Posts Tagged ‘Russia’

Berlin seeks to block NATO force deployments in East on fallacious legal arguments

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

See

(1) “Berlin bremst bei neuen Nato-Plänen gegen Russland; Beim Nato-Gipfel will die Allianz neue Stützpunkte und Truppen für die östlichen Mitglieder beschließen. Die fordern noch mehr, doch Deutschland fürchtet, Verträge mit Russland zu brechen,” Die Welt, 31. August, 2014 (20:05 Uhr).

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

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

Germany cited the 1997 NATO-Russia Partnersip Founding Act as a legal impediment to basing NATO troopsin the East in member countries bordering on Russia.

Berlin’s legal reasoning is totally fallacious, as Russia through its continuing invasion of the Ukraine and purported annexation of the Crimea has materially breached the Foundational Act or treaty on which the Partnersip is founded.

To insist now that the Foundational Act prohibits such forward basing of NATO troops is specious and constitutes a bad-faith legal argument.

Even the deployments that are under discussion are ludicously inadequate. NATO needs to deploy a force to the East that can actually deter or greatly slow a Russian military intervention in Eastern Europe. 20,000 troops is a number that
Should be the starting point ofdiscussion. Many more will eventually be needed.

600-1,000 troops will not deter Putin or Russia, though they may serve as a trip wire for nuclear confrontation. In other words, such an insignificant force would both be inadequate to the task of c ountering a “stealth invasion” by Russia such as it has conducted in the Ukraine, and increase the likelihood of nuclear confrontation between Russia and NATO due to the very inadequacy of the small force to effectively repel such an invasion.

The 1997 Partnership with Russia has already been abrogated by Russia.

NNATO including Berlin needs to wake up to the new realities of an aggressive and xenophobic nationalism in Russia expressed in irredentist claims that forbode further invasions.

It is long past the hour when Berlin’s pacifist and appeasement approaches must be abandoned if the security of Europe is to be guaranteed.

The best hope for European and NATO security is for NATO to take extremely hard measures that might puncture the bubble of war propaganda, which feeds and maintains the illusions of an unchecked nationalism that defies the constraints of international law.

If Angela Merkel wants to hold out hope for a future change in course by Vladimir Putin and Russia, or arussia after Putin, she must understand that half-measures and appeasement only goad Putin on to expanded war aims and further acts of aggression.

The only hope for bringing Russia back into the world of civilized nations who uphold the U.N. Charter and its prohibition of the use of force is to take really strong military measures within NATO that will force Russia’s military and Putin to pay attention and react to new counter-threats against its security.

The free ride the West has given to Putin’s aggression must end–NOW.T

Taking hard military decisions in peacetime is difficult. But it is even harder, and more dangerous, in wartime.

It requires that the illusions of pacifists and appeasers in Europe be jettisoned. One of the strongest illusions is that the 1997 Partnership Agreement has any validity or viability in the face of brazen Russian military aggression within Europe.

Once Russia returns to a foreign policy of respect for international law instead of force, there will be plenty of time to resuscitate the 1997 Partnership agreement.

But not before.

Realistically, we need to understand that Russia could be in a phase of growing authoritarian dictatorship not unlike that in Germany in 1993, when the elected Chancellor Adolph Hitler proceeded to wipe out his opposition and build the military powerhouse of the Third Reaich that was to devastate Europe and unleash a World War that cost some 50 million lives.

One important difference is that Putin, unlike Hitler, has a lot of nuclear weapons aimed at the West.

If Angela Merkel wants to uphold an international legal agreement, she should think about upholding the United Nations Charter and its jus cogens (peremptory law) prohibition in Article 2 paragraph 4 of “the threat or use of force against the territirial integrity or political independence of any state”.

The Trenchant Observer

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

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

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

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

Latest News and Opinion

See

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The stakes are enormous, and include the following :

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

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

Etc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 4-5 NATO Summit in Wales

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

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

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

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

Concluding Thoughts

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

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

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

The Trenchant Observer

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

Friday, August 29th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weiser reported,

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

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

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

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

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

The Trenchant Observer

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

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what does the President do?

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

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

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

This was a shocking admission.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Trenchant Observer

Ukraine: Appeasement continues; Putin’s victory at Minsk; Latest news and commentary

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Each act of apeasement dishonors those who fought for, and in many cases died for, the freedoms which we now enjoy.

Developing

For the lastest on Russian military moves in the Ukraine, see

(1) “Poroschenko meldet Invasion durch russisches Militär,” Suddeutsche Zeitung, 28. August, 2014 (10:56 Uhr).

(2) Andrew E. Kramer and Michael R, Gordon, “Ukraine Reports Russian Invasion on a New Front, New York Times, August 27, 2014.

The pacifists and appeasers who lead the West seem lost.

Angela Merkel is reportedly concerned that EU and NATO actions vis-vis the Ukraine not hurt Russia’s interests. A high EU official stresses that the European Union will do what it can to meet Russia’s concerns over the EU-NATO cooperation agreement signed in June.

They don’t get it.

We are no longer living in that world.

Vladimir Putin emerged from his meeting in Minsk with Petro Poroshenko, and others including high European officials, with victory in hand.

No third-stage or “stage 3″ sanctions are going to be imposed, even after his sending regular Russian forces into the eastern Ukraine.

No one was even discussing implementing tougher “stage 3″ sectoral sanctions against Russia. These had long been threatened (with several deadlines passing without consequences) if Russia invaded the eastern Ukraine or didn’t stop its military support of the so-called “separatists”.

Putin called the West’s bluff, and won.

Then he intensified the overt Russian invasion of the Ukraine, opening another front to the South toward Mariupol.

This is his pattern. He does whatever necessary to deflect the adoption of really harsh sanctions, and after he succeeds he escalates Russia’s military intervention in the Ukraine.

He may be executing a strategic plan to join the Crimea to Russia by seizing territory to the South of Donetsk and Luhansk.

This may have been a long-term strategy for some time, but as he encounters no resistance from the West he appears to be speeding it up, as he did in the Crimea when he encountered no opposition from the West.

After Minsk, Angela Merkel has now demonstrated her pacifism and appeasement of Putin beyond the slightest doubt. However skilled in economic matters, she comes off as a naive schoolgirl when dealing with Vladimir Putin, no doubt under the strong influence of her SPD foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Steinmeier is the former chief of staff of SPD ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Putin’s business partner and leading apologist in Germany.

We can’t look to Germany any more for leadership on the Ukraine.

Nor can we look to France, given Francois Hollande’s sell-out to Moscow by guaranteeing delivery of the two Mistral-class warships to Russia.

Great Britain is a possible but dubious potential source of leadership. David Cameron comes out strutting like a rooster, saying the right things, but then withdraws to the barn at the first sign of opposition. The strongest example was when he lost an ill-prepared vote in the House of Commons to authorize military action against Syria after Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons at Ghouta in August, 2013. Instead of renewing the political fight with better preparation, he simply gave up.

The only potential leadership to stand up to Russia is in Poland and the Baltics, with support from other countries such as Norway. After the downing of Malaysian Flight MH17, the political backbone of Holland seemed to stiffen, but time will be needed to see if that change holds.

The key decision at the EU summit this weekend is going to be the choice of the new foreign affairs boss. If the Italian Federica Mogherini is voted in, Putin can break out the Champagne, as she will not be inclined to lead stiff opposition to Russian aggression.

According to late reports, however, she will be chosen.

The effect is likely to be to neuter the EU as a force that can act effectively to rein Putin in.

On the other hand, if someone like the Pole Radoslav Sikorski were to be selected, Europe could expect strong and experienced foreign policy leadership, particularly with respect to Russia.

As for the United States, Barack Obama has been on vacation while Russia was launching an invasion of the eastern Ukraine with regular Russian soldiers.

What more can be said?

Can one imagine John F. Kennedy leaving Washington for a two-week vacation at Hyannisport during the Cuban Missile Crisis?

Given the hopeless incompetence of Barack Obama and his White House foreign policy team, the only hope for stronger leadership from the U.S. would be if Hillary Clinton and other Democratic leaders were to pull off the gloves and start setting forth a much more robust set of foreign policy options and policies. Were they to do this strongly enough, and soon enough, it could push the Obama administration toward stronger policies of containment toward Russia.

It would also position these Democratic leaders to better withstand a hard charge from Republican critics of Obama’s policies and foreign policy failures.

Unless the direction of current U.S., EU, and NATO actions changes sharply, and quickly, future historians are likely to write of “the summer of appeasement of 2014″, the story of how the leaders of the West failed to effectively stand up to Putin’s policies of military aggression and annexation.

They will be writing, and living, in a different world.

The Trenchant Observer

Julia Smirnova of Die Welt lays out proof that Russian regular troops are fighting in the eastern Ukraine

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

Despite Vladimir Putin’s blatant lies asserting that Russian troops have not entered the Ukraine, seasoned reporter Julia Mirnova of Die Welt lays out irrefutable evidence that Russian regular forces have been and are fighting and dying in the eastern Ukraine, in Putin’s “secret war”. Repercussions at home, back in Russia, are starting to be felt.

See Julia Smirnova, “Putins Soldaten wissen nicht, dass sie in den Krieg ziehen,” Die Welt, 26. August 2014 (22:34 Uhr).

Putins Soldaten wissen nicht, dass sie in den Krieg ziehen; Erstmals gibt es Beweise dafür, dass Russland die Separatisten in der Ostukraine nicht nur mit Technik, sondern auch mit Soldaten der regulären Armee unterstützt. Das belastet die Minsker Gespräche.

To acess this article in languags other than German, use Google Translate, found here.

The Trenchant Observer

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

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

In the last five days, following new incursions by the regular armed forces of Russia including one to the South toward Mariupol, and the much-anticipated Minsk meeting (in a group) between Vladimir Putin and Petro Petroshenko, nothing has changed.

The analysis and recommendations republshed below have lost none of their urgency.

*****

Originally published on August 22, 2014

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

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

It is that stark and simple.

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

See

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can the West and other civilized nations do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is that stark and simple.

As was the case with Adolf Hitler.

The Trenchant Observer

The Budapest Memorandum (1994) and the Ukraine: Worth Re-reading

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

The key provisions of the 1994 Budapest Mmorandum guaranteeing the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of the Ukraine, signed upon the latter’s accession to the Non-proliferation Treaty, is worth re-reading now, in the context of Russia’s invasions of the Crimea (and its annexation) and of the eastern Ukraine (ongoing).

To be sure, the provisions of the Budapest Memorandum incorporate fundamental provisions of the United Nations Charter and international law, including the prohibition of the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, and the prohibition of intervention by any means in the internal affairs of another state in order to to obtain from it economic advantages of any kind.

Still, Russia solemnly undertook to observe the following provisions specifically with respect to the Ukraine.

The reader can be the judge as to the extent Putin and Russia have complied with the following legal commitments.

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Memorandum on Security Assurances in Connection with Ukraine’s Accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapon Ukraine, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America,

Welcoming the accession of Ukraine to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as a non-nuclear-weapon State,
Taking into account the commitment of Ukraine to eliminate all nuclear weapons from its territory within a specified period of time,
Noting the changes in the world-wide security situation, including the end of the cold war, which have brought about conditions for deep reductions in nuclear forces,
Confirm the following:
1. The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine, in accordance with the principles of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine;
2. The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or
political independence of Ukraine, and that none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine except in self-defence or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations;
3. The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine,
in accordance with the principles of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, to refrain from economic coercion designed to subordinate to their own interest the exercise by Ukraine of the rights inherent in its sovereignty and thus to secure advantages of any kind;

The Trenchant Observer

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

Monday, August 25th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Putin then annexed the Crimea.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Trenchant Observer

Speak to Putin with actions, not threats

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

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

They can save their breath.

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

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

See

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

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

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

The policy of appeasement has dramatically failed.

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

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

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

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

The Trenchant Observer