacy, is “know your enemy”. The West does not yet recognize the true features of the enemy that Russia has become.

Vladimir Putin has, from his perspective, succeeded brilliantly in executing his war of aggression and annexation against the Ukraine.

A judo master, he has shown extreme deftness at throwing feints and converting his opponents lunges into throws leaving him standing triumphant and his opponent on his back across the room.

He delights in turning the arguments made or almost made by the West in other conflicts on their head, and using them to his advantage. Thus he now argues that delivery of “humanitarian aid” to the separatists in the Donbass is consistent with international law, as the West argued or might have argued in Syria, when Russia backed Bashar al-Ashad to the hilt in blocking U.N. convoys of humanitarian aid.

He is a master of deception, launching the great “humanitarian aid” convoy of 280 trucks painted white from Moscow, enticing the world to devote its attention to the convoy — for days — while other columns of tanks and armored personnel carriers and other equipment and fighters penetrated into the Ukraine in the middle of the night.

Another diversion of our attention occurred yesterday, when he allowed and probably organized the despicable parading of captured Ukrainian soldiers before crowds on Ukrainian independence day — a blatant war crime in direct contravention of the Geneva Conventions on the Laws of War.

While this spectacle was proceeding, and Russia announced it was sending another white-truck “humanitarian aid” convoy to the Ukraine, reports emerged of new military columns moving into the Ukraine suggesting the Russian-led and supported counter-offensive now had Mariupol firmly in its sights.

See,

Olga Razumovskaya, “Russia Plans New Aid Convoy; Ukraine Says Moscow Moved Tanks; Kiev Says Moscow Sent Tanks, Armored Vehicles Into Its Territory,” Wall Street Journal, August 25, 2014 (Updated 4:40 p.m. ET).

Amid signs of sharpening fighting in Ukraine’s east, Kiev said Moscow Monday sent a column of tanks and armored vehicles into its territory near the site of a rebel offensive. Ukraine’s military said it attacked the column and blocked its advance, but Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko expressed “extreme concern” about the armored column and Russia’s plans for a new convoy in a phone conversation with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, his office said.

After surrounding the provincial capitals of Donetsk and Luhansk, officials in Kiev said Monday that Ukrainian troops were now fighting off counterattacks. On Ukraine’s southern coast, rebels said they were pushing their way out of Donetsk toward Mariupol, a port city taken from rebels in mid-June in the first big victory by Ukrainian government troops.

Vladimir Putin has brilliantly probed and withdrawn, and probed again, until he found opportunities to advance his military invasion of the Ukraine in little starts and stops, always taking care to avoid the devastating economic sanctions that the West has in its hands the power to use.

Putin is keenly attentive to the reactions of the pacifists and appeasers who lead the West, and has been shrewdly effective in defusing any momentum toward the imposition of really harsh sanctions.

The President of Russia has given new meaning to the expression “the salami technique”, which in the past referred to the salami slicing approach of the Soviet Union in seizing power in the countries of Eastern Europe between 1945 and 1949.

In the Putin version, we now have military invasion by “the salami technique”. Sending in a few tanks here, a few soldiers there, intensifying the invasion when the West is distracted, looking the other way, or not looking at all (as with President Obama on his long-sheduled vacation to Martha’s Vineyard).

At the end of the day, a lot of salami has been sliced up. Russia has intervened militarily in the Ukraine to prevent the so-called “separatist” forces (which it has itself been sending in) from being defeated by the Ukrainian military, as the latter legitimately seeks to restore public order in the Donbass.

After the invasion of the Crimea, the reaction of the West was, first, to publicly rule out the use of force, and, second, to slap the wrists of Russia by imposing rsestrictive measures on a handful of individuals and one or two banks.

Putin then annexed the Crimea.

In response, the West signalled that it would ultimately accept this annexation, if only Putin would not invade the remaining part of the Ukraine and stop supporting the “separatists”.

Putin held off on overt military intervention (for the time being), but continued to send fighters and equipment, including advanced air-defense systems, into the Donbass.

After the downing of Malaysian Flight MH17 on July 17, the EU did adopt its first limited “stage 3″ sectoral sanctions. They, like the U.S. sanctions, were still mild in relation to the harm they sought to redress.

In response, in addition to counter-sanctions banning the importation of foodstuffs, Putin devised his white truck “humanitarian aid” ploy, while at the same time sending regular Russian troops including tanks and artillery into the Dunbass. He also fired Russian artillery across the border against targets in the Ukraine (a development in progress for weeks). The artillery shelling effectively secured an open border and a band some 20-40 kilometers deep in the Ukraine. This kept Ukrainian forces from sealing the border, leaving the area under “separatist” control.

To this overt invasion by regular forces, the West did not respond at all, except for Angela Merkel’s trip to Kiev on Saturday, August 23, and her pledge of 500 million euros to help in reconstruction of the Donbass.

Belatedly, on August 22, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen denounced the movement of regular forces into the Ukraine and the firing of Russian artillery by Russian soldiers from within the Ukraine. But the announcement was not accompanied by any action, other than a statement that NATO’s rotating presence in countries bordering Russia would be increased.

As Russia’s overt invasion continued, without provoking even the adoption of additional “stage 3″ sanctions by Europe or the U.S. in response, Putin sent new military columns into the Ukraine which crossed the border closer to Mariupol to the South.

From the Russian perspective, President Putin has brilliantly demonstrated the power of the new Russian “stealth mode of warfare”.

Given the continuing pacifism and appeasement of the West, and as the new incursion nearer Mariupol suggests, Putin may now see no obstacle to an invasion (whether all-out or by “the salami technique”) of the territory between Russia and the Crimea, securing direct land access to the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol.

Achievement of this objective would constitute a key military and strategic triumph — one for the history books.

Poland and Lithuania, which sit between Russia and its exclave Kaliningrad, will be paying close attention.

Western leaders, caught in the incapacitating net of their own illusions about Russia, and their own deep-seated pacifism and appeasement, are in effect slumbering through the summer of 2014, as the map of Europe is being redrawn by Russian troops.

The Trenchant Observer

Speak to Putin with actions, not threats

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

The news headline tonight is that President Barack Obama and Chancelor Angela Merkel are “demanding” that President Vladimir Putin withdraw his “humanitarian aid” truck convoy from Ukrainian territory.

They can save their breath.

Speaking to Putin with threats, given the number of threats they have made and not carried out—resorting to new threats instead, is like trying to communicate with a human by blowing a dog whistle which is out of the human range of hearing.

The only language Putin and Russia can hear is the language of actions. This assertion is fully supported by the factual record.

See

(1) “REPRISE: The language of actions—Russia, the Ukraine, and the response of the West,” The Trenchant Observer, July 20, 2014.

(2) “The language of actions: Russia, the Ukraine, and the response of the West,” The Trenchant Observer, April 10, 2014.

Obama and Merkel should quit calling and meeting with Putin, and immediately impose broad and deep economic or “stage 3″ sectoral sanctions against Russia, as they threatened they would do if he invaded the Ukraine again.

The policy of appeasement has dramatically failed.

More than that, as Putin probed for weaknesses in the West, he found them in the pacifism and appeasement of Western leaders, in which Western responses to his aggressions were deeply rooted.

This pacifism and appeasement emboldened him, and is a major cause of the Russian aggression in the Crimea, and its agggression in the eastern Ukraine that we are witnessing now.

So, Merkel and Obama can save their breath and not even bother to make threats of future actions if Putin does or does not do a certain thing.

His forces have invaded and are fighting in the Ukraine. The West must find actions, not words or threats, that can reverse this course of events.

The Trenchant Observer