Archive for the ‘use of force’ Category

Latest news on fighting in the eastern Ukraine

Friday, January 30th, 2015

Developing

See Pilar Binet, “La escalada bélica se agrava en Ucrania y se ceba con los civiles; Fracasa la nueva ronda negociadora con Rusia y los grupos separatistas,” 30 De enero 2015 (20:57 CET).

The Trenchant Observer

Leftist victory in Greece threatens continuation of EU sanctions against Russia

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Developing

See

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Trenchant Observer

Russian-Ukrainian war update: Putin’s perfidy in full view, as war intensifies

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

For a comprehensive overview of the current military situation in the Eastern Ukraine, see

MICHAEL WEISS, JAMES MILLER, “LANDBRIDGE TO CRIMEA: PUTIN IS WINNING THE UKRAINE WAR ON THREE FRONTS,” The Daily Beast, January 26, 2015.

Putin’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, signed an agreement in Berlin with the Ukraine on January 21, 2015, to withdraw heavy armor from the demarcation line agreed in the Minsk Memorandum.

At the same time, Russian troops and armor were moving into the eastern Ukraine and launching a new offensive by the so-called “separatists”, including attacks on Mariupol, the gateway city for the conquest of a land-bridge linking Russia and rebel territory in the Donbas to the Crimea.

Russia’s perfidy at Berlin recalled its perfidy at Geneva on April 17, 2014, when it agreed to halt the takeover of government buildings in the eastern Ukraine, as they intensified.

Both agreements were no more than propaganda ploys. Russia under Putin can never again be trusted. Negotiated agreements are meaningless.

Putin agreed to the Minsk Protocol on September 5, 2014 in an effort to weaken or forestall the EU “stage 3″ sanctions agreed also on September 5, and finally put into force on September 12, 2014.

Putin has repeatedly and brazenly violated the Minsk Protocol, which is at the moment all but a dead-letter.

It could be useful if it were included in a new U.N. Security draft ruesolution which would be put to a vote.

Putin’s military aggresion must be stopped now, and rolled back.

Weapons and training for the Ukraine can help stop further advances by Russian troops and their “separatist” puppets, together with new and much harsher sectoral economic sanctions.

Over time, as these sanctions are intensified — if they are — they can also bring Russia to negotiating a way out of its current occupation of the Crimea, conquered by force in violation of Article 2 paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter.

Whether the pacifists and appeasers who lead the United States and Europe can put aside their illusions and deal effectively to halt the greatest military threat to Europe since 1945 is, at best, an open question.

Whether Barack Obama, who has checked out from leading the foreign policy of the U.S., can find his way back to the office and engage on foreign policy, is also an open question.

The future of NATO, and perhaps eastern Europe, hangs in the balance.

The Trenchant Observer

Putin attacks Mariupol, may seek land corridor to Crimea

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

Developing

See

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Trenchant Observer

Negotiating with terrorists: Merkel’s proposal for a broad economic zone with Russia and its friends

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

See

“Ukraine-Krise: Bundesregierung lockt Russland mit Handelszone; Zur Belohnung gäbe es eine Wirtschaftskooperation: Die Bundesregierung hat laut Medienbericht dem russischen Präsidenten Wladimir Putin eine Handelszone angeboten, um ihn zum Einlenken im Ukraine-Konflikt zu bewegen,” Der Spiegel, 23 Januar 2015 (9:25 Uhr).

How could Vladimir Putin have the slightest respect for Angela Merkel and the EU?

He just signed an agreement with Ukraine in Berlin on January 21 to withdraw heavy weapons from the demarcation line established in the Minsk Memorandum of September 19, reached pursuant to the Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014.

At the same time he was sending additional Russian troops and armor into the eastern Ukraine and launching attacks against the Ukrainian forces in a major offensive. His puppet, Aleksandr Zakharchenko announced he would not talk to Kiev and that the separatists were launching major offensives to liberate all of Donetsk and Luhansk provinces of Ukrainian forces, flouting the Berlin agreement, the September 19 memorandum, and the Minsk Protocol itself.

The response of pacifist Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Angela Merkel was to propose to Putin a large duty-free area joining the EU and Putin’s customs union.

The only possible conclusion to be drawn from the foregoing is that Steinmeier and Merkel are not only pacifists and appeasers, but also idiots.

How stupid do the Europeans think they have to be in order to win favor from the mighty aggressor and dictator, Vladimir Putin?

Is it a good idea to negotiate with terrorists?

Is it a good idea to negotiate with aggressors who are at that very moment intensifying their aggression and invasion of the eastern Ukraine?

With these clowns leading Europe, one can expect the sanctions regime against Russia to start falling apart as early as March, and Putin to intensify his invasion of the Donbas and to broaden it further to other regions, including the establishment of a land corridor to the Crimea.

Against clowns like Steinmeier, Merkel and the Europeans, why not?

What is holding him back?

They don’t seem to understand.  Appeasement doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked with Putin for the last year. It won’t work with him this coming year. Or ever.

Will European leaders ever get it?

If not, will their peoples ever get it?

If they don’t, why not simply hold a formal ceremony dissolving NATO, and surrendering to Mr. Putin whatever territory he wants?

Forget international law and the United Nations Charter. Forget human rights in the Donbas and Russia, and anywhere else for that matter. Those are things that Steinmeier and Merkel obviously do not believe are worth fighting for.

If Merkel sees it differently, she has but one alternative: fire Steinmeier, appoint a strong foreign minister, and if necessary call elections to decide whether Germany will follow a policy of appeasement or one of containment of Putin and Russia.

Stop talking to the Russians with words.

Speak to them with actions, including great intensification of sectoral economic sanctions against them.

For starters, ban them from using the SWIFT international payments system, and act forcefully to move the venue for the 2018 FIFA World Cup to some country other than Russia.

Appease and surrender, or get real about effective containment of Russia.

The Trenchant Observer

Poroshenko interview in NZZ; agreement to withdraw heavy weapons from Minsk September 19 demarcation line

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

Developing

Vladimir Putin acting, through his foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, reached an agreement in Berlin this week under which Russian “separatists” in eastern Ukraine would  withdraw heavy weapons from the demarcation line agreed to on September 19 pursuant to the terms of the Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014.

Meanwhile Petro Poroshenko stated in an interview with the Neue Zurchner Zeitung that two tactical battalions of Russian soldiers had moved into the Donbas region of the Ukraine, and that according to his intelligence officials some 8,000-9,500 Russian soldiers were inside of Ukrainian territory in the Donbas.

Russia is also reported to have some 500 tanks in the eastern Ukraine.

The day after the agreement, news reports spoke of a sharp increase in the fighting.

See

(1) Christian Weisflog, “Petro Poroschenko im Interview
«Starke Armee ermöglicht politische Lösung»,” Neue Zurchner Zeitung, 20. Januar 2015, 15:13 Uhr.

(2) David Blair, “Russia sends 9,000 troops into Ukraine, says Petro Poroshenko; This deployment of Russian forces would be the biggest since the crisis began,” The Telegraph, January 21, 2015 (6:27PM GMT).

(3) “Ukraine und Russland vereinbaren Abzug schwerer Waffen; Beim Krisentreffen in Berlin haben sich die Außenminister auf die Einhaltung einer Demarkationslinie geeinigt. Frank-Walter Steinmeier sieht ‘wahrnehmbare Fortschritte’,”, Die Zeit, 22. Januar 2015 (Aktualisiert um 03:53 Uhr).

(4) “UKRAINE-KRIEG: Kämpfe laut Nato so intensiv wie vor Friedensabkommen
Seit September haben die Kämpfe nach Angaben der Nato deutlich an Intensität gewonnen. Insgesamt wurden seit April 5.000 Menschen getötet, teilte die OSZE mit, Die Zeit, 22. Januar 2014 (17:29 Uhr).

(5) David M. Herszenhorn, “Ukraine Cedes Donetsk Airport to Rebels as Fighting Continues,” New York Times, January 22, 2015.

Analysis

1. With respect to the Ukraine, Putin has never kept his word or honored his agreements, such as the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, the Minsk Protocol, or the April 17 Geneva agreement.

2. Deceit and surprise military moves are part of his modus operandi.

3. The January 21 agreement in Berlin may be yet another subterfuge to confuse his opponents while he launches another assault on the Donbas, or broadens the war beyond that region.

4.  The West, including the EU, NATO and the U.S. should now adopt a new round of real, hard sanctions and military decisions ondeploymentson the eastern front.

5.  Putin never backs down in the face of threats.

6.  He and Russia must be contained. Economic sanctionsshould be sharply strengthened. NATO should immediately deploy troops to the eastern front, and suspend or abrogate the 1997 NATO-Russia partnership agreement.

The West faces an existential threat from Putin and Russia.

It is time to wakeup and abandon the pacifism and appeasement demonstrated to date, and to begin to defend the democratic civilization of Europe, the U.S. and other countries.

It is time to take effective action that will lead Russia to end its occupation of the Ukraine.

It is time to uphold the international legal, political, and economic order of the U.N. system, the U.N. Charter norm prohibiting the threat or use of force across international frontiers, and the human rights of the citizens of the Donbas and the Crimea.

The Trenchant Observer

 

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

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Originally published October 3, 2014

See Update (October 31, 2014), here.

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 conquering 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

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier convenes four-party talks in Berlin on Minsk Protocol, as Russia intensifies invasion of the Donbas

Friday, January 9th, 2015

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier plans to meet with the foreign ministers of Russia, France and Ukraine in Berlin on Monday to see if progress can be made on implementing the Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014. He does so immediately following strong comments by German Chancellor Angela Merkel that sanctions against Russia will not be lifted untul major progress is made on implementation of all 12 points in the Minsk Protocol.

One of those points calls for withdrawal of Russian forces and equipment from the eastern Ukraine.

Another calls for restoration of Ukrainian control of the border.

In the meantime, Russia has sent another so-called ‘humanitarian” convoy into the Donbas–bypassing any border, OSCE or IRC control or verification of the contents, while OSCE observers report that Russia has just sent another 300 “little green men” (Russian special forces) into the Donbas. There are also reports of new Russian armor moving into the Donbas.

So, there you have it. Merkel attempts to stake out a strong position upholding sanctions against Russia until the Minsk Protocol is implemented. (Did someone forget to mention the illegally conquered Russian-occupied piece of the Ukraine known as the Crimea?)

The next day, Steinmeier announces a meeting with the foreign ministers of Russia, France and the Ukraine to seek to make progress on implementation of the Minsk Protocol, so Francois Hollande of France, Vladimir Putin of Russia, Angela Merkel of Germany and Petro Poroshenko of the Ukraine can meet to negotiate the same subject. The latter  talks were originally scheduled for January 15 in Astana, Kazakhstan, but have become uncertain since Merkel said she would not attend unless real results were to be achieved.

The talks in Berlin on Monday are an apparent effort to guarantee sufficient results so that the summit may be held.

The problem is that the Germans should not be meeting with the Russians while they are intensifying their invasion of the Donbas, a point which Merkel seems to grasp. With France–which is calling for a lifting of sanctions–at the table, it is hard to see how anyone but Vladimir Putin could benefit from these diplomatic discussions, whether in Berlin or Astana. His goal is to sow dissension among the Europeans, and to block renewal of the sanctions in March.

Steinmeier speaks as if it is the foreign ministers who have to overcome the obstacles to full implementation of the Minsk Protocol. But it is Putin who has created the obstacles, and who alone can remove them. It not not a collective effort, as Steinmeier seems to believe.

The European Union and the U.S. have imposed sanctions against Russia….They have also called on the Kremlin to implement the Minsk peace agreement between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels signed in September.

That includes the withdrawal of Russian heavy weaponry from eastern Ukraine, an effective border supervised by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the freeing of prisoners by rebel groups.

“Minsk must remain the compass for any further steps. But it’s a long and rocky road towards a complete implementation of the Minsk agreement,” Mr. Steinmeier said. “We want to undertake a fresh attempt to get the obstacles out of the way. It would be wrong not to try it.”

–Nick Shchetko (Kiev) and Andrea Thomas (Berlin),”Fighting Flares Up in Eastern Ukraine; Six Government Soldiers and Two Civilians Killed in Renewed Violence Ahead of Peace Talks,” Wall Street Journal, Updated Jan. 9, 2015 12:00 p.m. ET.

We are in a realm in which the only communication that counts is through actions, not words The foreign ministers of the four countries don’t need to travel to Berlin to tell Putin he must stop intensifying his invasion of the Donbas before any further talks are possible. Instead of a summit with Putin in Astana, Merkel and Poroshenko should hold a summit with Hollande to bolster his resolve to uphold the sanctions in March.

The Minsk Protocol has already been negotiated. It is foolish in the extreme to entertain the possibility of renegotiating the points it covers. It is simply time for Putin to comply with its provisions.

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

Once that has been done, if Putin wants the sanctions to be lifted, we can address the issue of the Crimea, and what can be done about it.

The Trenchant Observer

The Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, and the torture trail leading to Abu Gharib

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

See

ANDREW HIGGINS and MAÏA de la BAUME, “Two Brothers Suspected in Killings Were Known to French Intelligence Services,” New York Times, January 8, 2015.

Higgins and de la Baume report on the background of one of the suspects, who appears to have been radicalized by anger over U.S. torture at Abu Gharib prison in Iraq, as follows:

Chérif’s interest in radical Islam, it was said at the 2008 trial, was rooted in his fury over the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003, particularly the mistreatment of Muslims held at Abu Ghraib prison.

While there can be no excuse or justification in any sense for the abhorrent acts of terrorism that took place in Paris, there may be an important insight to be gained. Aside from the moral dimension of torture, it appears that debates over its efficacy must now be much more broadly framed.

The Trenchant Observer

Hollande “understands” Putin as stage is set for collapse of EU sanctions against Russia

Monday, January 5th, 2015

It is peculiar how articles with the greatest time-sensitivity and broadest political importance are often not indexed by Google in a timely manner. It is almost as if someone at Google didn’t like the article. Could that be happening, or is it pure coincidence?

For example, this article has not yet been indexed by Google.

See “Not indexed by Google: Trenchant Observer article with text of Security Council Resolution 2118; the unregulated power of a totalitarian instrument of thought control,” The Trenchant Observer, originally published September 28, 2013 (6:23 p.m.). (updated January 6, 2015).

Russian President Vladimir Putin is making progress in his efforts to split EU member states so that the sanctions against Russia will not be re-authorized when they come up for renewal in March, 2015.

See

Andrew E. Kramer (Moscow), “French Leader Urges End to Sanctions Against Russia Over Ukraine,” New York Times, January 5, 2015.

Kramer reports that French President Francois Hollande stated today,

Western nations should stop threatening Russia with new sanctions and instead offer to ease off on existing restrictions in exchange for progress in the peace process in Ukraine, President François Hollande of France said in an interview on Monday.

Backing President Vladimir V. Putin into a corner will not work, he said, giving a high-level voice to what is seen as mounting sanctions fatigue among European politicians, as the Ukraine crisis lurches into a second year.

“I’m not for the policy of attaining goals by making things worse,” Mr. Hollande said in the interview on France Inter radio. “I think that sanctions must stop now.”

One key to the future is the fact that there are no sanctions in place that will prevent Francois Hollande from delivering “The Vladilovstok”, a Mistral-class helicopter carrier and attack vessel, with advanced theater command and control capabilities, as soon as he feels he can get away with it.

Putin appears interested in making some kind of “an appearance of a deal” to implement the September 5, 2014 Minsk Protocol and ceasefire agreement.

Of course, had he simply implented the deal he agreed to at Minsk on September 5, 2014, or the deal he agreed to in Geneva on April 17, 2014, we would not be at this point of needing to negotiate further.

But we are where we are.

Putin may now tone down Russian activities in the Eastern Ukraine in order to get the Europeans to drop or weaken the sanctions they have in place in coordination with the U.S., while retaining the ability to ramp up those activities when it suits his purposes.

If he appears to be reasonable at the upcoming talks between France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine on implementing the Minsk Protocol, he can probably count on Francois Hollande’s acceptance of the Russian invasion and annexation of the Crimea.

Kramer quotes Hollande as follows:

Russia’s position is misunderstood, he suggested. “Mr. Putin does not want to annex eastern Ukraine, I am sure — he told me so,” Mr. Hollande said. “What he wants is to remain influential. What Mr. Putin wants is that Ukraine not become a member of NATO. The idea of Mr. Putin is to not have an army at Russia’s borders.”

At the same time, Putin can probably count on the socialists in Europe to argue for “more understanding” of Russia’s interests and concerns. They now hold key positions: Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the EU Commission, Matteo Renzi as prime minister of Italy and his protege, Francesca Mogherini, as EU foreign policy chief, and Hollande as President of France.

In Germany, the so-called Putin apologists (Putin Versteher) are a huge drag on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ability to implement a tough policy towards Russia. When she speaks out forcefully against Russia, as she did at the G-20 summit in Brisbane recently, her socialist (SPD) Foreign Minister in the CDU-SPD “grand coalition” government, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, immediately steps forward to propose some new talks or negotiations with Putin, undercutting her position. As a result, German foreign policy towards Russia is limited by an approach which points in two directions, appeasement and endless negotiations with Putin on the one hand, and determined resistance to Russian aggression including support for strong sanctions, on the other.

The great difficulty the EU had in implementing its Semptember 5, 2014 decision to impose “stage 3″ sanctions on Russia, in which the decision almost came unraveled in the long week it took to implement it, suggests the fragility of European unanimity to uphold the existing sanctions. This remains the case even as Putin continues with his “salami technique” in the Eastern Ukraine, sending — according to the OSCE — some 300 “little green men” into the Donbas in recent days in the region of Luhansk, where the leadership of the “separatists” has become highly unstable.

In view of the above, Francois Hollande’s statement regarding the EU sanctions must be regarded as the the first salvo in Putin’s efforts to storm the barricades of Europe.

Treacherous to the core, Hollande demonstrates to all the members of NATO and the EU the absence of trust which exists within their communities, and the absence of trustworthy leaders.

Without such trust and commitment to common values and objectives, it is hard to see how the foreign policy interests of Europe can be effectively defended.p

Ultimately, such lack of unity in the face of Russian aggression could pose a threat to these communities themselves.

In Europe, trust and commitment are currently in short supply.

The Trenchant Observer