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

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


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).


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


(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.


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.


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.


(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

Overt Russian military invasion of the Ukraine underway; West must impose harsh stage 3 sanctions immediately

Friday, August 22nd, 2014


Putin has challenged directly the existing international political and legal order, upon which, incidentally, the world’s economic order rests.

Either Putin and Russia win, or the West and the other civilized countries of the world win.

It is that stark and simple.

The Russian invasion of the eastern Ukraine by regular Russian forces in underway. Russian artillery manned by Russian soldiers is today firing on Ukrainian troops from within the Ukraine.


(1) Michael R. Gordon, “Russia Moves Artillery Units Into Ukraine, NATO Says,. New York Times, August 22, 2014.

(2) NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, “Statement”, August 22, 2014. See NATO, “NATO Secretary General condemns entry of Russian convoy into Ukraine,” August 22, 2014.

(3) “Russische Soldaten sollen in Ukraine kämpfen; Russische Streitkräfte haben laut Nato-Angaben die ukrainische Armee beschossen. Das Militärbündnis warnt vor einer Eskalation, am Abend tagt der UN-Sicherheitsrat, ” Die Zeit, 22. August 2014 (Aktualisiert um 20:59 Uhr).

The Russian “humanitarian aid” convoy of up to 280 trucks has entered into the Ukraine without Ukrainian authorization.

While posing a direct threat to the Ukraine, the larger function of the truck convoy may turn out to have been to serve as a decoy, distracting the West’s attention from the direct invasion of the Ukraine by the Russian mikitary, moving at night across the border along unnarked dirt tracks or through open fields.

The invasion is pretty much on target for the 46th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia on August 20, 1968. It signals the outbreak of an outright war between Russia and the Ukraine.

What can the West and other civilized nations do?

First, they must impose really harsh stage 3 (third-stage) sanctions against Russia.

Only the execution of prior threats will give any future threats the slighest credence.

These measures must include immediate cancellation of all defense contracts, including the French delivery of two Mistral-class warships to Russia, and a cessation of French training of Russian sailors to operate them which is currently underway in France.

The imposition of these sanctions is the only step that might contribute to ending the war.

Failure to impose these threatened sanctions now will undermine all those in Russia who may be arguing for an end to the invasion and in favor of maintenance of economic relations with the West.

Second, large and serious military assistance to the Ukraine should commence at once.

Third, accelerated decisions regarding the forward-basing of NATO forces in Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania; and termination or at least total suspension of the NATO-Russia partnership agreement, which Russia has flagrantly breached.

Europe and America must wake up, take a hard look at the realities of the Russian invasion, and react accordingly.

NATO, which was founded to deter Soviet aggression in Europe, must now prove that there are reasons for its continued existence. If it does not react now, it will be too late when the Russians begin further “stealth invasions” in the Baltics.

It is time to turn away from the path of appeasement, and to start defending the values of the West, including the U.N. Charter and the rule of law–on both the international and the domestic levels.

Putin has challenged directly the existing international political and legal order, upon which, incidentally, the world’s economic order rests.

Either Putin and Russia win, or the West and the other civilized countries of the world win.

It is that stark and simple.

As was the case with Adolf Hitler.

The Trenchant Observer

Ukraine reports capture of two Russian tanks — providing further proof of ongoing Russian military intervention

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

Further evidence of the ongoing military intervention by Russia in the Ukraine was made public today when the Ukrainian government announced it had captured two Russian tanks in the Luhansk area.

According to the Ukrainian military spokesman, Andrei Lysenko, the tanks were from a company of the First Parachute Company (No. 74268) of the Air-Land Division based in Pskov (Russia), some 290 kilometers southwest of St Petersberg near the border with Estonia. According to documents found at the scene and blog posts by one of the members of the tank crews, Lev Schlosberg, the tanks had been sent to the Crimea in February.


“Ukrainische Armee erobert nahe Luhansk russische Panzer; Bei Kämpfen rund um die ostukrainische Stadt Luhansk hat die Armee nach eigenen Angaben zwei Panzer erobert. Sie stammen demnach aus einer russischen Kompanie in Pskow,” Die Zeit, 21. August 2014 (13:50 Uhr).

Ukrainische Soldaten hätten die Fahrzeuge der Luftlandedivision aus dem russischen Pskow in ihre Gewalt gebracht, sagte der ukrainische Armeesprecher Andrej Lyssenko.

Die ukrainische Armee hat bei Kämpfen um die von Separatisten kontrollierte Stadt Luhansk nach eigenen Angaben zwei russische Armeepanzer erobert. Ukrainische Soldaten hätten die Fahrzeuge der Luftlandedivision aus dem russischen Pskow in ihre Gewalt gebracht, sagte der ukrainische Armeesprecher Andrej Lyssenko. Russland dementierte die Angaben. “Unter den täglichen angeblichen Aufdeckungen russischer Präsenz in der Ukraine ist das jetzt schon das 1001. Beweisstück”, sagte der russische Armeesprecher Igor Konaschenkow der amtlichen Nachrichtenagentur Itar-Tass.

Nach ukrainischen Angaben befanden sich in einem der Fahrzeuge Militärdokumente und ein Führerschein. Demnach gehörten die Panzer zur Einheit 74268 der ersten Fallschirmspringer-Kompanie der Luftlandedivision Pskow im Nordwesten Russlands. Diese an der Grenze zu Estland und Lettland stationierte Division war in der Vergangenheit in zahlreichen Konflikten im Einsatz. Im Februar hatte der Abgeordnete von Pskow, Lew Schlosberg, in seinem Blog geschrieben, die Division sei auf die später von Russland annektierte ukrainischen Halbinsel Krim entsendet worden.

This evidence adds to the overwhelming amount of accumulated evidence demonstrating that Russia has been conducting an ongoing invasion of the eastern Ukraine, originally intended to be beneath the radar in the new Russian form of a “stealth invasion”.

The invasion constitutes an “armed attack” within the meaning of Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, triggering the “inherent right” of individual or collective self-defense which authorizes the Ukraine and any other state which elects to join it to undertake military and other measures to stop the invading forces.

These military actions must be necessary and proprtional to securing the goal of halting the Russian aggression, but need not be limited to the territory of the Ukraine. In principle, they could include military measures taken against and within Russia itself.

The invasion constitutes a flagrant violation of Article 2 paragraph 4 of the U.N. Charter which prohibits “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”.

Under international law, the Ukraine also has the right to restore public order, and to put on trial those responsible for committing acts of insurrection and other crimes within its sovereign national territory.

The Trenchant Observer

Why should the West help Putin “save face” in the Ukraine?

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014


The diplomats are thinking of ways to stop the fighting in the Donbass, and a way to help Vladimir Putin to “save face” in order to get him to stop supporting (and coordinating) the so-called “separatists” now holed up in Donetsk and Luhansk

See Maria Tsvetroya and Noah Barkin (Donetsk and Berlin), “Advancing Ukraine troops take fight to heart of pro-Moscow rebellion,” August 19, 2014 (3:52pm EDT).

Why should the West do that?

Why should the West do anything to help Putin save face?

Leaders and diplomats need to stop and think. Is it always best to “freeze” a hostage situation when the criminals are armed, have already killed many people, and more people are dying each day as the security forces seek to disarm the criminals and restore public order?

There is only one thing that should be negotiated with the “separatists” and Vladimir Putin—the man who sent them to invade the eastern Ukraine:   the terms of their surrender, which might possibly include transit out of the country to Russia.

To seek to oblige the Ukraine to surrender part of its sovereignty (by agreeing to Russian demands regarding its domestic affairs) so that the military aggressor will cease his aggression, is simply to continue down the road of appeasement which led us to where we are today.

Vladimir Putin is responsible for the deaths of over 2,000 people in the eastern Ukraine.

No one should help him save face for launching a military invasion by irregular forces, in flagrant violation of the U.N. Charter and international law, in the eastern Ukraine.

International law must be upheld.

It is not the task of international law to help an aggressor save face, just as it is not the task of law in a domestic situation to help a hostage-taker or murderer save face.

A larger issue is also involved here. Putin and his war propaganda machine are responsible for fanning the flames of xenophobic nationalism and support for policies of aggression in Russia. The biggest challenge for the West is to find ways to put out the flames of that zenophobic and irredentist nationalism, before it shows up again at the borders of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

Putin should not be helped to “save face”. The whole course of negotiating terms of appeasement by the West should be abandoned.

Instead, harsher “stage 3″ sanctions should now be imposed by the EU, the U.S., and their allies, in execution of the threats they have made of actions to be imposed if Russia didn’t halt its support of the “separatists”.

Russia has not halted that support.

A defeat of the “separatists” in the Donbass is an outcome the Ukrainian people and their military forces deserve, and have earned with the loss of so many military and civilian lives in a war of self-defense. Under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, they have the “inherent right” to exercise that right, and to call upon other nations to join them in repelling Russian aggression by taking “collective measures” of self-defense.

The Trenchant Observer