Posts Tagged ‘The Trenchant Observer’

REPRISE: Dare anyone say it? “We applaud the courage of the Ukrainian government and people in defending public order and the sovereignty and territorial independence of the Ukraine” — with latest news updates

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

In what may be a turning point in efforts to defend the country’s territorial integrity and repel Russia’s aggression and military intervention in the eastern Ukraine by special forces, intelligence operatives, and so-called Russian “volunteers” under their direction and control, Ukrainian forces have retaken Sloviansk and Kramatorsk and are pressing foreward with their “anti-terrorist” campaign. The so-called “separatists” withdrew first from Sloviansk to Kramatorsk, and then shortly thereafter from Kramatorsk to Donetsk.

See:

(1) Pilar Bonnet, “Los prorrusos acusan a Putin de traicionarles para mantener su poder; Los rebeldes creen que Rusia les abandona para evitar el conflicto con Occidente, El Pais, 6 de Julio 2014 (22:49 CEST).

(2) “Regierungstruppen wollen Donezk und Luhansk belagern
Die ukrainische Armee will die Städte Donezk und Luhansk blockieren und die Separatisten zur Kapitulation zwingen. Diese haben heftigen Widerstand angekündigt,” Die Zeit, 6. Juli 2014, 6. Juli 2014 (20:28 Uhr).

(3) Ukraine-Krise: Armee rückt auf Millionenstadt Donezk vor; Die Rebellenhochburg Slowjansk ist schon erobert – nun nähert sich das ukrainische Militär der Metropole Donezk. Dort halten sich prorussische Milizen zu Tausenden verschanzt. Es droht ein Belagerungszustand,” Der Spiegel, 6. Juli 2014 (17:48 Uhr).

(4) Le Monde avec AFP et Reuter, “Les forces ukrainiennes progressent vers Donetsk,” 6 Juillet 2014 (Mis à jour à 23h09)–avec carte / with map.

(5) Benoît Vitkine (Sloviansk, envoyé spécial), “Ukraine: le récit de la chute de Sloviansk, tournant de la guerre entre l’armée et les séparatistes,” Le Monde 06 Juillet 2014 (Mis à jour à 11h09)

(6) Alan Cullison (in Sloviansk) and Philip Shishkin (in Donetsk), “Ukrainian Government Troops Target Further Gains in East; Separatist Leaders Say Evacuation From Slovyansk Was Strategic,” Wall Street Journal, July 6, 2014 (Updated 11:51 a.m. ET).

(7) “A day in Sloviansk after liberation,” Kviv Post, July 6, 2014 (6:05 p.m.)(with photos).

REPRISE: Dare anyone say it? “We applaud the courage of the Ukrainian government and people in defending public order and the sovereignty and territorial independence of the Ukraine”

First published on May 3, 2014

In the face of Russian aggression, in the last few days the Ukrainian government has shown great courage in defending public order, and the territorial integrity, political independence and sovereignty of their nation.

Their courageous actions should make the authors of the cowardly responses of the West and the broader international community feel deeply ashamed. For the latter have merely paid lip service to the defense of freedom, human rights and international law, while engaging in a policy of pacifism and appeasement in the face of blatant Russian aggression.

Nor is the duty to act to uphold the U.N. Charter, international law, and the maintenance of international peace and security solely that of the United States and the West. The abstention by Brazil and other countries on the General Assembly resolution condemning the invasion and annexation of the Crimea, for example, will long remain as a black page in the histories of these countries.

The appeasement by the West and other countries is particularly clear with respect to the military invasion and annexation by Russia of the Crimea. These actions have upended the entire postwar international political and legal order. The demands of Western leaders for a restoration of the status quo ante in the Crimea have grown silent, while they have adopted no sanctions which can be realistically viewed as aimed at securing a reversal of the aggression and annexation.

In all communities, the force of law and its deterrent effect weakens when the community whose interests it protects do not act to uphold its norms.

Russia’s invasion and annexation of the Crimea, its attack on the eastern Ukraine through special operations forces and the organization, coordination and direction of pro-Russian militias and armed thugs–taking over public buildings and even towns by armed force, and its continuing threats of military intervention by massing combat-ready troops on the border poised to launch an invasion, have placed the entire postwar military, political and legal order in question in the greatest crisis of this nature since World War II.

Will anyone speak out in praise of the actions of the Ukrainian government, without which Russian aggression would triumph, and the rule of law and protection of the human rights of citizens in the eastern Ukraine would be lost?

Are Western leaders afraid to remind the world each time they speak that Russia has committed aggression in the Crimea and continues fresh acts of aggression in the eastern Ukraine?

Will they not only speak out in defense of international law and human rights, in defense of liberty and the rule of law, but also undertake immediate and concrete measures of a serious nature to come to the defense of the Kiev government and assist it in facing down Russian aggression?

Though Barack Obama and Angela Merkel and other world leaders seem oblivious to the fact, Ukrainian soldiers and security forces are today fighting to uphold the principles of the U.N. Charter and international law which guarantee their security and that of the citizens they represent.

If these leaders can grasp this point, might they not do more, through really significant actions, to aid the Ukraine in its defense of their common values of respect for international law and international human rights?

The future of their countries and of the international political and legal order are in their hands. If they are leaders, and not merely followers of ill-informed public opinions on critical foreign policy matters, can and will they lead?

The Trenchant Observer

Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine continues; Europe refuses serious sanctions; Only serious sanctions can stop Russia

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Developing

For background, see The Trenchant Observer, “The virus of nationalism and military aggression: Adolf Hitler in Vienna, March, 1938; Vladimir Putin in Sevastopol, May 9, 2014,” June 30, 2014.

The article includes video links to Vladimir Putin’s speech to a joint session of Russia’s parliament on March 18, 2014, and to Adolf Hitler’s speech upon his entry into Vienna in 1938, together with links to television programs from Walter Cronkite’s “The Seeds of War” series on the background to World War II.

Russia continues its aggression in the eastern Ukraine, while diplomatic discussions are to continue by Saturday on establishing a cease-fire which is observed by both sides, and other conditions to be met, including the return of border posts to the Ukraine. NATO Supreme Allied Commander Philip Breedlove offers a sobering assessment of what has actually been happening on the ground in the last month while diplomats and heads of state have been talking, negotiating, and essentially dithering. See Rosen, below.

Meanwhile, the iron will of the German Chancellor, and of the French President and other EU heads of state, has in effect foreclosed the imposition of serious, stage-three sanctions on Russia for its continuing aggression. This refusal helps account for the intense diplomacy underway to secure a real ceasefire and a cessation of the Russian invasion and occupation by special forces and others under their control of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. This diplomacy, if not backed by real sanctions, is not likely to succeed. Commercial interests, pacifism, and appeasement remain the leitmotifs of European actions and decisions. See the article in Die Zeit, below.

Stefan Kornelius of the Suddeutsche Zeitung, in a powerful commentary, explains why only serious sanctions can stop Russian aggression in the eastern Ukraine, and convince Putin that a Georgian style solution of frozen conflict is not possible in that country, both because of its size and because of its importance and ties to Europe. See his commentary, below.

The Ongoing Russian Invasion of the Eastern Ukraine

(1) James Rosen, “NATO chief to move forces from U.S. to Europe to respond to Russia in Ukraine,” McClatchy Washington Bureau, July 1, 2014.

Rosen quoted the U.S. Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, Air Force General Philip M. Breedlove, as saying U.S. troops will be moved to Europe in October to help shore up the troops on rotation in the eastern NATO members bordering Russia.

Breedlove said Moscow has supplied pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine with tanks, armored personnel carriers, anti-aircraft artillery and other heavy weapons.

The four-star general, who assumed NATO command last year, said there’s “a very good likelihood” that the anti-aircraft artillery used to shoot down a Ukrainian transport plane June 14, killing all 42 people on board, came from Russia.

“(What) we see in training on the (Russian) side of the border is big equipment, tanks, (armored personnel carriers), anti-aircraft capability, and now we see those capabilities being used on the (Ukrainian) side of the border,” Breedlove said.

Asked how many Russian troops have massed on the Ukraine border, Breedlove responded that there are “seven-plus battalion task groups on the east side of that border,” which would be on the order of 5,000 troops.

The Refusal of the EU to Impose Serious Sanctions

(2) “UKRAINE-KRISE: EU scheut Wirtschaftssanktionen gegen Russland; Die Staats- und Regierungschefs der EU haben ihre Drohung nicht wahr gemacht: Russland muss vorerst keine schwerwiegenden Wirtschaftssanktionen fürchten,” Die Zeit, 1. Juli 2014 (Aktualisiert um 16:00 Uhr).

Only the Imposition of Serious Sanctions Can Move Russia

(3) Sefan Kornelius (Kommentar), “Krise in der Ukraine; Sanktionen sind der einzige Hebel,” Suddeutsche Zeitung, 2. Juli 2014.

Die vergangenen Tage haben es gezeigt: Die Zeit ist nicht reif für einen echten Waffenstillstand. Frieden in der Ukraine kann es nur geben, wenn das Spiel aus Propaganda und Unaufrichtigkeit ein Ende hat. Moskau muss akzeptieren, dass der Osten der Ukraine kein zweites Georgien ist.

Politisch wird sich dieser Krieg nur dann beenden lassen, wenn Russland das Spiel von Lug und Trug aufgibt und den Separatisten sowohl die militärische als auch die politische Basis für ihr Treiben entzieht. Dazu muss Russland einem Ziel glaubwürdig abschwören: Eine Zone dauerhafter Unruhe darf es in der Ostukraine nicht geben.

As for President Barack Obama and the United States, they are nowhere to be found. The U.S. is not even participating in the negotiations, at the foreign minister level, between Germany, France, Russia and the Ukraine. To be sure, given the Obama administration’s performance in the past, this could possibly be a good thing–despite what it says about the quality of current American leadership.

Ironically, the failure of the U.S. and the EU to carry through on their previous threats of serious sanctions has, if anything, emboldened Putin to undertake the brazen military interventionist activities of the last month.

The empty threats of the West seem to have caused him to call the West’s bluff, increasing and amplifying the intensity of his military aggression.

The failure to carry through with these threats, even now, risks further escalation of the conflict by Russia, including overt military intervention to protect ‘Russian people” who need not even be ethnic Russians.

“When I speak of Russians and Russian-speaking citizens,” Mr. Putin said, “I am referring to those people who consider themselves part of the broad Russian community. They may not necessarily be ethnic Russians, but they consider themselves Russian people.”

–See David M Herszenhorn, “Russia Demands New Cease-Fire in Ukraine as Foreign Ministers Seek Path to Peace, New York Time, July 2, 2014, quoting Putin.

The West has simply not bothered to effectively refute this outrageous and unfounded asserted justification under international law of a right to use military force to defend “Russian people”.

Historians will wonder at the fecklessness of today’s leaders in the West, and the lack of concern of leaders in other parts of the world, just as they wondered at the appeasement of Hitler by Britain’s Neville Chamberlain and France’s Edouard Daladier when they agreed to the Munich Pact in 1938, ceding the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia to the Germans.

The Trenchant Observer

The virus of nationalism and military aggression: Adolf Hitler in Vienna, March, 1938; Vladimir Putin in Sevastopol, May 9, 2014

Monday, June 30th, 2014

The virus of unbounded nationalism and military aggression ravaged Europe, Germany and the world in the 1930’s and 1940’s, leading to World War II and its aftermath.

The same virus has reemerged in Europe twice in recent decades, first in Serbia and the former Yugoslavia in the 1990’s, and now again in Russia with its invasion and annexation of the Crimea, and its ongoing invasion of the eastern Ukraine in the areas of Donetsk and Luhansk.

As in the 1930’s, leaders in the West have yielded to pacifism and appeasement, even when not armies but merely severe economic sanctions were involved.

Despite repeated threats of severe, third-stage, sectorial sanctions, Western leaders have again and again backed down in the face of continuing Russian aggression, which each day is shaping facts on the ground.

Repeatedly, they have laid out very specific conditions which must be met in order for Russia to avoid the imposition of such serious sanctions. Each time, Russian President Vladimir Putin has tangled them up in endless negotiations, telephone calls and meetings. Each time, they have backed down in the face of his double game of saying just enough to divert the pressure for serious sanctions, while continuing the relentless pursuit of his strategic objectives on the ground.

Russia intently pursues its military and strategic objectives, while the West is immobilized by the lobbying of big business in favor of their commercial interests–the Republic be damned!–and by the firm grip of pacifism and appeasement on its leaders.

The very groups (National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in particular) whose members are reponsible for the massive off-shoring of American jobs have the incredible chutzpah to argue sanctions should not be imposed on Russia in order to save American jobs.

Barack Obama and the United States are not even involved in the intense discussions between Putin, Francois Hollande, Angela Merkel, and President Petro Petroshenko of the Ukraine. This has to mark the nadir of post-war leadership for the United States.

In France, President Francois Hollande not only invited Putin to Normandy and the Elysee in Paris, but also announced at the time of the D-Day celebrations that France would complete the sale and delivery of two Mistral-class warships, one of which is named “the Sevastopol”! Both will presumably be based in Sevastopol. Russian Navy sailors began training in France this week on how to operate the vessels.

In Germany, after the Russian invasion and annexation of the Crimea, former SPD Chancellor Gerhardt Schroeder quite publicly joined Putin in St Petersburg for Schroeder’s 70th birthday celebration. Former SPD Chancellor Helmut Schmidt has also expressed “understanding” of Putin’s actions in the Crimea and criticized the EU and the West for their reactions.

Now, the absolute conditions which President Barack Obama and European leaders laid down a month ago have undergone a metamorphosis into what has become an agenda to be worked on by Russia and the Ukraine, in “a peace process” (in Secretary of State John Kerry’s unfortunate choice of words).

In other words, the rapist and the victim are supposed to work together within a process aimed at ending the rape.

The West and its threats have lost all credibility.

Meanwhile, the North Atlantic Alliance is crumbling, as NATO fails to take the hard decision to permanently deploy large numbers of NATO troops in member countries bordering Russia, in response to urgent requests from the latter.

***

See the following videos, which may call forth memories of both distant and recent manifestations of unbounded nationalism and military aggression, and what they portended or portend.

Adolf Hitler’s Seizure of Austria and the Sudetenland in 1938

(1) Adolf Hitler in Vienna after the take-over of Austria in March, 1938.

See footage of Adolf Hitler’s entry Into Vienna, here.

(2) Background to Munich Pact and Adolf Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland September in September, 1938.

See Walter Cronkite, excerpts from “The Seeds of War”:

Part One, here.
Part Two, here.

Vladimir Putin’s Seizure of the Crimea and Entry into Sevastopol, May 9, 2014

(1) Putin’s speech to a joint session of parliament (Duma) on March 18, 2014.

See “Putin’s Crimea Address Rewrites History,” Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, March 19, 2014. The article and video are found here.

(2) Vladimir Putin’s triumphant visit to the Crimea on May 9, 1914.

See “Ukraine crisis: Vladimir Putin pays visit to Crimea; President Vladimir Putin visits Crimea for the first time since Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula, just days ahead of a separatist vote by pro-Moscow militants in eastern Ukraine,” The Telegraph, May 9, 2014 (2:37 BST).

The Trenchant Observer

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Obervateur Incisif
El Observador Incisivo

The West, Russia and the Ukraine: Threats, facts on the ground, and sectorial sanctions

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

The EU and the U.S. are on the verge of deciding, once again, whether they will actually carry out their last round of threats. They stated, in the strongest terms, that they would impose third-stage, sectorial sanctions against Russia if Putin and Russia did not withdraw their forces from the border and halt their support of so-called “separatists” in the eastern Ukraine.

These “separatists”, it is worth recalling, are led by the Russian special forces and intelligence agents who launched the rebellion in the East, and their followers, now including thousands of Russian “volunteers” who–in the last month–have flooded across the border into the Ukraine, together with ground-to-air missiles, tanks and other arms and equipment.

The border was “opened” for the Russians and their “volunteers” by a well-coordinated military campaign of attacks against Ukrainian border posts and their supporting control centers.

In the last month, Putin has continued to play his “double game” of saying one thing and doing something else. He has not ceased support on the ground for the “separatists” who, despite the former KGB-man’s machinations in a new form of “stealth war”, we have every reason to believe remain under Putin’s direction and control.

The West threatened sectorial sanctions if Putin did not change course. He changed only–at the last minute–in his verbal formulations, in what he said to Western leaders, but not in his actions on the ground.

If we look at what has transpired in the last month, can anyone say with a straight face that Putin has met the West’s conditions for not imposing sectorial sanctions?

Those who have followed Putin’s maneuvering in Syria are quite familiar with his modus operandi, of saying just enough to throw the West into disarray and to defuse any momentum toward the adoption of real, hard-hitting sanctions or stronger action, only to resume the relentless pursuit of his goals once the concentration and motivation of the West and other civilized nations has dissipated.

A fundamental question facing the West in deciding whether to defer sectorial sanctions and try to use them–again!–as a threat to induce Putin to act the way they want, is whether they want to continue devoting this enormous amount of energy and degree of concentration to the perfidious president of Russia, Vladimir Putin. Or, might they prefer to move on, to contain Russia through concrete actions, and then to devote their energies to building Europe and restoring the vitality of the Atlantic Alliance and its leadership.

Putin is not going to change. He is not going to become the democrat that Boris Yeltsin once thought he might become. He is someone the West can never trust again.

Moreover, the U.S. doesn’t really need Russian assistance to get out of Afghanistan, or to deal with Iran and the nuclear issue through the “five plus one” (5 +1) talks. Russia is not America’s friend, and won’t be again so long as Putin remains in power.

Consequently, the choice facing the West is whether

(1) to continue playing Putin’s game, on his terms, where all attention is directed toward him and what he might say or do, or not do; or

(2) to finally act forcefully in the face of the Russian invasion and annexation of the Crimea, and the ongoing Russian “stealth” invasion of the eastern Ukraine, by taking hard actions to contain Russia, halt its aggression, and restore observance of international law. The latter is of paramount importance, and includes the priniples of the U.N. Charter prohibiting the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any country, including the Ukraine.

Containment will require, at some point and sooner rather than later, the forward deployment of NATO troops in the front-line states of Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, and Romania.

Moreover, Russia needs to be pushed hard by the West and other civilized countries on the issue of its observance of human rights. We should not remain silent in the face of an increasingly repressive authoritarian regime whose “democracy” has become no more than a “Potemkin village”. The Magnitsky Act should be enforced.

Nothing is to be gained by further delay of sectorial sanctions. If the threat of such sanctions is ever to be credible in the future, repeated threats in the past must now be executed in view of Putin’s failure to comply with their conditions.

That doesn’t mean that measures like the OSCE monitoring of the border and of the situation in the eastern Ukraine need not be pursued, or that negotiations within the Ukraine under OSCE auspices must be halted.

It means only that the West, having called Putin’s bluff, will be in a stronger position to deal with him and Russia.

It will bring home to Putin, through actions and not mere words, that the EU, NATO, and the U.S. have finally gotten serious about putting an end to his aggression and redressing its consequences.

The Trenchant Observer

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Obervateur Incisif
El Observador Incisivo

REPRISE: Responding to military seizure and annexation of the Crimea: Stronger PERMANENT SANCTIONS against Russia urgently needed

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

The question of the hour: Should a little Russian aggression and annexation of the Crimea keep the West from getting back to “business as usual” with Russia?

The following article was originally published on March 26, 2014.

REPRISE: Responding to military seizure and annexation of the Crimea: Stronger PERMANENT SANCTIONS against Russia urgently needed,” The Trenchant Observer, March 26, 2014.

Commentary

Russia is not likely to disgorge the Crimea, annexed following Russian aggression and military seizure during the last month, any time soon.

So, should the West simply accept this fait accompli, be happy that Putin has not invaded the eastern Ukraine, and just get back to business as usual with Russia over the course of the next year or two?

Powerful commercial interests in European and also other Western countries would seem to support such a course of action, which can be rationalzed by stressing that the Crimea belonged to Russia for hundreds of years, and whatever the defects of the recent referendum in the Crimea, a majority of Crimeans most probably supported joining Russia. Moreover, some would argue, the West has not taken Russian sensitivities into account as it pushed the boundaries of the EU and NATO right up to the borders of Russia itself.

Like Kosovo, they might argue, the Crimea was a special case in which any violation of international law was not that serious, and should be put behind us. It was not as serious as the U.S. invasion of Iraq under false pretenses, for example.

Moreover, the imposition of further economic sanctions on Russia which would have a serious impact on trade, investment, and financial transactions would hurt the West as much or even more than they would hurt Russia.

Germany and Europe need Russian gas to get through the coming winter without extraordinary hardships being imposed on innocent, ordinary people. The fact that the U.S. is dependent on the use of Russian territory and airspace to complete its withdrawal of forces and equipment from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 represents a further, compelling consideration.

Moreover, Russian cooperative participation is needed in the “five plus one” talks with Iran over its nuclear program and non-proliferation concerns felt strongly in the U.S., Israel and Europe.

Finally, Russian cooperation in finding any resolution of the civil war in Syria will be essential, U.S. and other officials have repeatedly stated.

In view of these circumstances, and Russia’s understandable desire to secure the naval bases where much of its navy is based, others would argue, the West can ill afford to continue or strengthen economic sanctions against Russia.

The better course, according to the views of many, would be to simply get relations between the West and Russia working smoothly again.

What, if anything, could be wrong with this analysis?

Shouldn’t the West just get over Russia’s annexation of the Ukraine, and get back to business as usual?

Of course, there is the small question of international law and the U.N. Charter’s prohibition of the threat or use of force against another country’s territorial integrity or political independence, embodied in Article 2(4) of the Charter.

But what difference does that make, in the 21st century?

That is the question, the fundamental question, of the hour.

The Trenchant Observer

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Obervateur Incisif
El Observador Incisivo

New EU Regulation prohibits Importation or financing of imports of goods from the Crimea

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

The EU has imposed a real sanction on Russia which prohibits the importation to the EU or by any EU national or company of goods from the Crimea, including Sevastopol, or the financing or insurance of such imports.

This is a real sanction with a real target, and is to be applauded as a first step.

The next step should be to bar all EU nationals and companies from doing business with, or financing business with, companies or individuals in the Crimea, or any businesses or individuals doing business or handling financial transactions with such individuals or companies, unless certified by the government in Kiev as meriting an exception under specific rules to be established.

The new Regulation (COUNCIL REGULATION (EU) No 692/2014) was adopted on June 23, and entered into force on June 25, 2014. The text can be found here.

Finally, the EU has adopted a real sanction, with real and powerful logic and principle behind it.

It is not enough, but it is a good start. It should serve as a model for the adoption by the U.S. and the EU of increasingly broad and painful sanctions against Russia for its invasion and annexation of the Crimea, and its ongoing aggression in the eastern Ukraine.

These sanctions should continue in force until the status quo ante is reestablished in the Crimea, with its return by Russia to the Ukraine, and until the Russian subversion and invasion of the eastern Ukraine is similarly halted and undone.

Eventually, Russia will also have to pay war reparations to the Ukraine. Conceivably these could come in the form of long-term gas price concessions.

The Trenchant Observer

America’s shame: By-passing Europe to meet with Lavrov before NATO foreign ministers meeting aimed at stiffening response to Russian aggression in Ukraine

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

It has taken a day of reflection to fully grasp America’s perfidious betrayal of Europe in hastily agreeing to bilateral talks on Sunday with Russia, on the eve of a EU summit.

Obama is no longer, if he ever was, a leader of the Free World who could be trusted to not go behind the backs of his alliance partners to cut a side deal with Russia.

He demonstrated this by selling out the Syrian resistance, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states when he cut a deal with Russia for the withdrawal of chemical weapons from Syria.

Now, as Europe gathers for a NATO Foreign ministers meeting at which responses to Russian aggression In the Ukraine are to be discussed, Obama has undercut the common position of the U.S. and Europe vis-a-vis Russia by agreeing to bilateral talks with Russia to defuse the Ukrainian crisis.

With tens of thousands of Russian troops gathered on the border of the Ukraine, and Putin threatening to send them into the eastern Ukraine and/or Moldova, Obama has agreed to hold bilateral talks with Russia, which at this moment has seized and annexed the Ukraine in violation of the most fundamental prohibitions of the Unied Nations Charter.

Merely talking to Russia sends a powerful signal to Putin: His aggression has paid off, and further aggression promises to pay off more. He can send troops into other countries, and the Americans will still jump at any opportunity to discuss his further demands–at the end of the barrel of a gun.

When the U.S. and Europe should be implementing permanent sanctions against Russia for what it has already done, a pacifist Obama pleads with Russia not to commit further acts of aggression.

The minimal sanctions which should be imposed now, and not lifted until the Russian seizure and annexation of the Crimea has been reversed, include a total ban on doing business with any company or finanial institution which conducts business in the Crimea.

This measure should stay in place for 50 years, if necessary, until Russia’s aggression against the Ukraine is reversed.

50 years Is about how long it took to reverse the Soviet aggression and annexation of Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia.

Russia will not agree to that, some say. Who could naively expect an aggressor, with armies on the march, to agree to anything except its further demands?

Such a measure, and others, however, are needed now to communicate forcefully to Putin and his band of war criminals (it is an international crime to launch a war of aggression) that the military takeover of the Crimea will not stand.

For a broader view of the current crisis with Russia, see

Joschka Fischer, “Europa, bleibe hart,”Suddeutscher Zeitung, 30. marz 2014.

Die EU muss anerkennen, dass sie nicht nur eine Wirtschaftsunion, sondern auch ein machtpolitischer Akteur ist. Wenn sie Putin jetzt nachgibt, dient sie nicht dem Frieden. Dann ermutigt sie Russlands Präsidenten, den nächsten Schritt zu tun.

The Trenchant Observer

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Observateur Incisif
El Observador Incisivo

Fear of Provoking the Aggressor: Obama, Putin, and the West

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

Washington’s difidence in responding to the Ukraine’s request for military equipment, out of fear of provoking Russia to engage in further military aggression in the Ukraine (or elsewhere), reveals how deeply pacificist beliefs have permeated from the top into U.S. military and civilian leadership circles. Or, alternatively, it has demonstrated how effective a pacificist President in the U.S. has been in checking the normal upward flow of analysis, options, and proposals from military and civilian leaders.

The absence of Secretary of State John Kerry from the inner group of decision makers in Washington has been remarkable, suggesting he has been relegated to a preipheral role of flying all around the world and meeting with leaders, without having a seat at the dining room table where major decisions are made. One consequence of his absence is that the analyses and options developed by the State Department have no powerful defender at the White House. This kind of influence cannot be exercised by teleconference.

So, after the military seizure of the Crimea by Russia, what does it tell us that Obama is so concerned about provoking the Russian aggressor that he won’t even send military equipment to the Ukraine in response to its urgent request, which has been placed “under study”?

To the Observer, it suggests that Obama has been cowed by Putin in terms of taking actions beyond the mild targeted economic sanctions so far imposed by Europe and the U.S.–aimed at less than three dozen individuals and one bank.

Obama solves problems with beautifully crafted torrents of words. Putin seizes opportunities by stealth, lies and the decisive movement of troops and tanks.

It’s clear now that the sanctions imposed by the West have been “too little, too late”. If so-called “stage three” sanctions (real trade and financial sanctions directed against Russia itself) had been imposed immediately following the Russian military seizure of the Crimea, it is possible that Putin might have hesitated before proceeding to annex the peninsula.

For that matter, maybe Putin has already decided to intervene militarily in eastern Ukraine, and to use military force to prevent Ukriane’s movement toward integration into the European Union.

Thus, for the moment, like Nevellie Chamberlain and Èdouard Daladier at Munich in September 1938, the U.S. appears to feel there is no alternative other than to cower before the aggresor.

At that point, of course, the aggressor has already won half the battle, which turns decisively on the will and determination of his opponents to stand up against further acts of aggression, through effective means.

With Obama now willing to have his Secretary of State meet with the Russian foreign minister to seek agreements that will forestall further Russian aggression–while rolling back its military seizure of the Ukraine is off the table, we can see clearly how a pacificst president continues to lead his nation down the road of appeasement.

See Anne Gearan, “U.S. seeks detente with Russia over Ukraine with Kerry, Lavrov to meet in Paris,” The Washington Post, March 29, 2014.

The sad truth is that Obama and his foreign policy team are not capable of leading the West — alone — in the current crisis with Russia, following the latter’s seizure and annexation of the Crimea.

To meet bilaterally with Russia at this time, on these implicit terms, reflects Obama’s pacificism and constitutes a total act of further appeasement. Putin astutely has tried to peel off the U.S. from Europe, two days before NATO foreign ministers meet to decide upon a stronger response to Russia’s aggression. Obama, clueless, plays right into Putin’s attempt to divide the Western alliance.

The U.S. should meet with Russia, if at all, only if it is joined by representatives from EU and NATO governments, and then only if the restoration of the status quo ante prior to the Russian military takeover of Crimea is on the table for discussion.

We have seen how ready Obama is to sell out his allies, particularly in the case of the agreement in Geneva with Russia to remove chemical weapons from Syria. That agreement let Obama off the hook in terms of military strikes against Syria after the latter’s use of chemical weapons. But it also sold out the Syrian resistance and the strongest allies of the United States in the Gulf, including Saudi Arabia.

See “The Leopard and the Impala: Putin astutely plays Obama for a chump,” The Trenchant Observer, September 12, 2013.

Europeans and other NATO members, to safeguard their own interests and those of the West, should insist that they participate fully in any discussions involving Russia and the United States.

The pacifist mind-set which reigns in Washington is completely revealed by the agreement to hold bilateral talks between Kerry and Lavrov on Sunday. The move starkly undercuts the actions German Chancellor Angela Merkel and foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier are taking to develop a strong European consensus to opppose Russian aggression.

Obama seems far too ready to let stand the Russian military aggression and takeover of the Crimea, and get back to business as usual.

He is quite prepared to negotiate with the aggressor over whether Russia will commit further acts of aggression, under continued Russian military threats represented by tens of thousands of troops menacingly poised on the border with the Ukraine.

The moral bankruptcy of Barack Obama and the Obama administration has never been more fully on view.

The Trenchant Observer

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Thinking out loud: Obama’s war of words in the face of Russian aggression

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

President Obama has now gone out of his way twice to assert that the U.S. and by implication NATO would not use military force in the Ukraine.

This calls to mind a statement made by the U.S. in 1950 that appeared to exclude Korea from the zone of countries the U.S. was ready to use force to defend. Not long after, North Korea invaded the South, launching the Korean War.

Obama is saying reckless things, like NATO will not consider the use of force in the Ukraine, under any circumstances.

Obama doesn’t know anything about diplomatic and military history, apparently, or perhaps he is just so taken with the power of his own intellect that he feels no need to draw insights from the lessons of history.

In foreign policy, he is out of his element, all the while seeking to exercise tight control over every aspect of foreign policy from the White House.

Moreover, he can’t shut up, and keeps on talking, using words which from his manner of delivery he evidently believes have unusual persuasive force. And he always talks down to his audience.

His continuing statements can be quite dangerous. For example, for what conceivable purpose of state could he have referred to Russia as a “regional power” in his recent speech in Brussels?

Doesn’t he understand that with Putin we are dealing with an individual with delusions of grandeur, whose delusions have already led to aggression and the rending of the postwar legal and political order?

Such loose words could provoke Putin and his cronies to “show Obama” by pushing militarily into eastern Ukraine. When you are dealing with someone acting in a delusional state, might it not be wise to carefully choose your words?

It is worth recalling that the United Nations was founded on the idea that the use of force was prohibited except in individual or collective self-defense. The idea was not simply that countries would defend each other when they were members of a mutual defense alliance such as NATO, but that they would also come to the defense of other nations when the latter were attacked. The hoped-for response would be action through the Security Council, but Article 51 collective defense actions were also admitted.

The critical concept is that countries may and should come to the collective self-defense of a country which is the victim of aggression.

If Russia invades the rest of the Ukraine, other countries should be prepared to come to the Ukraine’s defense.

We don’t need a naive and incompetent president assuring the Russians that they can invade the Ukraine and will meet no resistance.

Poland, for example, could come to the defense of Ukraine if so requested. If Russia were to then attack Polish forces, particularly in Poland, that could potentially trigger the collective self-defense obligations of other NATO states under Article 5 of the NATO Treaty.

Obama also said he worried a lot more about a nuclear bomb going off in New York City than he did about the regional power that Russia has become. Perhaps the president should review the number of nuclear weapons Russia has aimed at the U.S. including NYC, and take care that the nuclear bomb he fears does not come–whether by accident or design–from Russia or North Korea.

It is absurd to refer to Russia as merely a “regional power” when it has thousands of nuclear weapons pointed at the U.S.

Obama should stop talking, and communicate his messages to Mr. Putin through coordinated sanctions and other actions with EU and NATO partners.

A good place to start would be to ask Congress to immediately repeal most-favored nation trade status for the import of Russian goods and services to the United States.

The Trenchant Observer

Responding to military seizure and annexation of the Crimea: Stronger PERMANENT SANCTIONS against Russia urgently needed

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Developing

Commentary

Russia is not likely to disgorge the Crimea, annexed following Russian aggression and military seizure during the last month, any time soon.

So, should the West simply accept this fait accompli, be happy that Putin has not invaded the eastern Ukraine, and just get back to business as usual with Russia over the course of the next year or two?

Powerful commercial interests in European and also other Western countries would seem to support such a course of action, which can be rationalzed by stressing that the Crimea belonged to Russia for hundreds of years, and whatever the defects of the recent referendum in the Crimea, a majority of Crimeans most probably supported joining Russia. Moreover, some would argue, the West has not taken Russian sensitivities into account as it pushed the boundaries of the EU and NATO right up to the borders of Russia itself.

Like Kosovo, they might argue, the Crimea was a special case in which any violation of international law was not that serious, and should be put behind us. It was not as serious as the U.S. invasion of Iraq under false pretenses, for example.

Moreover, the imposition of further economic sanctions on Russia which would have a serious impact on trade, investment, and financial transactions would hurt the West as much or even more than they would hurt Russia.

Germany and Europe need Russian gas to get through the coming winter without extraordinary hardships being imposed on innocent, ordinary people. The fact that the U.S. is dependent on the use of Russian territory and airspace to complete its withdrawal of forces and equipment from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 represents a further, compelling consideration.

Moreover, Russian cooperative participation is needed in the “five plus one” talks with Iran over its nuclear program and non-proliferation cocerns felt strongly in the U.S., Israel and Europe.

Finally, Russian cooperation in finding any resolution of the civil war in Syria will be essential, U.S. and other officials have repeatedly stated.

In view of these circumstances, and Russia’s understandable desire to secure the naval bases where much of its navy is based, others would argue, the West can ill afford to continue or strengthen economic sanctions against Russia.

The better course, according to the views of many, would be to simply get relations between the West and Russia working smoothly again.

What, if anything, could be wrong with this analysis?

Shouldn’t the West just get over Russia’s annexation of the Ukraine, and get back to business as usual?

Of course, there is the small question of international law and the U.N. Charter’s prohibition of the threat or use of force against another country’s territorial integrity or political independence, embodied in Article 2(4) of the Charter.

But what difference does that make, in the 21st century?

That is the question, the fundamental question, of the hour.

Comments are invited.

The Trenchant Observer

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L’Obervateur Incisif
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