Posts Tagged ‘Edouard Daladier’

Western leaders, claiming there is no military solution in the Ukraine, prepare weak sanctions that will give Putin a military victory by Russian tanks (Updated September 4, 2014)

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Updated September 4, 2014

Western leaders who say there is no military solution in the Ukraine are wrong: A miltary solution is in the making, one forged by Russian artillery, tanks and soldiers who have invaded the Ukraine


(1) Peter Baker and Steven Erlanger, “U.S. and Europe Are Struggling With Response to a Bold Russia, September 2, 2014.

(2) Laurence Norman, “European Union Considers Modest Increase in Sanctions on Russia; EU May Widen Limits on Access to Financial Markets for Other Russian State-Owned Companies, Wall Sreet Journal, September 2, 2014 (Updated 11:59 p.m. ET).

(3) Christoph B. Schiltz (Brüssel), “Die neuen Strafmaßnahmen der EU könnten noch mehr russische Kreditinstitute treffen; Doch auch Separatistenführer aus der Ostukraine sollen mit Sanktionen belegt werden; Bis Freitag wird entschieden, Die Welt, 2. September 2014 (23:44 Uhr).

One is tempted to simply wonder why American and European leaders cannot see and understand the most obvious facts in dealing with Russia and Putin with regards to the Ukraine.

Until one remembers that big business, and its money, are lobbying European governments and the U.S. alike not to adopt any sanctions that would interfere with their businesses, joint ventures, or profits from trade relationships.

Until one remembers the arms industries and the power they have over governments, or within governments, as is the case in France with its delivery of two Mistral-class warships to Russia.

Europe speaks of imposing further sanctions on Russia for invading the Donbass region of the Ukraine, after it swallowed whole the Crimea through the use of military force.

But the sanctions under consideration represent political compromises among the pacifists and appeasers who lead major EU member states, rather than direct and effective measures whose purpose is to halt Putin’s invasions and defend the territory of the Ukraine and of Europe.

Even their proponents cannot say, with a straight face, that the sanctions they propose will even slow Putin’s military aggression.

These leaders are no different in moral or leadership qualities from Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier who, breaking their treaty commitments to Czechoslovakia, urged Edvard Beneš of Czechoslovakia to “mediate” his country’s differences over the Sudetenland with Adolph Hitler and The Third Reich.

Then they sold out the Czechs by signing the Munich Pact, on September 29-30, 1938,hours before a scheduled military invasion of Czechoslovakia.

The treaty commitments from the U.S. and the U.K. (and Russia) to the Ukraine contained in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, in exchange for the latter giving up its nuclear weapons and signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty, were similar to the commitments of the U.K. and France to Czechoslovakia that existed in 1938.

Like Chamberlain and Daladier, NATO and EU countries, particularly Germany and France, have urged the victim of aggression to negotiate a solution to the problem with Russia and its puppet “separatists” in the Donbass.

Like Daladier and Chamberlain, they are not inclined to lift a finger militarily to help defend the Ukraine. Faced with a vastly superior Russian army, which has been inflicting grievous losses, Ukrainian President Petro Petroshenko may see few if any alternatives to accepting Putin’s 7-point ceasefire plan, which amounts to no more than a diktat demanding Ukrainian surrender on Moscow’s terms.

America, incapacitated by a pacifist and incompetent president who cannot lead, needs Europe to play a decisive leadership role right now, rallying the countries of the West and other civilized nations to a strong defense of the Ukraine, the U.N. Charter, and the international law prohibition of the use of force.

According to reports, however, what the Europeans are considering in terms of new sanctions against Russia are laughable, and likely to spawn derision and further aggression on the part of Putin.

If these new sanctions do not include a ban on French delivery of two Mistral-class warships to Russia, they will only convince Putin that he has nothing to fear from the West, nothing at all.

Francois Hollande’s last-minute “suspension” of the delivery of the warships is no reason not to include an absolute ban on the making or performance of any and all defense contracts, past and future, with Russia.

Otherwise, Hollande is fully capable of weaseling his way out of the present “suspension” and proceeding with actual delivery the ships. The delivery was suspended before, it should be recalled. Hollande lifted that suspension in June, when he invited Putin to visit him for dinner at the Elysee Palace after the D-Day celebrations at Normany.

Barack Obama’s words of assurance to leaders in Tallinn, Estonia will have little effect in convincing them that the U.S. is serious, if they are not at the same time accompanied by strong actions.

What are needed are sanctions that will make Putin stop in his tracks, or at least deflate the bubble of illusions in which he and Russia seem to be floating. A bucket of cold water, so to speak.

But what we have are pacifists and appeasers, who are dead set to continue on the path they have followed since Russia invaded the Crimea in February, 2014.

The EU’s leaders may think there is no military solution to the conflict in the Ukraine, but they are mistaken.

For there is one such solution, that dictated by Russian tanks and troops as they proceed to carve out a land corridor linking Russia proper wirh the Crimea.

Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of a military-industrial complex which could exercise undue influence on government decisions. Added to that force we now have “big business” engaged with Russia telling the President of the United States what to do or not do on sanctions.

Similar business interests undergird the pacifism and appeasement of Europe, whose first act following the election of Francesca Mogherini as foreign policy chief is likely to be the adoption of further “stage 3” sanctions against Russia which will be received in Moscow as a joke, and only goad Putin on to further acts of aggression.

One of her first statements after being selected was that the possibility of a military solution in the Ukraine simply did not exist. Putin no doubt appreciated the clarification.

Obama, Merkel, Holland, Cameron, all of them, will go down in history as the craven appeasers who through their inaction gave unstinting encouragement to Vladimir Putin to tear down the existing edifice of international law and institutions, which the heroic generation which emerged from World War II left as its legacy in 1945.

When you pull back and reflect a little, and think about the fact that we are seven billion humans on a fleck of earth in a remote corner of a galaxy with some 200 billion stars, in a “visible universe” of over 170 billion galaxies, you can begin to understand that there is no guarantee that the existing international order, including the U.N. Charter and the international law prohibition of the use of force, will continue to endure.

Our current leaders are the custodians of that order and of our future.

Unfortunately, they are woefully inadequate to the task.

The Trenchant Observer

Heirs to Daladier and Chamberlain? The German and French appeasers of today should call off the “Munich II” peace negotiations with Vladimir Putin; Immediate harsh sanctions are required; Individual countries should send military contingents to the Ukraine to assist in “collective self-defense”

Sunday, August 17th, 2014

We do not need a “Munich II” conference led by German Foreign Minister Steinmeier, in Berlin or anywhere else, to offer up “concessions” in exchange for respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of the Ukraine.

What we do need is for the EU and the U.S. to carry out their threats that they would impose increasingly harsh “stage 3” sanctions if Putin and Russia did not halt their invasion of the Ukraine.

The negotiations between the foreign ministers of Russia, Germany, France and the Ukraine in Berlin are reminiscent of the Munich “Peace” Conference, which culminated on September 30-October 1, 1938 with the signing of the infamous “Munich Pact”—by which France and Great Britain broke their treaty commitments to defend Czechoslovakia and gave their blessing to Adolf Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland at the barrel of a gun — a threatened military invasion on October 1.

The talks today in Berlin led nowhere, as one might have predicted.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the SPD foreign minister of the grand coalition government led by CDU Chancellor Angela Merkel, has exhausted the negotiating possibilities for achieving a peaceful solution in the Ukraine that respects the territorial integrity and political independence of that country.

His efforts now resemble those of Kofi Annan in Syria who, after Bashar al-Assad had broken every agreement, failed to comply with all the ceasefire provisions of U.N. Security Council resolutions, and even shot at the U.N. UNMIS onservers, returned to Damascus to meet with al-Assad one more time to explore possibilities for a diplomatic soution to the crisis, and then reported that the talks were “promising”.

Steinmeier sprach von einem “schwierigen Gespräch”. “Aber ich glaube und ich hoffe, dass wir in einzelnen Punkten Fortschritte erreicht haben”, fügte er hinzu. Welche Fortschritte das sein sollen, blieb offen. Gesprochen wurde laut Steinmeier aber über Wege zu einem möglichen Waffenstillstand, eine verbesserte Kontrolle der ukrainisch-russischen Grenze und die humanitäre Unterstützung von notleidenden Zivilisten im Krisengebiet.

–“Ukraine-Konflikt: Kein Durchbruch bei Krisentreffen in Berlin; Fast fünf Stunden dauerte das Krisentreffen in Berlin, bei dem Frank-Walter Steinmeier eine Vermittlung zwischen Russland und der Ukraine versuchte. Dies ist zunächst gescheitert. Der Außenminister gibt aber die Hoffnung nicht auf,” Der Spiegel, August 18, 2014 (00:27 Uhr).

There is only one acceptable solution to the crisis caused by Russian aggression in the Ukraine, including its ongoing invasion of that country.

That solution is for Vladimir Putin and Russia to cease their aggression, and to cease furnishing military training, weapons, fighters and other support to the so-called separatists, which they themselves sent into the eastern Ukraine, and which have been operating under their direction and control.

We do not need a “Munich II” conference led by German Foreign Minister Steinmeier, in Berlin or anywhere else, to offer up “concessions” in exchange for respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of the Ukraine.

What we do need is for the EU and the U.S. to carry out their threats that they would impose increasingly harsh “stage 3” sanctions if Putin and Russia did not halt their invasion of the Ukraine.

They haven’t halted that invasion.

The moment for really harsh sanctions against Russia is now.

Moreover, because NATO and the EU are immobilized due to the pacifists and appeasers among their leaders’ ranks, individual nations should dispatch troops to the Ukraine to assist that country in response to its appeal for measures of collective self-defense under Article 51 of the U.N. Charter.

Today is August 17, three days short of the 46th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia on August 20, 1968.

If the Russians are going launch an all-out invasion of the Ukraine, which western military leaders have warned for some time is “a high probability”, the perfect time for that invasion would be August 20, 2014.

In the meantime, discussions with Russia should be removed from the leadership of the pacifists and appeasers of Germany and France, and taken up in the U.N. Security Council in public sessions. These should be held continuously until the Russian aggression stops.

A resolution condemning Russia should be tabled and put to a vote.

After a Russian veto, a similar resolution should be tabled in the General Assembly, where all member nations should be called upon to speak, explaining why or why not they are voting to uphold the most fundamental provision of the U.N. Charter, Article 2 paragraph 4, which prohibits “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”.

The territorial integrity of the Ukraine is a matter of grave concern to every member of the United Nations.

The “Munich II Conference” with Putin should be called off. Countries should rally to the collective self-defense of the Ukraine by all measures, including the sending of troops.

And the foreign ministers of Germany and France should stop competing for the mantle of Edouard Daladier of France and Neville Chamberlain of England, and their infamous place in history as the appeasers who sold out Czechoslovakia at Munich in 1938.

The Trenchant Observer

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

Monday, July 21st, 2014


For recent news and commentary, see:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Trenchant Observer

As official Russian troops withdraw from border, Putin continues stealth invasion and occupation of Donetsk and Luhansk region by irregular forces

Friday, June 6th, 2014

News and Opinion


(1) Anton Troianovski (Berlin) and Carol E. Lee (in Bénouville, France), “Mistrust Persists in Ukraine Meetings,” Wall Street Journal, June 6, 2014(updated 8:02 p.m. ET).

(2) Lukas I. Alpert, “Ukraine’s Tenuous Grip on Russian Border Slips Further; Kiev Abandons Eight Border Posts After Sustained Attacks,” Wall Street Journal, June 6, 2014 (7:16 a.m. ET).

(3) Arthur Bright, “Despite Russian drawdown from border, fighting continues in eastern Ukraine (+video),” Cristian Science Monitor, May 30, 2014.

“Russian fighters are among the separatist forces battling Ukraine’s poorly equipped military for control of eastern provinces. A pullback of Moscow’s troops could defuse tensions with the West.”

(4) Griff Witte and Michael Birnbaum (Donetsk), “Russian troop withdrawal brings no relief in eastern Ukraine,” Washington Post, May 30, 2014.


Vladimir Putin is a former KGB operative who, as Russia’s President, has embraced a new form of “stealth warfare”. In the Crimea, this invasion was launched by special operations forces bearing no official insignia (often referred to in the press as “little green men”). With impressive military precision, they seized key government buildings and police and Ukrainian army installations, handing them over to pro-Russian “separatists” whom they directed and controlled. As these events unfolded, President Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov loudly proclaimed that Russia had no intention of violating the territorial integrity of the Ukraine in the Crimea or anywhere else. Within a month, Russia had annexed the Crimea.

Subsequently, the same pattern was repeated in the eastern Ukraine, with variations which have evolved in accordance with changing circumstances. At Geveva, on April 17, Russia agreed in the statement produced by talks between the U.S., the EU, Russia, and the Ukraine, that the “separatists” who had seized government buildings with Kalishnakovs and other heavy weapons would lay down their arms and withdraw from the buildings they held. Russia made no effort to ensure that this would happen.

As the West imposed targeted sanctions against individuals and a few companies in Russia and the Ukraine and, significantly, also developed a realistic threat of imposing so-called “third stage” or sectoral sanctions against Russia if it invaded the eastern Ukraine or interfered with the May 25 presidential elections in the Ukraine, Putin told Angela Merkel that he was withdrawing troops from the border region, where some 40,000 to 50,000 troops were massed in combat-ready status for an invasion. Weeks passed without this withdrawal occurring. In recent days, however, these Russian troops have finally been withdrawing.

But meanwhile, the KGB operative who is the current presient of Russia continued the invasion of the Ukraine by surrepticious means. Recent reports detail the crossing into Ukraine of truckloads and truckloads of heavily armed irregular forces. Within the last several days, highly organized military forces have taken control of the government administration building in Donetsk from the motley group of pro-Russian activists who were holding it.

The top leaders of the “separatists” are Russian citizens with no local ties, who are reliably reported to be officials of Russian military and intelligence agencies. Chechens and fighters from other parts of Russia have been sent into the eastern Ukraine to bolster the military assault on the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and political independence of the Ukraine, now in the “Donbass” region.

It is clear that Putin”s and Russia”s invasion of the eastern Ukraine continues in an extremely vigorous manner, with determination not to allow Kiev’s Anti-Terrorist Operation aimed at restoring public order in the East to succeed.

A war is going on in the eastern Ukraine between the Russian special operations and irregular forces whuch have invaded the country and local separatists they have enlisted in their support, and the national government of the Ukraine based in Kiev.

After imposing limited targeted sanctions on a number of Russian individuals, the EU and the U.S. have now threatened Putin and Russia with sectoral sanctions if Russia does not ceadse its support for the “separatists” who are fighting Ukrainian forces attempting to restore public order, and stop the influx from Russia of irregular forces and weapons crossing the border.

At the same time, France has stated that it will proceed with the delivery to Ruusian of two Mistral-class warships, which could eventually be based in Sevastopol in the Crimea, which under international law remains Ukrainian territory under Russian occupation.

The isolation of President Putin was broken by Francois Hollande’s invitation to Putin to attend the D-Day ceremonies in Normandy on June 5-6. There was a certain logic to this invitation, as the West and the Soviet Union were allies in the war to defeat Nazi Germany.

Whether the subsequent invitation to Putin to visit Paris and David Cameron’s and Angela Merkel’s hastily scheduled private meetings with Putin, over President Barack Obama’s objections, reflected a sincere effort at persuasion, or signalled a collapse of allied unity, was far from clear, particularly in light of the French decision to deliver the warships to Russia.

One might have thought that if the West wanted to deliver a single message and threat to Vladimir Putin regarding the Ukraine, they could have found a better way to do it than in three separate private meetings. Obama refused such a meeting, although he had a 15-minute chat with Putin on the sidelines of a larger luncheon at the D-Day ceremonies on Friday.

The Trenchant Observer

Francois Hollande’s dinner diplomacy with Obama and Putin; France’s decision to proceed with the sale of warships to Russia to be based in the Crimea; NATO’s failure to increase forward-based troop deployments in the East

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Francois Hollande’s Dinner Diplomacy and France’s Undercutting of the West

For a droll account of French President Francois Hollande’s dinner plans Thursday evening in Paris, first with President Barack Obama at 7:00 p.m. in a restaurant, then with Russian President Vladimir Putin at 9:00 p.m. at the Elysee Palace, see

Stefan Simons (Paris), “Dinner-Diplomatie beim D-Day: Mit Silberzunge und Silberlöffel,” Der Spiegel, June 5, 2014 (16:40 Uhr)

The article also includes tantalizing details about luncheon plans in Normandy with the leaders attending the D-Day celebrations.

In the meantime, France has announced it will go ahead with the delivery of two Mistral naval warships to Russia in the fall, which are likely to be based in Sevastopol, in the Crimea, in Russian-occupied territory of the Ukraine.

The French President, in whom we and others placed considerable hope for a vigorous and forceful foreign policy, with the able assistance of his foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, is turning out to be something of a toad, and not one likely to be transformed into a prince.

Normally, the sex lives of politicians should not be matters of public concern. Occasionallly, however, the dalliances of our leaders can reveal traits of character that do indeed affect the public life and politics of a nation. They can demonstrate something about the qualities of loyalty and trustworthiness.

It is in this light that we should recall how President Hollande was recently caught by the press sneaking out of the Elysee Palace on the back of a motorcycle for an assignation with a girlfriend at an apartment only blocks away. This led to the departure of his official partner from the Elysee Palace, where she had been officially living as the First Lady.

What does Hollande’s affair have in common with French policy on the Ukraine? This can be summed up in one word: “betrayal”.

Now, another woman, Marine Le Pen, seems to have distracted Hollande from his original sense of purpose, with the victory of her right-wing National Front party in the European parliamentary elections on May 25.

It was Hollande who broke the West’s isolation of Putin after his invasion of the Crimea and now the eastern Ukraine, first with his invitation to Vladimir Putin to attend the D-Day ceremonies in Normandy, and then–after the victory of Le Pen’s National Front on May 25–with a second invitation for Putin to meet with Hollande in Paris.

With the announcement by France that it will proceed with the delivery of two Mistral-class warships to Russia in the fall, despite calls by Western leaders to block the sale, we can now understand how untrustworthy an ally Hollande has become, and also glimpse the character flaws that have led to his becoming so unpopular in France.

He appears not only to be a toad, but one on a par with Edouard Daladier, who is infamous along with Neville Chamberlain of Great Britain for signing the Munich Pact with Adolf Hitler on October 30, 1938. That agreement, which broke previous security pacts and recognized German seizure of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia (a day before Germany’s scheduled invasion), stands still today as the pinnacle of European appeasement.

Words and Deeds: The G-7 Declaration, Barack Obama’s Warsaw Speech, and NATO’s Decision Not to Deploy Forces in the East

Thursday’s G-7 declaration containing strong criticisms of Putin and threatening sectoral sanctions against Russia if it does not cease its support of so-called “separatists” (actually Russian special operations and intelligence forces and agents under their direction and control) in the eastern Ukraine, and President Obama’s strong words in his speech in Warsaw and at his meeting with newly-elected Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, are fine words. They are needed words.

Unfortunately, actions speak louder than words, and the perfidious and extraordinarily ill-timed announcement by France that it will proceed with the sale of the Mistral warships to Russia, utterly undercuts the intended message and threat contained in those fine words.

At the same time, earlier this week NATO decided to reject requests by Poland and other eastern European members to increase their forward-based troop deployments in the East. NATO countries thus revealed that their timid leaders and schlerotic decision processes are not up to the task of facing down Vladimir Putin and Russian aggression.

Obama, for his part, has failed to lead the West and U.S. allies in a forceful and united response, through actions, to Russian aggression in the Ukraine.

Despite the fine words in the G-7 declaration and in Obama’s speeches and comments in Poland, the policies of NATO and EU member states continue to be characterized by pacifism and appeasement.

After Hollande’s self-serving actions and undermining of the threat of sectoral sanctions, and NATO’s decision to essentially do nothing that is really meaningful in the East, Western leaders must now work extremely hard if they are to make their threats seem credible in Moscow.

On the record of their actions since late February, and not their words, Putin is likely to judge that he has little to lose by sticking to his present course in the eastern Ukraine.

The threat of further sanctions will only influence Putin after some serious sanctions have actually been imposed. Only then will the threats acquire credibility.

Further Dithering? Or Forceful U.S. Leadership and Action Now?

The G-7 position that they will wait several weeks to see if Putin halts his support for the separatists is divorced from the pace of events on the ground in the eastern Ukraine. Obama at a joint press conference with David Cameron said today that sectoral sanctions would be imposed, if Putin didn’t halt his activities in the eastern Ukraine within a month.

These deadlines reveal how hard the U.S. and the EU want to avoid imposing sectoral sanctions, and cast further doubt on whether they will ever have the political will and resolve to do so. Much will be decided in the eastern Ukraine in the next two weeks, or month.

The record of the West is one of strong words, threatened sanctions, and then a failure to back up the threats when the actions they target are taken or not taken.

Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov learned to play this game, with great success, in Syria.

The record is one of dithering, offering Putin endless chances to take an “off-ramp” from his aggression, without paying any price for what he has already done.

But the blood of the people who have died at the hands of his special forces and their agents is on his hands. The people who are being killed every day in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of the eastern Ukraine are being killed as a result of the Russian invasion and support for so-called “separatists”.

Some sectoral sanctions should be imposed now, to make good on previous threats that they would be imposed if Russia interfered in the May 25 Ukrainian elections. Russia did interfere, massively, and prevented most of the people in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions from exercising their right to vote.

The Russians are focused on changing the facts on the ground in the eastern Ukraine through an ongoing invasion. To give them two weeks more, or a month, to continue their aggressive war in the East is ludicrous.

Action is needed now.

Russia should suffer immediate consequences for it actions, which include pouring truckloads of weapons and irregular forces into the eastern Ukraine, and undertaking military-style actions against Ukrainian forces and institutions in the last two weeks.

Russia has an asymmetric advantage over the West: It can act quickly and decisively, whereas the West, absent strong U.S. leadership and independent action when necessary, can only act slowly as consensus is forged among its many members.

Moreover, because of consensus decision making processes, both in NATO and the EU, Western policies are like a chain that is no stronger than its weakest link. With its decision to proceed with the sale of warships to Russia, which will be based in the Crimea, France has become a strong candidate for the title of “weakest link”. There are other candidates, however, as revealed by NATO’s decision not to deploy troops in Poland and the Baltics.

Some third-stage sanctions are needed, now. Only the U.S. is in a position to impose such sanctions quickly. It should do so immediately, and resume forceful leadership of the Atlantic Alliance.

The Trenchant Observer

The sheer mind-numbing incompetence of Obama’s White House foreign policy team; Ukraine—continuing pacifism and appeasement in the West

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014


You can’t make this stuff up.

The sheer, mind-numbing incompetence of the White House foreign policy team surpasses the wildest leaps of the imagination. For example,

1. The White House distributes the name of the current CIA station chief in Kabul to the press pool accompanying the President on a surprise visit to Afghanistan.

“Surprise! We’ve outed the CIA station chief!” To date, no head has rolled, though there has been an attempt to blame it on the military.

2. President Obama agrees to meet with French President Francois Hollande before the latter meets with Vladimir Putin in Paris, both on Thursday night. The dinner with Obama is at a restaurant, whereas Putin is eating at the Elysee Palace.

This is Obama’s version of managing alliance relationships. Further, Angela Merkel is meeting with Putin in Frankfurt on Friday.

Meanwhile, Putin’s agents are waging war in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of the Ukraine, while Russian “volunteers” are pouring into the Ukraine, whose border forces have come under intense and coordinated attack. Coordinated by whom? Who do you think? The Albanians?

If you’ve ever wondered about that smug “I just ate the goldfish and they’re inviting me for dessert” smile on former KGB agent Vladimir Putin’s face, reread the preceding paragraphs.

Incompetence at the highest levels, by “the gang who couldn’t shoot straight”, and their leader.

Obama seems to have “attention deficit disorder”. He doesn’t seem to be able to track the moving ball with his eyes. To keep his eye on the ball. Nor does he seem to understand how his actions will be interpreted.

He travels to Eastern Europe to reassure NATO’s eastern allies, with more words, that America stands behind them, instead of acting to halt and reverse Putin’s aggression in the Ukraine by adopting serious economic sanctions, and pressuring the Europeans to do the same. Those actions, not words, would reassure our allies in Eastern Europe–and Japan and other countries neighboring China.

Hollande, whose sense of loyalty was recently displayed when he was caught by the press sneaking out of the Elysee Palace on a motorcycle to meet his girlfriend in a nearby house, leading to the departure of his official girlfriend from the Elysee Palace, has apparently been flipped by the National Front’s strong showing in the May 25 elections for the European Parliament.

What Angela Merkel’s story is can only be guessed, but the steadfastness of Germany is not beyond doubt, as suggested by former SPD Chancellor Gerhardt Schroeder’s celebration of his 70th birthday with his good friend Vladimir Putin in St. Petersberg last month.

The pacifists and the appeasers in the White House and in Europe look like they have carried the day, and can’t wait to get back to “business as usual” with Russia and Putin, at the earlest opportunity.

The existing structure of international order is facing its toughest test since 1945.

So, now that it is clear that Europe is not willing to undergo any pain to uphold that international order, e.g., through the adoption of third-stage, sectoral sanctions, leaders want to meet with Putin.

“Let’s be reasonable. Let’s mediate between Putin and Ukraine’s newly-elected president, Petro Poroshenko.”

Between Russia and the country it is at this very moment raping.

What is to be mediated?

What it will take to get the rapist to desist from a rape in progress? Which of the rapist’s demands must be met, including immunity from criminal prosecution or even civil penalties? How the rapist can rebuild a relationship of trust with other members of the community, without expressing any regret?

In the international sphere, invasion and annexation of a portion of another country is a far more serious transgression than is rape in the domestic legal system, however heinous the latter crime may be.

Does anyone remember “the rape of Nanjing” in 1937-38, by the Japanese?

Without the U.N. Charter’s prohibition against the threat or use of force, and serious efforts to uphold its effectiveness in cases of violation, how do the appeasers and pacifists in Washington and Europe imagine that the international order and international security will evolve?

If the present structure of international order within the framework of international law and the U.N. Charter is to be abandoned, what will take its place?

Shouldn’t the pacifists and appeasers in Washington and Europe be answering these questions? Are they?

The Trenchant Observer

International human rights in retreat, as Iran, al-Assad, Hezbollah, and Russia gain the upper hand

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

It has been a hard couple of years for advocates of international human rights, and respect for international law of which they form a part. Since the hopes of the 2009 Green Movement in Iran, and the Arab Spring beginning in Tunisia in February, 2011, the struggle for democracy and the rule of law in the Middle East, and elsewhere, has suffered grievous setbacks.

We can only imagine what Europe would be like today had Serbia and Milosovic and Karadzic not been stopped, eventually by the use of military force when that was ultimately required. Actually, long after it was required, when the U.S. and NATO got around to it.

Now we must imagine a future in which Iran, al-Assad, Hezbollah, and Russia, with their ally in the League of Authoritarian States, China, stand triumphant.

One can try to imagine what Europe would have been like had Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich been left standing after World War II.  Jean Monnet’s dream of a united Europe would have been unthinkable, for example.

So, after World War II, we had the vision of international peace and security which was embodied in the United Nations Charter. For 65 years we pursued the goals set forth in the Charter, without ever admitting they were beyond our reach.

But now, as the Middle East is swept into a vortex that is every bit as dangerous as the Balkans in the summer of 1914, that dream of a world made up of democracies governed by the rule of law, and nation states continuously developing treaties and legal institutions in order to achieve in concrete form the goal of peace, appears to be receding.

The dream, after all, can only survive so long as it is shared by the leaders of the world and their peoples.

Now, however, the enemies of that dream — Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Russia, and China (which include the core members of the League of Authoritarian States) — are fighting successfully to replace its hopes with the guns and missiles and bombs and knives of the repression which they represent.

The rest of the world, including those countries which have or aspire to attain democracy and the rule of law, appear to be asleep.

Meanwhile, Iran is defeating the allies of the United States in a hot war in Syria, as Russia resumes its former role of being the ultimate friend of despotic states. The war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed by al-Assad and his allies in Syria do not move the Kremlin, which has itself done worse in recent times in Chechnya, not to speak of its atrocities in the 20th century. China is sending troops to participate in the U.N. force in Mali, which is a welcome sign, but will not budge on its support of Russia on Syria.

If that were not enough, the head of the African Union on the 50th anniversary of its founding has accused the International Criminal Court of hunting Africans out of racist motives, notwithstanding the fact that the new head prosecutor of the court is from The Gambia. Together the dictators and autocrats of Africa have taken a stand against the ICC’s prosecution of the newly elected President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, who has been indicted for crimes against humanity.

So, we can forget all that talk about “the responsibility to protect”, as darker days lie before us in a world where Bashar al-Assad stands triumphant, Vladimir Putin (“the executioner of the Caucasus”) stands triumphant, and the clouds of looming war blacken the skies in which our future hopes might otherwise reside.

The leaders of the West of today, and Barack Obama first among them, will long be remembered as having faced the moment of truth in the struggle between the forces of freedom and those of darkness–who are supporting and committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, firing artillery and tanks and bombs on innocent civilian populations—and having shrugged their shoulders and walked away from the battle.

This has been going on now for over two years.

We are witnessing a whole generation of Neville Chamberlains and Éduouard Daladiers in action, with not a single Winston Churchill to be found.

Who does President Obama remind you of more, Winston Churchill or Neville Chamberlain?

Syria does not concern them. Just as Germany and Japan did not concern the democratic nations of the world in 1936 or 1938, and just as the raging civil war in Spain in the 1930’s did not concern them, in which Fascist Germany and Fascist Italy supported Franco’s forces against the Republican armies, while the democracies of Europe hid behind their purported obligations of neutrality.

Iran and Russia appear to have taken the measure of Barack Obama and the resolve of the West, and decided as a result to back al-Assad to the hilt. Iran must now be highly confident that neither the United States nor Israel will engage in any military action that could inflict damage sufficient to halt their onward march toward the acquisition of nuclear weapons.

For the moment, Iran and Hezbollah and al-Assad and the Russians are winning in Syria, and beyond.

The Trenchant Observer

Stop the killing: Stop al-Assad, Putin, and Kofi Annan’s peace plan—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #27 (April 21)

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

News Update
See Alexandra Sandels, “Syria street protests met with force; On a day when U.N. monitors are missing, Syria government forces try to prevent demonstrations, firing on protesters in some cases, activists say. Continued shelling and at least 57 deaths are reported,” Los Angeles Times, April 21, 2012.

It is time to stop the charade of Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan, NOW.

It makes no sense to send ceasefire monitors into Syria when there is no ceasefire to monitor. It makes no sense to reach “agreement” with al-Assad on anything, as his word is absolutely worthless.

The flawed concept that you can or should negotiate cessation of the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity with a war criminal, in exchange for a “peace” that will enable him to remain in power and to continue his reign of terror, is a cynical cop-out and surrender to the forces of evil in Damascus, Moscow, Bejing, and Tehran.

Syria, Russia, China, and Iran–these are the evil actors, the evil forces, which continue to support the wanton commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other widespread and grave violations of fundamental human rights by the government of Syria.

See The Trenchant Observer’s earlier articles on Syria, including the 26 “updates” on “Obama’s Debacle in Syria”, in order to fully understand the “Pied Piper’s path” we have been following as we pursue the chimera of peace under the “Pied Piper” Envoy’s peace plan–which was a craven surrender to the Russians from day one.

We cannot stop the killing by continuing on this path.

The Security Council should not send monitors to Syria at this time.  Indeed,  bearing in mind the experience of the Arab League monitors last year–who al-Assad brilliantly played as fools–the Security Council should not send monitors to Syria until the government of Syria has stopped committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.  Promises and asssurances from the Syrian government are worthless and should be given no credence.  Only facts on the ground should guide actions.

Meanwhile, the time has come for military intervention by the civilized world–which does not include Russia, China and Iran, who by supporting al-Assad are accomplices to the ongoing commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

It is time to stop the U.N.’s six-point peace plan process–which is an illusion.

It is an illusion of peace which serves as a shield against military action that might halt the killing–and which serves to maintain al-Assad in power. 

The hope that the Russians might come around and not veto a resolution in the Security Council authorizing the use of military force is also an illusion. It is not going to happen.  Not this year.

It is time to stop playing Russia’s and al-Assad’s game.

It is time to stop the killing in Syria. “by all necessary measures”, with or without Security Council authorization.  There is a basis in international law for such action without Security Council authorization.

In any event, the legal basis in international law for such action is certainly far stronger than the legal basis for targeted killings by U.S. drones and speacial forces in many cases, and particularly those far from the war theater in Afganistan.

Military options should be readied on the most urgent basis, and used soon if not immediately to stop the killing in Syria.

This may take some guts, some courage by leaders in the West, the Arab countries, and the rest of the civilized world.

But if they do not act to effectively stop the killing, the likelihood is this generation of leaders will be remembered as the Neville Chamberlain’s and the Édouard Daladier’s of the 21st century. (Chamberlain and Daladier sold out the Czech people in 1938 at Munich through the infamous “Munich Pact” recognizing Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland.)

Or today’s leaders may be remembered as the Dutch U.N. peacekeepers at Srebrenice who watched without raising a finger as over 8,000 men and boys were massacred in July 1995.

It is time to intervene in Syria to stop the killing.

For the sake of humanity.  Pour l’humanité.

The Trenchant Observer

For links to other articles by The Trenchant Observer on this topic, and others, click on the title at the top of this page to go to the home page, and then consult the information in the bottom right hand corner of the home page. The Articles on Syria page can also be found here.

Beyond Despair: Obama’s Debacle in Syria—Update #12 (March 16)

Thursday, March 15th, 2012


It is easier now to understand how the European Powers and the United States looked the other way as Hitler executed all his opponents beginning in 1933-34, during the period known as the Gleichschaltung.

We have gained insight into what it was like in 1936 when the European Powers did not respond to Hitler’s militarization of the Rhineland, in flagrant violation of the Versailles Treaty concluded in 1919 after World War I.

We can understand better now how the French and the English did not oppose the German Anschluss (or annexation) of Austria in March 1938, or the occupation of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia pursuant to the Munich Pact signed by Neville Chamberlain of Great Britain and Éduouard Daladier of France on September 29-30, 1938.  Interestingly, earlier England and France had urged Czechoslovakia to resort to “mediation” with Hitler once they had decided not to go to war, and to leave Czechoslovakia to fend for itself.

We can better grasp now how the world stood by in the days that followed, after Krystalnacht on November 9-10, 1938, the night of the anti-Jewish pogroms, when Jewish businesses and synagogues were attacked throughout Germany by the SS, and the civil authorities looked on without raising a finger. Wikipedia summarized the events as follows:

At least 91 Jews were killed in the attacks, and a further 30,000 arrested and incarcerated in concentration camps.[2] Jewish homes, hospitals, and schools were ransacked, as the attackers demolished buildings with sledgehammers.[3] Over 1,000 synagogues were burned (95 in Vienna alone), and over 7,000 Jewish businesses destroyed or damaged.[4][5]

Martin Gilbert writes that no event in the history of German Jews between 1933 and 1945 was so widely reported as it was happening, and the accounts from the foreign journalists working in Germany sent shock waves around the world.[3] The Times wrote at the time: “No foreign propagandist bent upon blackening Germany before the world could outdo the tale of burnings and beatings, of blackguardly assaults on defenseless and innocent people, which disgraced that country yesterday.”[6]

To be sure, our diplomats and foreign policy experts today don’t seem to study history (as history, as opposed to picking facts from history for case studies to illustrate theories) or diplomatic history, as they used to do–back in the days when when we had journalists like James Reston who also were deeply familiar with history.

They may not recall the famous quote by George de Santayana, who said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (from “Life of Reason I”).

So, presumably in the absense of this sense of history, our leaders have been prepared to watch Russia and China support the butchery of al-Assad, blocking Security Council action since their February 4 vetoes of a Security Council resolution on Syria.  Our leaders have been prepared to watch Russia continue to furnish weapons and ammunition and other matérial to al-Assad to use in the commission of these crimes, and to watch Iran continue to advise al-Assad on how to use terror to crush his opposition as was done in Iran in 2009.  They have been prepared to support “mediation” of the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity with the Syrian Dictator.

And now they are prepared to sit down with Putin and Hu Jintao and share toasts with them at the next G-20 meeting in June.

Today, bringing crimes against humanity and war crimes to a halt is just one among many competing national interests.

Perhaps our acceptance of torture under Bush, and our failure to fully repudiate it by prosecuting those responsible as required by the U.N. Convention Against Torture, have dulled our moral senses.

We live in a world where moral outrage is now hardly even felt, or if felt does not last for more than a day.

So, here we are. We now are living in “the day after” the world turned its back on Syria, and the Syrian Dictator was permitted to proceed with the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes in repressing his civilian as well as armed opposition.

Even the sanctions imposed on Syria are kind of a joke. For example, the European Union has imposed a ban on the importation or sale of gold, jewelry, and other precious metals, or Syrian cental bank activities supporting such activities. They have imposed a ban on cargo aviation to European capitals.

They didn’t even have the resolve to ban all civil aviation. That would have hurt al-Assad directly, as it would have curtained his wife’s celebratory shopping in Paris as her husband commands the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity back home.

Barack Obama, and David Cameron, and even Nicholas Sarkozy have accepted a reality in which crimes against humanity and war crimes are committed on their doorstep, in the heart of the ancient lands that surround the Mediterranean, and they are not prepared to act militarily to halt this butchery.

They didn’t do anything effective, because it was too complicated.

Cynically, they used Ban Ki-Moon and the United Nations special representative to Syria, Kofi Annan, as their shield against criticism, and as an excuse for not acting.

They didn’t even insist on bringing a resolution referring the war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria to the International Criminal Court to a public debate and vote in the Security Council.

Obama shamelessly used his top military and defense leaders to argue to the Congress that military intervention was not being considered, because it was too complicated, when he had not even ordered the preparation of serious military options ready to be executed on short notice. The “all options are on the table” president took military options off the table in his “sailboat diplomacy” with al-Assad. God bless him, for he must have goodness in his heart, or so we want to believe. But he doesn’t have the guts to stand and fight, for anything. Not if he faces serious opposition. Not if it will involve direct confrontation.

This was the attitude of the Western powers last summer, when they didn’t want to look at what was going on in Syria.

It was then, and remains, the shame of the world.

But a curious thing happened last summer. The Syrian people didn’t give up. They may not give up this time either.

So, it is just one more chapter in Obama’s sad series of foreign policy debacles. Iran. Iraq. Afghanistan. Latin America (with Chavez in Venezuela, Correa in Ecuador, and Morales in Bolivia).

Notwithstanding the above, hope springs eternal in the human heart. No situation is totally hopeless.

There are a few hopeful signs on the horizon with respect to Syria. First, there is a report today that defections from the military in Syria are up.

See (AFP/Bloomberg), “Syria’s bloody isolation,” The Sydney Moring Herald, March 16, 2012 (1:26PM).

Second, there is a report that the establishment of humanitarian corrridors and safe areas is still under consideration, at least by some observers.

See Benedetta Berti, “To help Syria, apply a mix of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ power”; Sanctions and isolation of the Assad regime are simply allowing massacres to continue in Syria. Yet the world resists an all-out military intervention in Syria. A third option is to apply a mix of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ power to relieve the suffering there,” The Christian Science Monitor (opinion), March 15, 2012.

Meanwhile, we need to not turn our glance away, but rather to follow closely, day by day, the details of the hell the Syrian Dictator is inflicting on his people–the dozens and sometimes hundreds who are dying every day, in utter defiance of every rule of civilization and international law.

And if the ICC has not yet been invested by the Security Council with jurisdiction over the crimes being committed in Syria, perhaps at least there is one country–somewhere–that might initiate judicial proceedings against Bashar al-Assad, his brother and other accomplices to these atrocities, in exercise of the universal jurisdiction against such crimes that is permitted under international law to be exercised by individual states, provided their domestic legislation so permits.

It is a sad moment when we look in the mirror and see who we really are, as a nation, as an alliance.

Obama’s restless attention will turn to something else.  But the world, and history, will not forget.

The Trenchant Observer

–For earlier articles by The Trenchant Observer, see the Articles on Syria page.
–To use the Search function, click on “The Trenchant Observer” at the top of this page to go to the home page, and then enter your search term in the box at the upper right.
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How to find news reports from around the world
–Google and other major search engines use a series of filters amounting to what has been termed a “filter bubble” to limit search results to those keyed to the location, language, and previous search results of the user. See Eli Pariser, The Filter Bubble (2011).
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