Posts Tagged ‘Sergey Lavrov’

ISIS takes Ramadi and Palmyra; Obama undercuts Merkel and the EU with direct negotiations with Putin—who responds by cutting Russian transit routes to Afghanistan

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

U.S. foreign policy is in utter disarray, failing to meet the two greatest challenges to international peace and security in the world: (1) Russian military aggression in the Ukraine; and (2) The growing power of the Islamic State, emerging from the maelstrom of Syria and advancing against the collapsing military of an Iraqi state riddled by sectarian divisions.

Several factors and the cumulative impact of poor decisions over the last six years have contributed to this situation.

President Barack Obama has not been a trustworthy partner with U.S. allies.

In 2012, he apparently undercut Turkey and others as they were contemplating intervention in Syria.

He has cut adrift the Gulf States, among  America’s closest allies for 50 years, and has lost their trust, as evidenced by the failure of many of the Gulf’s leaders to attend Obama’s Camp David summit last week.

The conference showed all the signs of an impromptu affair suggested by someone in Obama’s entourage (like, “We better do something to placate the Gulf states which are unhappy over the Iran nuclear deal. Let’s invite them all to Camp David for a summit.”). The Summit was not well prepared, and produced no results worthy of note. Just words.

Secretary of State John Kerry apparently didn’t even bother to attend, busy as he was off on his fool’s errand of meeting with Putin in Sochi. Instead of the Secretary of State speaking to the media at the summit, it was Obama’s assistant, Ben Rhodes, who commented on the achievements of the gathering, such as they were.

This was amateurism run amok, evidence of a foreign policy in full disarray.

Kerry’s meetings with Putin and foreign minister Sergey Lavrov broke Russia’s isolation, and severely undercut Angela Merkel’s efforts to take a tough line during her visit to Moscow on May 9-10, where the emphasis was on German atonement for the depradations unleashed on Russia during World War II, and the “criminal” aggression by Russia against the Ukraine in the Crimea and the eastern Ukraine, in violation of international law and the bases of the European peace and security order.

In a follow-up to the Sochi discussions, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria “F… the EU” Nuland was scheduled to meet with her counterpart in Moscow.

By undercutting Merkel, Obama also undermined efforts to hold a consensus together within the EU for the reauthorization of sanctions against Russia when they cime up for renewal at the end of July.

In Iraq and Syria, the fall of Ramadi to ISIS, as well as Palmyra, demonstrated the bankruptcy of Obama’s (non) strategy for dealing with Syria, and the growing power of the so-called Islamic State, which has now occupied large portions of Syria (up to 50%), seized Ramadi and Mosul in Iraq, and  sent fighters to Afghanistan and Libya.

If we want to understand the true significance of Benghazi, we need to reflect on the fact that Obama campaigned in 2012 on the proposition that Al Qaeda had been vanquished, just like Bin Laden, whereas the administration knew for a fact this was not the case. That is the significance of the removal from Susan Rice’s talking points of any reference to Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda-connected groups.

On the two greatest challenges facing civilization and the West and the maintenance of international peace and security, (1) Russian military aggression against the Ukraine and purported annexation of the Crimea, and (2) the Syrian maelstrom which has given birth to ISIS and the growing threat to civilization it poses, the Obama administration has done next to nothing, aside from the modest economic sanctions imposed on a small number of Russian individuals and entities.

Even with respect to the nuclear deal with Iran, Obama has maneuvered himself into a weak bargaining position in the run-up to the self-imposed June 30 deadline for reaching a final agreement. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has reiterated his opposition to intrusive inspections, for example. With Obama pitching the deal to others before its final text has been agreed, and much of his legacy riding on its conclusion, the United Stats is in a poor position to walk away from a bad deal. Khamenai and the Iranians know this.

Obama’s bottom line with Putin appears to be that he wants to deal, to talk, to “negotiate”—even with Russia illegally occupying the Crimea and engaged in active military aggression in the eastern Ukraine. He wants Russian help on dealing with Syria (despite the evidence of the last four years that Russia has been anything but helpful), and also feels he needs Putin’s help in closing the nuclear deal in the P5 + 1 talks with Iran.

Obama is essentially proceeding from a position of weakness in dealing with Putin, having yielded to big business interests demanding that he impose no economic sanctions on Russia beyond those imposed by the EU. The threat of further sanctions against Russia for its continuing military invasion of the eastern Ukraine is politically impossible in Europe, and as a result is for all intents and purposes off the table.

Obama is unwilling to send lethal weapons to the Ukraine to help that country defend itself against Russia’s invasions.

He is willing to accept Putin’s invasion and “annexation” of the Crimea.

While only America can lead the Western alliance, instead of forging unity in facing down Putin, Obama has actively undercut his allies in Europe such as Angela Merkel.

In all of his actions toward both Putin and ISIS, Obama has demonstrated that he has no capacity for formulating a coherent strategy, and no stomach for ordering strong actions, with more than words, in response to the policies of military aggression and conquest in which both Russia and ISIS are engaged. In his pacifism and appeasement of Putin, he is immovable.

This is the tightly-controlled foreign policy Obama has been running out of his mind, and these are the results.

See

(1)  Ian Black (Middle East editor), “Seizure of Palmyra and Ramadi by Isis reveal gaping holes in US jihadi strategy; Far from being on the defensive, Islamic State has shown that the arms-length approach of the US to Iraq is failing and Washington is operating ‘day by day’,” The Guardian, May 21, 2015 (18:15).

“Robert Gates, the former US defence secretary, put it even more bluntly: “We don’t really have a strategy at all. We’re basically playing this day by day.” The urgent delivery of new anti-tank missiles for the Iraqi army has been one short-term response. But larger military and political questions are still unanswered.

But Obama’s credibility is extremely low. “Next time you read some grand statement by US officials on [the] campaign against Isis or see a Centcom [US Central Command] map about Isis reversals, just bin it,” commented Emile Hokayem, a respected Middle East expert with the International Institute of Strategic Studies.”

(2) Editorial Board, “The U.S. continues to send the wrong message to Russia,” Washington Post, May 21, 2015 (8:49 PM).

(3)  “Nachschub für Afghanistan: Russland schließt Transitweg für Nato; Für die Nato wird es schwieriger, ihre Kräfte in Afghanistan zu versorgen. Russland stellt sich quer. Regierungschef Medwedew beendet den Transit über sein Land,” Der Spiegel, 18. Mai 2015 (19:05 Uhr).

(4) Josef Joffe, “Im Bomben-Basar; Teheran zeigt den USA, was wahre Verhandlungskunst ist,” Die Zeit, 15. Abril 2015 (08:00 Uhr).

The Trenchant Observer

Russian annexation of the Crimea: “A criminal violation of international law” for Merkel in Moscow, but not worth mentioning for Kerry in Sochi

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

Merkel in Moscow

Germans know something about international law, which is enshrined in Article 25 of their Basic Law or constitution, while Americans seem to have forgotten all about its meaning and significance.

At a joint news conference with Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Sunday, May 10, 2015, Chancellor Angela Merkel underlined the impact of Russian military actions in the Ukraine on German-Russian cooperation, declaring,

“Through the criminal and illegal, in international law, annexation of the Crimea and the military conflicts in the Eastern Ukraine this collaboration has suffered a heavy setback, because we see in these actions a violation of the bases of the common European peace and security order.”

The original German text follows:

Durch die verbrecherische und völkerrechtswidrige Annexion der Krim und die militärischen Auseinandersetzungen in der Ostukraine hat diese Zusammenarbeit einen schweren Rückschlag erlitten schwer, weil wir darin eine Verletzung der Grundlagen der gemeinsamen europäischen Friedensordnung sehen. Dennoch und das ist für mich gerade in diesen Tagen von ganz wesentlicher Bedeutung ist die Lehre aus der Geschichte, dass wir alles daransetzen müssen, Konflikte so schwierig sie auch immer sein mögen friedlich und im Gespräch miteinander zu lösen das heißt, auf diplomatischen Wegen.

–“IM WORTLAUT: Pressekonferenz von Bundeskanzlerin Merkel und Staatspräsident Putin am 10. Mai 2015 in Moskau,”Die Bundesregierung, 10. Mai 2015.

The simultaneous interpretation by a Russian interpreter and the official Russian transcript omit the word “criminal”.

See “Merkel’s Remark On ‘Criminal’ Annexation Omitted In Russian Translation; Lost in translation?” RFE/RL, May 12, 2015.

To watch the press conference in German and Russian on YouTube, click here.
See “LIVE: Merkel and Putin hold joint press conference in Moscow …
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbyUqvkPrwA”.

Merkel’s prepared statement at the press conference, equivalent to a historic speech, is worth reading closely. It expresses, with great sincerity, the deepest remorse of the German nation over the monstrous depradations it under Nazi rule inflicted on the population of the Soviet Union. It is unflinching in its full acceptance of Germany’s responsibility for those actions. The statement is deeply moving. It may be cited by historians in a hundred years.

In calling for the need to learn from the lessons of history, Merkel’s linking of the crimes committed by Germany under Hitler and Russia’s actions in the Ukraine, while subtle, was extraordinarily evocative.

Unfortunately, an English translation has not yet been published on the German government’s website.

At the press conference, Putin also delivered extended remarks defending the Molotov-von Ribbentrop Pact, which in a secret protocol partitioned Poland and divided other East Uropean countries in “spheres of influence” of the two countries. Putin did not mention the secret protocol.

Kerry in Sochi

For background and analysis, see “Obama’s endless incompetence in foreign policy: Kerry to travel to Russia to meet with Putin and Lavrov in Sochi,” The Trenchant Observer, May 11, 2015.

At a news conference in Sochi on May 12, 2014, following his meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin, Secretary of State John Kerry said that if the Minsk II agreement of February 12, 2015 were implemented, sanctions against Russia could be lifted. No mention was made of the Crimea. Kerry obseqiously thanked Putin for his time.

For the transcript of Kerry’s and Lavrov’s remarks before the press in Sochi, click here.

In short, the U.S. would be willing to lift sanctions with Russian military forces still occupying the Ukrainian territory of the Crimea.

As for Germany, well, not so sure.

Absent a change of course by Moscow, the key issue for the normalization of relations with Russia any time in the foreseeable future, is whether NATO, the EU and other allies are willing to look the other way on the issue of the Crimea.

While it might be easy for the U.S. which no konger takes international law seriously, as that term is understood in the rest of the world, to ignore the small matter of the Russian conquest of the Crimea by force, EU and other NATO members may take a far different view, once they really focus on the issue and its consequences.

In the Observer’s view, “business as usual” with Russia will not be possible so long as the Crimea is occupied by Russian troops.

The only way out of this situation would be some kind of a U.N. Authority overseeing the region for a period of years, followed by a genuinely free plebiscite on the future of the peninsula in which all of its residents and former residents at the time of the February, 2014 Russian invasion were able to vote.

We had better start breaking this news to Vladimir Putin.

The Trenchant Observer

Obama’s endless incompetence in foreign policy: Kerry to travel to Russia to meet with Putin and Lavrov in Sochi

Monday, May 11th, 2015

How can we win, if (Putin) is boxing, and we are playing chess?”
Lech Walensa

It was announced today in Washington that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Sochi on Tuesday to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in order to discuss the Ukraine, peace negotiations in Syria, and the nuclear deal with Iran.

See Felicia Schwartz, “Kerry to Meet With Putin in Russia on Tuesday; Meeting would be first Cabinet-level U.S. visit to Russia since start of crisis in Ukraine, Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2015 (12:26 p.m.).

Two days after the West’s successful boycott of Putin’s Victory Parade in Moscow, the gigantic egos that inhabit the White House and on occasion the Seventh Floor of the State Department have broken ranks with Europe, rushing to the Aggressor’s lair in Sochi to meet with Putin and Lavrov.

Has Kerry taken too many airplane flights, absorbed too many cosmic rays, and spent so little time connecting the dots that he actually thinks he can “pressure” the Russians into changing course in the Ukraine, with his silver tongue?

Or that he can persuade Putin to force al-Assad to enter peace negotiations, and as a result of his own personal diplomatic brilliance agree to negotiations in Syria—a country torn asunder by al-Assad’s war cimes, crimes against humanity and other depradations, and compounded by the competing barbarism of ISIS or the Islamic State group?

Or that, following the recent conclusion of a framework agreement for the final nuclear deal with Iran by June 30, his personal intervention with Putin is needed to seal the deal?

If so, perhaps he has had too many red carpet treatments on his endless diplomatic travels, as a white knight on a shining white horse who must show up in every capital and personally intervene for any agreement on anything to be reached.

Are there no other capable diplomats and ambassadors who Kerry might use to negotiate with foreign leaders and execute foreign policy?

Let us examine again the proffered reasons for the trip:

(1) To discuss the hard work of securing compliance with the Minsk II agreement of February 12, 2015 with Putin, who is directly responsible for repeatedly violating its terms, with thousands of Russian troops fighting in the Donbas region of the Eastern Ukraine, i.e., to further pursue appeasement of the invading Russian Bear.

How can such discussions ever be fruitful, so long as Putin denies the presence of Russian troops in the eastern Ukraine?

They are the problem. How can that problem be solved so long as its very existence is denied?

What we have here is more talk, no actions, in the face of Russian aggression. And to add insult to injury, Obama and Kerry agree to hold the meeting in Russia instead of on neutral ground.

Words will not change Russia’s actions, as anyone who has followed events in the Ukraine for the last 15 months will understand. One should recall Kerry’s April 17, 2014 agreement in Geneva with Lavrov, the EU and the Ukraine, whose terms were violated with increasing intensity immediately following the agreement, or the January 21, 2015 agreement between Kerry and Lavrov and others to withdraw heavy weapons from the front lines, as their use by Russia and its puppet “separatists” intensified.

Is the Crimea on the agenda in Sochi? If not, why not, and what will Putin gather from the omission?

The principal effect of the Sochi meeting will be to weaken Russia’s isolation from the West.

Kerry has failed to grasp the fundamental difference between German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s meeting with Putin on May 10, and his own rush to see Putin in Sochi. Merkel, as the leader of the country that devastated Russia in World War II, had a unique reason for commemorating the soldiers who died at German hands, a highly symbolic action aimed at the reconciliation of two peoples. By not attending the Victory Parade on June 9, the Chancellor struck just the right balance.

Kerry has no such imperative reason to go to see Putin. His visit is ill-considered. In its aftermath, we can expect to see an increasing number of presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers meeting with Putin and the Russians.

In short, Kerry will be responsible for breaking the isolation of Putin, which is one of the few things which, over time, might cause him to consider a change of course.

(2) To continue to “work through the Russians” to find a solution to the civil war in Syria, despite the evidence of the last four years of the futility of such an approach in the absence of actions on the ground;

(3) To discuss the nuclear deal with Iran.

For a devastating critique of Obama’s approach to negotiating the final nuclear deal with Iran, see

Josef Joffe, “Im Bomben-Basar; Teheran zeigt den USA, was wahre Verhandlungskunst ist,” Die Zeit, 15. Abril 2015 (08:00 Uhr).

Apparently we live in an age where no one remembers anything, when unbounded egos vie for a chance to talk to the Great Dictator and Aggressor of Russia, whose plight is greatly eased by the divided leadership of the West, and the pacifists and appeasers who continue to oppose a policy of hard containment of Russia’s military aggression.

Historians will weep at the manifest stupidity and illusory nature of the hopes these actions pursue.

The primary reason for Kerry’s visit to see Putin in Russia appears to be personal vanity, and an exalted view that he, John Kerry, can make significant progress with Putin by speaking words to him in his physical presence.

Yet if there is one truth that emerges from recent years of dealing with Putin in Syria and the Ukraine, it is that Putin is never moved by threats or words, only by actions.

At the same time, Putin’s and Lavrov’s agreements are not worth the paper they are written on.

So, once again, we see the unending incompetence of Obama and his foreign policy team at work. Kerry goes to see Putin, in Russia, breaking his isolation, and for what? Absolutely nothing.

This is what we can expect from Obama’s foreign policy team in the remaing year and a half of his administration.

An endemic failure to connect the dots.

A dogged determination to avoid any actions on the ground that might anger Russia, as in the Ukraine (e.g., arming the government’s forces with lethal weapons).

A failure to lead the Atlantic Alliance and the EU in responding to Russian threats and aggression, including a failure to maintain unity among NATO and EU member states in dealing with Putin.

Indeed, how can we beat Putin, “if he is boxing and we are playing chess?”

The Trenchant Observer

REPRISE: Kiev caves in to Russian military threats, offering far-reaching concessions in eastern Ukraine; Pacifism and appeasement grip Wasington and Europe; First signs of Russian military intervention appear, as troops on border are poised to strike

Saturday, February 7th, 2015

Originally published April 12, 2014

The Atmosphere in Washington

On Saturday, April 12, The New York Times did not have a story (or even a reference) on its front page on the Ukraine.

The Wall Street Journal, however, in a superb article by Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes, published a penetrating account of the extent to which top U.S. civilian and military leaders are in the grip of President Obama’s pacifism and approach of appeasement.

See Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes, “U.S. Tries to Help Ukraine, Reassure Allies Without Riling Russia; Obama Administration, NATO Face Quandary as They Plan Response to Moscow’s Annexation of Crimea, April 12, 2014.

Entous and Barnes offer a few illustrative examples:

(1) Seeking to demonstrate strong American support for Ukraine, U.S. military planners considered using Air Force planes to ferry food rations to outnumbered and underequipped Ukrainian troops facing superior Russian forces across the border.

Pentagon leaders settled instead for a less-conspicuous operation: They sent the promised meals-ready-to-eat, or MREs, in commercial trucks from storehouses in Germany.

(2) “Ukrainian forces got the MREs late last month, about two weeks after requesting aid. The White House says it is still reviewing other items on Kiev’s wish-list, including medical kits, uniforms, boots and military socks.

“‘You want to calibrate your chest-thumps,” a senior military official said of the step-by-step American response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military moves. “He does something else in Ukraine, we release the socks.'”

Yatsenyuk’s Offer on of Sweeping Concessions, and Escalating Unrest in the East

Meanwhile, in Donetsk on Friday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, in a move signaling a cave-in to Russian pressures and military threats–as few signs suggested that the West would support the Ukraine in defending its territory against a second Russian invasion–offered concessions so broad that they would undermine the unity and sovereignty of the Ukrainian state, if they were ever accepted and implemented.

Protesters, however, seem to be following a different script, dictated by Moscow. An escalating wave of seizures of government buildings by armed protesters continued on Saturday, promising to make the holding of Ukrainian national elections on May 25 all but untenable in the eastern parts of the country where the protests are centered.

The Guardian has provided an overview of the latest developments in the Ukraine, including the concessions offered by Yatsenyuk in Donetsk on Friday:

Protesters in Donetsk have called on Russia to deploy peacekeepers to facilitate a referendum on independence by 11 May.

Yatsenyuk did not agree to a referendum but suggested the system of regional administrations appointed by the president should be replaced by executive committees elected by regional parliaments, which would have “all financial, economic, administrative and other powers to control the corresponding region”.

He also recommended that the parliament approve legislation that would change the constitution to allow for local referendums, a move strongly supported by the leaders of the Donetsk occupation.

Yatsenyuk said changes to the country’s constitution should be approved before a presidential election planned for 25 May that the Kiev regime has said will fully legitimise the new government.

–Alec Luhn in Donetsk, Oksana Grytsenko in Luhansk and agencies, “Ukraine fails to break stalemate with pro-Russian protesters in east; Arseniy Yatsenyuk promises devolution to local government in hope of staving off demands for their independence from Kiev,” The Guardian, Friday 11 April 2014 (15.03 EDT).

The tactics being used are from the Crimea playbook, with reported escalations today (Saturday, April 12) involving military units not wearing military insignia.

See Gregory L. White and Lukas I. Alpert, “Pro-Russian Protests Spread in Eastern Ukraine; Armed Men in Military-Style Uniforms Move to Commandeer Government Offices, Wall Street Journal, April 12, 2014 (updated 7:23 p.m. ET) .

White and Alpert report:

Witnesses said the men who took over the buildings in Slavyansk weren’t the local activists who had led protests in the region in recent weeks.

Instead, they appeared better-equipped and trained, carrying military-style gear and weapons, but with no insignia on their camouflage uniforms.

Such descriptions were similar to the thousands of troops who moved into and took over Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula last month, leading quickly to Russia’s annexation. Those troops were later confirmed to be Russian, though Moscow never officially admitted that.

See also:

“Kämpfe in mehreren Städten der Ostukraine; Im Osten der Ukraine bekämpfen sich prorussische Aktivisten und Sicherheitskräfte. Präsident Alexander Turtschinow berief für den Abend den nationalen Sicherheitsrat ein,”Die Zeit, .”12. April 2014 (19:20 Uhr).

The growing protests and incipient violence appear to be setting the stage for Russian military intervention, by the 40,000-80,000 troops that have been mobilized in preparation for such action.

The Diplomatic Front

On the diplomatic front, Russia is playing the same delaying game it played in Syria, talking of diplomatic solutions and illusory “agreements”, while gaining time for other kinds of solutions produced by the use of military force on the ground.

The strategy has been successful in Syria, and it should come as no surprise that the Russians are following a similar script in their diplomacy vis-à-vis the Ukraine.

The near-constant diplomatic contacts between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Secretary of State John Kerry, and others, serve two important Russian purposes.

First, they allow the Kremlin to monitor with great precision the intentions and potential actions of the at times compulsively transparent Obama administration, and its Western allies.

Second, they offer excellent opportunities to divide the Western countries by planting false seeds of hope. For example, Lavrov offered earnest reassurances to Kerry that Russia had no intention of violating the territorial integrity of the Ukraine, only days before the Russian invasion of that country. Similarly, Russian President Vladimir Putin assured German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Russian troops on the border with Ukraine would be withdrawn (or significantly reduced). No such drawdown has occurred, and indeed the build-up has continued.

A similar hope, in all likelihood also illusory, has been offered that if the West does not anger Russian President Vladimir Putin by its responses to Russia’s actions, he will not invade the eastern Ukraine.

Under current circumstances, it is a very bad idea for the U.S. and the EU to meet with Russia on April 17 to discuss the Ukraine’s fate, even with the Ukraine also participating.

See The Trenchant Observer, “Munich II: The meeting in Geneva between the U.S., the EU, the Ukraine and Russia, April 11, 2014.

The meeting, to find a “diplomatic solution” to “the “Ukrainian Crisis” provides Russia with an excellent opportunity to continue its strategy of deception and delay, dividing the West and offering illusory hopes to defuse the momentum for the adoption of any serious responses.

John Kerry, Sergey Lavrov, Catherine Ashton of the EU, and the Ukraine will meet in a context in which only Russia can gain, either by securing “Munich II”-style concessions from the West at the expense of the Ukraine, or by sowing division and doubt among the countries of the West.

Yatsenyuk’s proffered concessions on April 11 suggest that “Munich II”-style concessions are already being crafted, probably under pressure from the U.S. and the EU.

The Costs of Further Delay in Imposing Really Significant Sanctions

Further delay by the West in taking military steps and adopting really meaningful “third-stage” sanctions (such as a ban on financial transactions with Russia and/or a freezing of Russian assets in the West) will enable Russia to proceed with its destabilization of the eastern Ukraine and what may be its plan to have local “referendums” held on May 9, Russia’s Victory Day (celebrating the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War II). Demands for such referendums are now being heard from pro-Russian protesters.

The Russians are following Adolf Hitler’s playbook for the Anschluss with Austria and the annexation of the Sudetenland to the letter. The first took place on March 12, 1938. The second took place six months later, with the approval of France and Great Britain at Munich on September 30, 1938.

See
“Is Putin like Hitler?” The Trenchant Observer, April 4, 2014.

“Putin’s seizure of the Crimea and Hitler’s seizure of the Sudetenland: The comparison is accurate,” April 1, 2014.

Because of the complexity and time-consuming nature of EU and NATO decision processes (unanimity is required, in both cases), only the U.S. is in a position to lead and to act quickly.

The additional sanctions announced by Obama on April 11, 2014 (adding seven individuals and a major Crimean gas company seized by the Russians to those on the list of targeted sanctions) represent small steps in the right direction. But no one should imagine for an instant that they are sufficiently serious to affect Russia’s decisions, including any which may have already been made to invade the Ukraine for a second time.

The United States and the West are speaking the language of peace and reason. Russia is speaking the language of war and military action on the ground.

If only Obama and his “groupthink” coterie could come to their senses, grasp these realities, and react with forceful actions that are executed, not threatened, much might still be salvaged from the current debacle. After the invasion and annexation of the Crimea one would think they might have learned a thing or two.

But the roots of pacifism grow deep, and it is not easy for those who are committed to appeasement to discern–much less react to–realities which are dramatically changing, hour by hour, on the ground.

The Trenchant Observer

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Observateur Incisif
El Observador Incisivo

Russian military intervention in the Ukraine: THE FACTS

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

NATO and Western nations charges that Russia has invaded the Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Russian President Ladimir Putin and the propanda mouthpieces under him, including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, deny that Russia has intervened militarily in the Ukraine.

In determing who is right, it is useful to take a look at the facts while remembering each party’s record of veracity as regards the Ukraine.

See:

(1) Konrad Schuller und Friedrich Schmidt, “Ukraine: Ein offenes Staatsgeheimnis; Von Anfang an spielten Russlands Soldaten im Konflikt in der Ukraine eine entscheidende Rolle. Selbst in Moskau wird deren Engagement nur noch heruntergespielt, aber nicht mehr geleugnet,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 22. November 2014.

(2) Reinhard Veser, Russische Tatsachen; Der Kreml ist am Krieg in der Ukraine beteiligt, das bestätigen auch die Separatisten ganz offen. Wer das noch leugnet, verschließt die Augen vor den Tatsachen,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 22. November 2014.

The Trenchant Observer

Pacifism and appeasement towards Russia in Germany, Europe, and the United States

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

In Europe, the fact that Angela Merkel and other leaders continue to meet with Vladimir Putin and Sergey Lavrov itself speaks volumes about the fact they have nothing but talk and further appeasement of Russia to offer.

In the asymmetric war between Putin’s tanks and the West’s economic weapons, not understanding that the struggle is already on, they refuse to apply further sanctions against Russia.

Meanwhile, they have taken no binding measures to halt the delivery to Russia by Francois Hollande and France of “The Vladilovstok” — a Mistral-class attack warship and area command and control system representing a 10-year technological advantage over Russia. The ship is in Ste. Navaire, the Russian crew has been trained, and we can expect the ship to slip away under Russian command any day now.

Neither the EU nor NATO nor individual NATO member states have taken any concrete measures to prevent this delivery from taking place. In all likelihood, it will soon be a fait accompli.

At the G-20 summit in Brisbane, Australia this last weekend, German Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared to talk tough to Putin in public, but it turned out to be just talk.

Later that evening, in fact, she engaged in a private four-hour meeting with Putin on the Ukraine. Details were not forthcoming.

The outcome?

More talk, more efforts to find magic formula that will placate the Russian aggressor, Vladimir Putin. This is the evidence that emerged following foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s visits to Kiev and Moscow, where he met with Sergey Lavrov and also Vladimir Putin, on November 18.

Merkel and her foreign minister are lost, with no further ideas for action beyond trying to use more words to talk Putin out of his current aggression in the Ukraine.

On Steinmeier’s meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow, see,

Pilar Bonet (Moscu), “Rusia y Alemania quieren obligar a Kiev y los separatistas a pactar; Ambos países coinciden en que el fin de la guerra en Ucrania requiere acomodar los intereses de las partes en un Estado común,” 18 Noviembre 2014 (20:32 CET).

Julia Smirnova, “Steinmeier sieht Europa vor der Spaltung Außenminister Steinmeier ringt in Kiew und in Moskau um Entspannung in der Ukraine-Krise, doch optimistisch ist er nicht. Die Nato berichtet derweil von weiteren Truppenbewegungen Russlands,” Die Welt, 18. November 2014.

Alison Smale, “Germany’s Foreign Minister, a Man in the Middle; Frank-Walter Steinmeier Meets With Vladimir Putin,” New York Tims, November 19, 2014.

Putin can relax. The Europeans aren’t going to do anything to stop his ongoing military intervention in the Donbas, much less to get him to disgorge the Crimea.

The Americans, for their part, are following the Europeans’ “lead”, such as it is, which means they aren’t even in the game.

They are certainly not leading the NATO alliance, which increasingly appears to be little more than a relic of the last cold war.

Putin has invaded the Ukraine twice, annexing the Crimea, but still NATO members can’t even see their way to abrogating the 1997 partnership agreement with Russia.

They cling to illusions and past dreams which are now dead, ignoring the harsh and threatening facts and realities on the ground. Every threat is transformed into a quest for political consensus, without focusing on the real effectiveness of the response which emerges from this political process.

Imagine! They are not yet agreed on the urgency of stationing large numbers of NATO troops on the eastern front bordering Russia! They insist on complying with the 1997 partnership agreement with Russia, long after the latter has rendered its obligations into mere scraps of torn-up papers lying on the ground.

In Europe, the pacifists and appeasers remain firmly in control. Expect Putin to move swiftly on Mariupol and to continue building his land bridge to the Crimea, as soon as attention is diverted from the Ukraine or the will of the West to oppose his aggression is weakened even further still. He can sit and wait until the circumstances are propitious.

As for the United States, President Barack Obama has recently conceded in his words that Russia’s actions in the Ukraine go beyond an “incursion”. But don’t expect any action to follow that verbal adjustment, or leadership from him, or any real economic sanctions that would significantly increase the pressure on Russia.

See Mark Landler, “Obama Says Russia’s Arming of Separatists Breaks Pact With Ukraine,” New York Times, November 16, 2014. he reports:

BRISBANE, Australia — President Obama edged closer to describing Russia’s military incursions in Ukraine as an invasion, saying on Sunday that the Western campaign to isolate Moscow would continue, though additional sanctions were unnecessary for now.

Speaking to reporters at the end of the annual meeting of the Group of 20, an organization of 19 industrial and emerging-market countries along with the European Union, Mr. Obama said the Russians were supplying heavy arms to separatists in Ukraine in violation of an agreement Russia signed with Ukraine a few weeks ago.

“We’re also very firm on the need to uphold core international principles,” he said, “and one of those principles is you don’t invade other countries or finance proxies and support them in ways that break up a country that has mechanisms for democratic elections.”

Note the juxtaposition between the fact that Russian tanks, artillery and troops have been pouring into the eastern Ukraine, and the fact that Obama sees no need for further economic sanctions at this time.

Such statements make one wonder, eight months after the Russian invasion of the Crimea, and three months after the intensified Russian invasion with regular troops of the eastern Ukraine, whether Obama is “the smartest man in the room”, or rather “the slowest kid in the class”.

In the Middle East, Obama has demonstrated that he is impotent to restrain Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel from pouring oil on the fire by building new settlements in response to terrorist attacks by Palestinians, or to restrain the latter, as the downward spiral of violence continues, unchecked.

With respect to the Islamic State, Obama refuses to introduce combat forces that would empower the battle from the air to be truly effective, sticking to his mantra of “no combat troops” for Iraq. Still, they will eventually have to be sent in. The costs of delay will be high.

In general, at present the United States cannot be viewed as dealing from a position of strength in its foreign affairs. Nonetheless, Obama is hoping to conclude a historic agreement with Iran on the nuclear issue. An important part of the proposed solution will depend on Russia repeocessing Iranian fuel.

This is the world we live in. There are no real leaders in major powers who are willing to act to turn back, or even halt, Russian aggression in the Ukraine.

Putin will continue his “salami technique” approach to gaining control of territory in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, and beyond.

A new Iron Curtain is descending across the face of Europe, as a new Cold War is gathering momentum.

Current governments in Europe and the United States appear unwilling to act to halt Russian advances. Putin won’t be stopped until, in the West, something “clicks”. When that might happen, not even Putin can know.

It may fall to the governments that follow those of the present appeasers to take energetic action to contain the Russians, militarily, economically, and politically.

By then, the costs and the efforts that will be required will have assumed much larger dimensions.

Along the way, accidents could happen, perhaps plungimg countries into war — with nuclear weapons in reserve.

In the meantime, there is little we citizens can do other than to sound the alarm, while trying to maintain a clear-eyed view of the turbulent forces that are sweeping down upon us.

Replacing pacifists and appeasers with real leaders to defend the West’s most sacred values

Then, as soon as we have the opportunity, we can replace the pacifists and appeasers who lead us today with real leaders, men and women who will stand up and fight to defend our most sacred values.

These values include the fundamental principles of the United Nations Charter, such as the prohibition of the threat or use of force across international frontiers, compliance with treaties and other norms of international law, and the promotion and defense of the rule of law, including the protection of fundamental human rights in places like the Donbas, the Ukraine, and even Russia itself.

It is the age-old struggle between tyranny and freedom, between democracy and dictatorship, between the ideology of freedom and democracy on the one hand, and that of dictatorship upheld by guns and a boot upon the neck, on the other.

Generations of Europeans and Americans have fought in this struggle, which has progressed to a point where democracy and freedom have become the dominant ideology in the world.

Moreover, one thing has changed in this age of the Internet: We are all connected now.

Vladimir Putin will not turn back this tide.

One day the Maidan will also come to Red Square.

We await only the leaders of this generation who understand these values, and who will lead us in defending them as their impact spreads throughout the world.

The Trenchant Observer

Steinmeier-Lavrov Meeting in Moscow: “Sergej Wiktorowitsch (Lawrow), Du, du liegst mir im Herzen, Du, Du machst mir viel Shmerzen, weisst nicht wie gut ich dir bin”

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

Steinmeier und Lawrow duzen sich!

[German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speak to each other with the familian “du” form of address, and on a first-name basis.]

Siehe / See,

Julia Smirnova, “Steinmeier sieht Europa vor der Spaltung Außenminister Steinmeier ringt in Kiew und in Moskau um Entspannung in der Ukraine-Krise, doch optimistisch ist er nicht. Die Nato berichtet derweil von weiteren Truppenbewegungen Russlands,” Die Welt, 18. November 2014.

Smirnova berichtet das Folgendes:
[Smirnova reports the following:]

Ein Treffen mit dem russischen Präsidenten war beim Besuch des Bundesaußenministers Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Moskau zunächst nicht vorgesehen. Doch plötzlich wollte der Kreml-Chef ihn persönlich sprechen.

Die Besonderheit von deutsch-russischen Beziehungen betonte der russische Außenminister Sergej Lawrow schon zu Beginn seines Treffens mit Steinmeier in einer Villa im Zentrum von Moskau. Er duzte ihn und nannte beim Vornamen: “Ich schätze es, dass du, Frank, bei deiner Belastung Interesse an unserem Treffen zeigst.”

Dieser Bericht lasst man nachdenken, sich verwundern uber das Treffen, und sich vorstellen was anders die zwei Diplomaten auch sich duzend gesagt hatten:

[This report makes one reflect, wonder about the meeting, and imagine what else the two diplomats might have said to each other, speaking with “du”.]

Vielleicht hätte Steinmeier gesungen,
[Maybe Steinmeier sang,]

Du, du liegst mir im Herzen
du, du liegst mir im Sinn.
Du, du machst mir viel Schmerzen,
weißt nicht wie gut ich dir bin.
Ja, ja, ja, ja, weißt nicht wie gut ich dir bin.

So, so wie ich dich liebe
so, so liebe auch mich.
Die, die zärtlichsten Triebe
fühle ich ewig für dich.
Ja, ja, ja, ja, fühle ich ewig für dich.

Doch, doch darf ich dir trauen
dir, dir mit leichtem Sinn?
Du, du kannst auf mich bauen
weißt ja wie gut ich dir bin!
Ja, ja, ja, ja, weißt ja wie gut ich dir bin!

Und, und wenn in der Ferne,
mir, mir dein Bild erscheint,
dann, dann wünscht ich so gerne
daß uns die Liebe vereint.
Ja, ja, ja, ja, daß uns die Liebe vereint.

“Du, du, Sergej Wiktorowitsch,
du, du liegst mir im Herzen,
Du, du liegst mir im Sinn,
du, du machst mir viel Shmerzen,
Weisst nicht wie gut ich dir bin.
ja, ja, ja, ja
Weisst nicht wie gut ich dir bin.

[English translation of the original:

You, you are in my heart.
you, you are in my mind.
You, you cause me much pain,
You don’t know how good I am for you.
Yes, yes, yes, yes you don’t know how good I am for you.

So, as I love you
so, so love me too.
The most tender desires
I alone feel only for you.
Yes, yes, yes, yes, I alone feel only for you.

But, but may I trust you
you, you with a light heart?
You, you know you can rely on me
You do know how good for you I am!
Yes, yes, yes, yes you do know how good for you I am!

And, and if in the distance,
it seems to me like your picture,
then, then I wish so much
that we were united in love.
Yes, yes, yes, yes, that we were united in love.]

You, you, Sergey Victorovich,
You, you are in my heart.
you, you are in my mind.
You, you cause me much pain,
You don’t know how good I am for you.
Yes, yes, yes, yes you don’t know how good I am for you.

Oder vielleicht hätte Steinmeier gesungen,
[Or maybe Steinmeier sang,]

“Ach, du lieber Sergej Wiktorowitsch,
Alles ist hin.
Geld ist weg,
Maidl’s weg,
Ukraine’s weg,
Alles weg,
Alles ist hin.

“Ach, du lieber Sergej Wiktorowitsch,
Hor mal auf den Krieg zu fuhren,
Hor mal auf dein Krieg gegen die Ukraine
zu fuhren,
Damit wir immer Freunde bleiben
und diese schone Lieder singen konnen,
Bitte, mein lieber Sergej,
Hor mal auf den Krieg zu fuhren.

“Ach, du lieber Kriegsverbrecher,
Ach, du lieber Kriegsverbrecher,
Hor mal auf den Krieg zu fuhren,
Hor mal auf dein Krieg gegen die Ukraine
zu fuhren,
Damit wir immer Freunde bleiben
und so diese schone Lieder
immer singen konnen.
Bitte, mein lieber Sergej,
Hor mal auf den Krieg zu fuhren.

Ach, du lieber Sergej Wiktorowitsch,
Alles ist hin.
Krim ist weg,
Donezk’s weg,
Lugansk’s weg,
Alles weg,
Ach, du lieber Sergej Wiktorowitsch,
Alles is hin.

Krim ist weg,
Donbass’s weg,
Alles weg,
Alles ist hin.”

[English translation of original, “:Ach du lieber Augustin”, as adapted:

Money’s gone,
girlfriend’s gone,
Ukraine’s gone,
All is lost, Sergey Victorovich!
O, you dear Sergey Victorovich,
All is lost!

Oh, you dear Sergey Victorovich,
Stop now making war,
Stop now making your war against
the Ukraine,
So we can always remain friends
and can sing these beautiful songs,
Please, my dear Sergey,
Stop now making war.

Oh, my dear war criminal,
Oh, my dear war criminal,
Stop now making war,
Stop now making your war against
the Ukraine,
So we can always remain friends
and can always sing these beautiful songs,
Please, my dear Sergey,
Stop now making war.

Oh, my dear Sergej Wiktorowitsch,
All is lost!
The Crimea is gone,
Donetsk is gone,
Lugansk is gone,
All is lost!
Oh, my dear Sergey Victorovich,
All is lost!

Crimea is gone,
Donbass is gone,
All is gone,
All is lost!]

Der scharfsinniger Beobachter
(The Trenchant Observer)

Putin at G-20 in Brisbane: Shun the Aggressor!

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Latest Developments and Overview of Situation Regarding Ukraine

See:

(1) Julia Smirvova, “Die Angst vor der Eskalation in der Ostukraine,” Die Welt, 14. November 2014.(Aktualisiert um 9:54 Uhr)

Kämpfer in Uniform strömen über die russische Grenze in die Ostukraine, die Separatisten rücken vor. Russland nennt das “propagandistische Fälschung”. Merkel zeigt sich sehr besorgt.

(2) “Vor dem G20-Gipfel: Nato-Chef greift Putin scharf an,” Der Spiegel, 14. November 2014 (7:09 Uhr).

Die Waffenruhe in der Ostukraine ist gebrochen. Der Westen gibt Russlands Präsidenten die Schuld – überraschend geht Nato-Generalsekretär Stoltenberg jetzt Putin persönlich an. Beim G20-Gipfel wird Kanzlerin Merkel wohl wieder eine Schlüsselrolle zukommen.

(3) “Go for Putin!”, The Trenchant Observer, November 13, 2014.

(4) “Merkel points to needed approach toward Putin,” The Trenchant Observer, October 19, 2014. The text follows:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in a striking photograph showing her pointing sharply at Vladimir Putin, has offered a powerful symbol of the attitude the West and other civilized countries should adopt toward the Russian dictator:

–Call him out for his aggression in the Crimea and the eastern Ukraine, at every meeting, and every time he speaks.

–Earnestly rebut every argument Putin and his foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, make to justify their seizure and annexation of the Crimea, and their invasion of the eastern Ukraine.

–Don’t let Putin and Russia forget, not even for a moment, that none of their arguments and lies have any persuasive power, given the lies they have told and the ongoing Russian aggression against the Ukraine—in open and flagrant violation of the prohibition of the threat or use of force contained in Article 2 paragraph 4 of the U.N. Charter and mandatory or peremptory international law (jus cogens)

–Be as relentless as Putin and Lavrov and any other Russian official or propaganda mouthpiece in defending the most basic values of the civilized nations of the world, embodied in the U.N. Charter’s fundamental principles and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

–Follow Winston Churchill’s advice to the graduating class at his high school after World War II: “Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.”

See the photograph of Merkel pointing at Putin, and the context, in the article below:

LAURENCE NORMAN and GIOVANNI LEGORANO in Milan and JAMES MARSON in Moscow, “Leaders Make Little Progress in Ukraine Crisis Talks; Merkel, Putin Spar Over Crimea in ‘Terse’ Exchange,” Wall Street Journal, Updated Oct. 17, 2014(2:37 p.m. ET).

The Trenchant Observer

Merkel points to needed approach toward Putin

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in a striking photograph showing her pointing sharply at Vladimir Putin, has offered a powerful symbol of the attitude the West and other civilized countries should adopt toward the Russian dictator:

–Call him out for his aggression in the Crimea and the eastern Ukraine, at every meeting, and every time he speaks.

–Earnestly rebut every argument Putin and his foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, make to justify their seizure and annexation of the Crimea, and their invasion of the eastern Ukraine.

–Don’t let Putin and Russia forget, not even for a moment, that none of their arguments and lies have any persuasive power, given the lies they have told and the ongoing Russian aggression against the Ukraine—in open and flagrant violation of the prohibition of the threat or use of force contained in Article 2 paragraph 4 of the U.N. Charter and mandatory or peremptory international law (jus cogens)

–Be as relentless as Putin and Lavrov and any other Russian official or propaganda mouthpiece in defending the most basic values of the civilized nations of the world, embodied in the U.N. Charter’s fundamental principles and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

–Follow Winston Churchill’s advice to the graduating class at his high school after World War II:

“Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.”

See the photograph of Merkel pointing at Putin, and the context, in the article below:

LAURENCE NORMAN and GIOVANNI LEGORANO in Milan and JAMES MARSON in Moscow, “Leaders Make Little Progress in Ukraine Crisis Talks; Merkel, Putin Spar Over Crimea in ‘Terse’ Exchange,” Wall Street Journal, Updated Oct. 17, 2014(2:37 p.m. ET).

The Trenchant Observer

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

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Developing

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

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

Why should the West do that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

International law must be upheld.

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

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

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

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

Russia has not halted that support.

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

The Trenchant Observer