Posts Tagged ‘United States’

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

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Originally published October 3, 2014

See Update (October 31, 2014), here.

Russia’s continuing aggression in the Ukraine, and continuing appeasement in the West

The ceasefire in the Ukraine established by the Minsk Protocol is being violated on a grand scale. Russian troops remain in the Ukraine, as supplies of weapons and other military assistance to Moscow’s “separatists” presumably continue.

Russian troops illegally occupy the Crimea, which Russia has purportedly “annexed” following military invasion and conquest.

There appear to be no strategies or plans in the West to make Putin disgorge the Crimea, which with full compliance with the Minsk Protocol establishing a ceasefire in the Donbas and a plan to achieve peace, might open the path for Russia to turn away from its current policies of military aggression and to cease its open defiance of the U.N. Charter’s prohibition of the use of force.

Given Russian defiance of the international law norms governing the use of force, upon which the entire structure of the United Nations is based, Putin may in the absence of a strong countervailing force cede to the powerful logic of war that would unite the Crimea with Russia proper, by conquering Mariupol and other territory between the Donbass and the Black Sea fleet based at Sevastopol.

The question of the hour is: Where is that countervailing force?

Europe is focused on the approval by he European Parliament of the cabinet or team proposed by the new EU Commission president, Jean-Claude Junker. Several of his nominees do not seem acceptable to the parliament’s elected members.

Some EU member states, including the U.K. and France, are also distracted by their military engagement as participants in the activities of the coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

The United States is highly distracted by its ongoing military operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and the militarily grave situations that exist on the outskirts of Baghdad and in Kurdish regions in Syria close to the border with Turkey, whose parliament has just authorized military intervention in Syria.

Politicians in the U.S. are also focusing on the upcoming Congressional elections to be held on Tuesday, November 4, 2014. The Democrats, who currently control only the Senate while the Republicans control the House, are at serious risk of losing control of the Senate. If this were to happen, Barack Obama would be turned into a real “lame duck” president for the last two years of his term.

Attention is also focused on the frightening Ebola epidemic in West Africa, which has just registered its first American case in Dallas in the form of a passenger who arrived by air from Liberia. If 70% of new cases in West Africa are not confined to Ebola treatment centers by November (the current figure is 14%), the exploding number of cases is predicted to,number in the millions, with further risks of the disease being spread by travelers to other countries.

NATO is in transition, with the new Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the former Prime Minister of Norway, having taken office only on October 1. Not only must the Alliance proceed with rapid implementation of the decisions taken at the Wales summit on September 4-5, but also consider the potential invocation of Article 5 of the NATO Treaty by Turkey in the event it is attacked by ISIS. Further deployments of NATO troops in the East are also needed, and the issue should be receiving high-priority attention.

At the same time, the demonstrations in Hong Kong over the issue of universal suffrage have the potential, if not carefully managed by parties on all sides, to spin out of control generating responses that could be fateful not only for Hong Kong but also for the evolution of Chinese society as a whole.

In this mix of headline-gripping developments, it is easy for the Western nations to assume that the Ukraine crisis is under control and can be left to simmer on the back burner for a while.

In terms of facts on the ground, however, this is not the case. The ceasefire is not being observed in the Donetsk region, particularly around the airport where serious fighting continues. Other steps in the Minsk peace plan are not being complied with fully, if at all. Prisoner exchanges have come to a halt.

Putin’s modus operandi is to strike suddenly and with great surprise. The distraction of the Western countries, and the fact that they are not even talking about the imposition of further sanctions, may create an opportunity for Putin to strike while the West’s guard is down.

For those leaders in the West who seem to be distracted, asleep, or still in the grip of pacifism and appeasement, the central question in their minds should be:

“Why shouldn’t Putin just go ahead and invade Mariupol and seize the corridor between the Crimea and the Donbas, guaranteeing a secure overland supply route to the Crimea during the coming winter?”

See

James Rupert, “As Winter Nears in Ukraine, Will Moscow Attempt Another Strategic Invasion? Continued Attacks Show Kremlin May Be Preparing Drive Toward Crimea, Analysts Say,” Atlantic Council, September 29, 2014.

James Rupert, “Can US Support for Ukraine Help Prevent a New Russian Invasion?
Canadian Analyst Says US Should Signal Moscow To Avoid Any Assault in South,” Atlantic Council, October 3, 2014.

Mychailo Wynnyckyj, “10 reasons that a full-scale invasion of Ukraine is possible before winter,” EuroMaidan Press, October 3, 2014.

What is to be done?

The first thing that is required is for the leaders of the West to put the Russian-Ukrainian war at the top of their list of priorities.

Among the steps they should take, in order to demonstrate to Putin and Russia that a powerful countervailing force exists, are the following:

1. Take the Minsk Protocol to the U.N. Security Council and put a resolution incorporating its terms to a vote.

2. The U.S. should take the lead on further sanctions, including banning Russian banks from using the SWIFT system for the transfer of international payments.

3. The U.S. and the EU and their allies should push for decisions annulling the decision to award the World Cup to Russia in 2018.

The World Cup should not be held in a country which has launched a war of aggression against a neighboring state, annexed part of its territory seized through military conquest, and violated the fundamental human rights of the populations subjected to its control (e.g., freedom of expression, right to participate in free elections, right to life, integrity of the person, and not to be arbitrarily detained, right to due process and a fair trial),

4. U.S. provision of “lethal” military weapons and assistance to the Ukraine should commence immediately.

The White House rationale for not doing so is rooted in policies of pacifism and appeasement (fear of antagonizing the aggressor), and should be reversed now in the light of events since February.

Appeasement has not worked with Putin, and it will not work with him either now or in the future.

5. The U.S. and the EU should begin an active diplomatic campaign for support of a strongly-worded U.N. General Assembly resolution on the Ukraine, condemning Russian aggression and reaffirming the U.N. Charter’s prohibition of the threat or use of force. They should focus their diplomatic efforts in particular on South Africa, Brazil and India, and be prepared to take serious measures against states which vote with Moscow, whether with a negative vote or by abstention. The vote will count. A vote to support Russia should carry a heavy price.

6. Plans and decisions for the stationing of large numbers of U.S. and other NATO troops in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland and Romania should be made soon, and their implementation begun on an urgent basis.

The status quo cannot be accepted, if the crumbling international order and the U.N. Charter’s prohibition of the threat or use of force are to be preserved.

The Trenchant Observer

Fighting in eastern Ukraine intensifies, as implementation of Minsk Protocol stalls; future of EU sanctions regime in doubt

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

Revised January 14, 2014

See

Frontline, “Putin’s Way”, PBS, January 13, 2015 (on Putin’s rise to power and the nature of the Russian dictatorship he leads).

Oliver Carroll, “Ukraine crisis: Fighting in Donetsk between army and Russian-backed rebels at highest level for months,” The Independent, January 12, 2015

The EU foreign office is reportedly working on a paper which discusses the option of lifting some sanctions against Russia in exchange for significant progress on implementation of the Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014, leaving in place sanctions specifically aimed at the Crimea.

This is a hare-brained idea that would in effect accept the Russian invasion and “annexation” of the Crimea. It is just what one might expect from the socialist-dominated leadership of the European Union, and the foreign office now headed by Italian socialist Federica Mogherini, a protege of Italian socialist prime minister Matteo Renzi.

It now seems likely that the EU sanctions regime against Russia will begin to fall apart in March.

In the implementation of the EU foreign ministers decision of September 5, 2014, during what is usually a purely procedural matter where each country must sign off on the final text, Finland appears to have balked, and with others called for a reexamination of the decision in the light of “progress” made in implementing the Minsk Protocol of September 5.

Though the decision very nearly fell apart, it didn’t, and came into force when it was published in the Journal Officiel of the EU on September 12.

The events of that week were revealing, however.

The EU sanctions against Russia were not adopted to remain in force until lifted, but rather require a unanimous vote of all 28 member states to be renewed beyond their initial term of one year. Decisions to extend the sanctions will be coming up between March and September.

While setting up the sanctions in this manner may have seemed necessary to gain unanimous approval, it has turned out to be a huge strategic mistake.

Putin has made great inroads in dividing the countries of Europe on the issue of sanctions. At this juncture, absent extraordinary efforts by leaders of the West, it seems likely that the EU sanctions regime may begin to fall apart, beginning as early as March.

In the end, the pacifists and appeasers in Europe are likely to carry the day.

It will be extraordinarily important, if this occurs, for America to pick up the slack in the response of the West to Putin’s militarism and aggression in the Ukraine.

To do so, the Obama administration will have to overcome the lobbying by big business for the U.S. not to adopt any sanctions beyond those the E.U. has adopted, on the theory it would put U.S. businesses at a comparative disadvantage.

The U.S. does have powerful weapons at its disposal. For example, it could eliminate all access of Russian companies to even short-term financing (currently allowed up to 30 days), and could bar Russian entities from using the SWIFT system for the transfer of international funds and payments.

The U.S. should prepare to take these and other actions, while joining with European leaders such as Angela Merkel in calling for the sanctions–all of them–to be upheld and extended beginning in March.

The Trenchant Observer

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

Friday, January 9th, 2015

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

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

Another calls for restoration of Ukrainian control of the border.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Trenchant Observer

Hollande states Mistral delivery suspended until further notice

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

President Francois Hollande has now publicly reaffirmed that the delivery of the first of two Mistral-class warships to Russia is suspended until a new order is issued.

See:

(1) Le Monde.fr avec AFP, “La France reporte « jusqu’à nouvel ordre » la livraison des Mistral à la Russie,” Le Monde, 25 Novembre 2014 (Mis à jour à 15h02).

The announcement, reproduced in Le Monde, stated the following:

« Le président de la République considère que la situation actuelle dans l’est de l’Ukraine ne permet toujours pas la livraison du premier BPC [bâtiment de projection et de commandement]. Il a donc estimé qu’il convenait de surseoir, jusqu’à nouvel ordre, à l’examen de la demande d’autorisation nécessaire à l’exportation du premier BPC à la Fédération de Russie. »

Informal English translation:

The President of the Republic considers that the current situation in the East of the Ukraine still dos not permit the delivery of the first BPC (bâtiment de projection et de commandement)[ship for projection and command of forces]. It is therefore judged appropriate to suspend, until a new order, the examination of the request of the necessary export authorization of the first BPC to the Russian Federation.

(2) CARLOS YÁRNOZ (Paris), “Francia aplaza la entrega de un buque de guerra a Rusia
Hollande esgrime que la situación en Ucrania “no permite” culminar el contrato,” El Pais, 25 Novembre 2014 (14:45 CET).

(3) “Frankreich setzt Mistral-Lieferung an Russland aus; Das milliardenschwere Kriegsschiff-Geschäft zwischen Paris und Moskau liegt weiter auf Eis. Die aktuelle Lage in der Ostukraine erlaube die Lieferung nicht, sagte der französische Präsident Hollande, ” Der Spiegel, 25. November 2014 (15:10 Uhr).

(4) Renaud Février, “Livraison du Mistral reportée: quel sera le prix à payer?; L’Elysée a annoncé le report de la livraison des navires de guerre “jusqu’à nouvel ordre”. Quelles conséquences? le 25 Novembre 2014 (à 20h04).

Analysis

1. The EU and NATO should now move energetically to find a new purchaser for the two Mistral-class warships France originally contracted for delivery to Russia.

2. In terms of France defending itself against any attempts to recover damages from France or French companies, under international law French cancellation of the contracts would appear to be wholly justifiable as a measure of collective self-defense of the Ukraine, in accordance with Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, so long as Russian military forces occupy the Crimea and remain in the eastern Ukraine.

The Trenchant Observer

Mistral-class warship “The Vladilovstok” ready to sail; Hollande sets stage for a “mysterious” departure in the night

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

For the latest news reports, see

Isabelle Lassarre, “Mistral : le scénario qui inquiète les autorités françaises,” Le Figaro, 20 Novembre 2014.

For background, see

(1) “Mistral Warships: U.S. Congress should ban defense contracts with France until Hollande guarantees non-delivery to Russia,” The Trenchant Bserver, November 17, 2014.

(2) “Update on Delivery of Mistral-Class Warship “The Vladilovstok” to Russia: François Hollande’s unilateral “conditions” for delivery, and the high risk of a treacherous fait accompli,” The Trenchant Observer, October 30, 2014.

(3) “The End of NATO: France proceeds with plans to deliver the first of two Mistral-class warships to Russia,” The Trenchant Observer, October 29, 2014.

(4) Le Nouvel Observateur: The scandalous history and details of the sale of two Mistral-class attack warships to Russia, August 16, 2014.

(5) “Ukraine — EU imposes serious sanctions on Russia: Council Regulation (EU) No 833/2014 of 31 July 2014 —- with link to full text,” The Trenchant Observer, August 1, 2014.

The treachery of Francois Hollande knows no bounds.

Now he has arranged a mysterious set of circumstances that will allow the Mistral-class warship”The Vladilovstok” to slip out of the harbor at Saint Nazaire under the control of the Russian crew France has trained, blaming it all on some misunderstanding he had no control over.

The Russian crew have now placed their personal belongings on the “The Vladilovstok”.

The ship is very likely to sail, surrepticiously, in a manner which seeks to allow Holland to claim he never decided to deliver the ship to Russia.

Consider these facts:

1. An invitation from the French went out on October 8 for a delivery ceremony on bNovember 14.

2. The ship’s tracking number was changed to Russian ownership within the last week, and then changed back again.

3. The Russian crew apparently turned off the esignal that allows the ship to be tracked by satellite on one or two occasions, in the last week or so.

4. The sister ship, “The Sevastopol”, which is due for delivery to Russia in 2015, was put put into the water earlier this week, taking the berth in Saint Nazaire of “The Vladilovstok”, which has now moved to a staging area near the entrance to the harbor.

All of these unusual coincidences point to one conclusion: Hollande will allow “The Vladilovstok” to sail in the next few days.

To stop this from happening, NATO and NATO member states should demand that the France take the following steps:

1. The Russian crew shoukd be ordered to remove their personal gear from the Vladilovstok, under military supervision, and should not be alliwed to board the ship again. They should return to Russia until further notice.

2. The ship should be moved by a French crew to a secure berth where it will remain until a new purchaser is found.

3. European and world media should be all over this story, night and day, and maintain a stakeout to ensure that the ship does not “slip away’ in the middle of the night.

4. Hollande should formally commit to NATO not to deliver the warship to Russia without first discussing his decision at a ministerial meeting of NATO.

Hollande’s perfidy has gone far enough. He must be stopped, by other NATO members, from sneaking delivery of “The Vladilovstok’ to Russia, through whatever subterfuge he can find.

The Russian media are paying extremely close attention to the delivery.

Cancelation of delivery woukd bring home to Putin the real costs of his military aggression against the Ukraine.

Delivery, however disingenuous the means, would confirm that appeasement rules in the West, and Russia has little to fear from further aggression.

The Trenchant Observer

Go for Putin!

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

Commentary

The contempt Vladimir Putin evidently feels for Barack Obama and the West was revealed in a split-second at the APEC summit in Beijing these last two days, when Putin slapped Obama on the back in a gesture which is often friendly but here was one of utter contempt.

We advised Obama years ago to be reticent with physical contact with foreign leaders from very different cultures, but he has not followed the advice. He puts his hands all over people, with backslaps, grabbing an arm or an elbow, in what is easily identifiable as Alfa-male behavior.

Well, this time, Putin returned the favor, with backslapping that hardly concealed his feelings of contempt for the U.S. president.

Putin was a very interesting character to watch at the summit, from his backslapping of Obama to his draping a coat or shawl over the shoulders of Chinese Leader Xi Jinping’s wife, which she immediately discarded.

How would you like Adolf Hitler draping his coat over your shoulders as he was invading “rump” Czechoslovakia in March 1939?

Watching Putin move about the conference, with an irrepressible smirk on his face instead of a smile, you could almost hear the derisive laughter in his head as he knew full-well what was underway in the Ukraine.

The other APEC leaders could do and say as they liked, but they would soon learn, once again, the value of all their pleasantries and high-minded thoughts, all of their moral appeals and “moral pressure”, in the face of the iron and steel of the Russian military machine, deploying once again its might disguised behind the veil of his brilliantly conceived and now proven new form of “stealth warfare”.

Russia had the military might and was more than willing to use it, almost with “joy”, against the feckless and spineless West, “led” by that tall man he had just stretched to slap on the back.

See Naftali Benadavid (Brussels) and Gregory L. White (Moscow), “NATO Sees ‘Significant Buildup’ of Russian Forces in Ukraine; Large Convoys Reported to be Moving Into the Region,” Wall Sreet Journal, Updatedy November 12, 2014 (7:55 p.m. ET).

Watching Putin in Beijing, one might easily feel with indignation that he, the great and rising Dictator of 2014, had no right to be present among these other leaders, heads of state of civilized nations which still stood by the United Nations Charter, and its obligations to settle international disputes by peaceful means, and not to resort to the threat or use of force against another state except in self-defense or perhaps in other narrowly circumscribed cases such as to halt genocide.

No, Putin didn’t belong there, and he doesn’t deserve to be treated with ceremony as a head of state, at least not while he is engaged in the invasion of another country.

He should be shunned, the way he was shunned prior to François Hollande’s invitation to attend the D-Day commemoration exercises at Normandy on June 6, and then to have dinner at the Elysée palace–the same evening Obama had to dine with Hollande at a Parisian restaurant–and then Hollande’s lifting of the suspension of the delivery of the Mistral-class warship.

The delivery has been suspended again, to avoid inclusion in the new EU “stage 3″ sanctions list on September 5, but who knows for how long? Invitations to a delivery ceremony on November 14 were even sent out on October 8, though French officials then said conditions were not “ripe” for delivery “at this time”.

Yes, Putin should be shunned! In general, those who launch aggressive wars, presumptive war criminals, should be shunned.

No more telephone calls from other world leaders. No more meetings between John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov. No more pretense of civility when the Russians are invading another country and killing innocent people, military and civilians alike. No more handshakes with rogues who threaten nuclear conflict, or to invade other neighbors if they don’t get their way.

And while we’re shunning Putin and his supporters, in Russia and abroad, maybe the leaders of the West can drop their delicacy and call things by their real names, like “invasion” instead of “incursion”.

Maybe we can even get some of our leading newspapers, like the Wall Street Journal, to drop the practice of reporting NATO and Ukrainian charges about Russian military aggression, while dutifully noting that Russia denies the charges, e.g., that they have sent troops and tanks into the Donbas.

Yes, maybe we could even get an American newspaper to boldly report the facts of the Russian infiltration and invasion of the eastern Ukraine!

And if we could do that, maybe we could even take the battle directly to Putin, and go directly after his monstrous lies and deceptions by demonstrating, in the U.N. Security Council and elsewhere, that there is irrefutable evidence that his assertions are false, and that Russia has invaded the eastern Ukraine, that Russia is at this very moment intensifying its invasion, and that there are hundreds of Russian tanks, artillery pieces, air-defense systems, and other equipment, and thousands of Russian combat and other irregular troops in the Donbas.

U.S. military and other intelligence agencies undoubtedly have massive amounts of proof that the denials of the Russians of military involvement in the eastern Ukraine are blatant and outrageous lies.

Understandably, methods and sources need to be protected, within limits. But surely in Washington there must be some “big picture” officials who understand the importance of rebutting Putin’s lies, destroying his credibility, and laying out the truth with evidence–e.g., satellite photos showing the movements of tanks and troops, accounts from captured soldiers, intercepted communications, and a marshaling of what is already in the public record.

In a word, Washington should lay out the facts, the truth, with concrete evidence to back up its factual assertions.

If the Russians still deny the obvious facts, as they undoubtedly will, the U.S. should put forward a resolution in the U.N. Security Council establishing an impartial fact-finding commission, drawing on the work of other U.N. bodies such as the Human Rights Council, to investigate and report the truth about what has happened in the Donbas, who the “separatists” really are, and who among Russia, the “separatists” and the Ukraine is complying with and who is violating the provisions of the Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014.

Go after Putin! Refute his propaganda with impartial determination and reporting of the facts!

Show the world, beyond any doubt, the truths that rebut Putin’s shameless lies.

Shun him. Let him threaten the U.S. with his long-range bombers. The U.S. knows how to shoot them down. If Putin harbors any misconceptions over who would prevail in a nuclear showdown with the West, Washington should make it clear to him that he will be facing not only Barack Obama but the united military and security forces of the United States, NATO, and other allies.

But the U.S. needs to get its act together. To do so, the U.S. will have to do better than the incoherence in communications revealed by the following quote from the Wall Street Jounal article cited above:

Russia is sending fresh convoys of troops and tanks into eastern Ukraine, NATO said, and threatening to dispatch warplanes on maneuvers over the Gulf of Mexico, flexing its military muscles in a Cold War-style escalation with the West.

U.S. officials said they couldn’t confirm the new incursion into Ukraine announced by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and an international monitoring group in the region, but accused Russia of repeatedly violating the terms of a peace pact signed two months ago.

Really! The U.S. can’t confirm statements by U.S. General Philip Breedlove, the Supreme Allied Commander for Europe and Commander of NATO?

As “U.S. officials couldn’t confirm the new incursion into Ukraine”, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power was denouncing it at an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

See

(1) United Nations Security Council, Press Release, “Security Council Briefed on Fast-Breaking Developments in Ukraine, as Political Official Warns Failure to Secure Russian-Ukrainian Border Obstructing Peace, ” U.N. Security Council, 7311th Meeting (PM), U.N. Doc. SC/11645 (2014), November 12, 1014.

(2) Ukraine – Security Council, 7311th meeting, 12 Nov 2014 – 7311th meeting of the Security Council on the situation in Ukraine, Webcast (English)

(3) The Webcast of the 7311th Meeting of the Security Council on November 12, in the original language of the speaker, is found here.

Obama needs to bring experienced adults in to take charge of his national security team and its spokespersons, at the earliest opportunity.

We need to communicate clearly and strongly to Putin. This kind of incompetence does not help.

The Wall Street Journal, for its part, didn’t even bother to report on the Security Council meeting, which suggests the need for adult supervision there as well.

The Trenchant Observer

REPRISE: Veterans’ Day, 2011: “Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?”

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

First published, November 11, 2011

My uncle died in a field in northern France with a German bullet in his head. To him, and all the other veterans of America’s wars, I am immensely grateful for his, and their, sacrifice.

The Vision of Peace After World War II

At the end of World War II, the leaders of the world had a clear vision of the horrors of war, and acted with resolution to bring wars to a halt through the creation of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945, and by codifying the international law governing the use of force in Article 2 paragraph 4 and Article 51 of the U.N. Charter. Article 2 paragraph 4 prohibited the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of members of the organization, a prohibition later extended to include all states. Article 51 provided for an exception in the case of an “armed attack”. These provisions have become customary international law and, importantly, also aquired the status of jus cogens or peremptory law from which there can be no exception or derogation by agreement.

A Vision of Perpetual War

Unfortunately, President Barack Obama and the United States are currently embarked on a policy based on the assumption of perpetual war. The implementation of this policy includes targeted assassinations through drone strikes and other means, the establishment of new drone bases throughout the northern part of Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, and the development of new generations of drones some of which are as small as insects.

This policy has been implemented with little regard for the international law governing the use of force, and even less regard for the duty of the United States to contribute to the development of international law and institutions that can help ensure the security of the United States and other countries in the future.

These actions indicate that the United States has no current vision of peace as an overriding goal to be achieved, and no coherent strategy for actually achieving this objective.

Without the goal of peace, we are not likely to take the actions necessary to achieve peace, or to give those actions the urgent priority they should receive.

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?

In these circumstances, one is reminded of Pete Seeger’s famous song entitled “Where have all the flowers gone?” For the lyrics, click here.

Pete Seeger’s performance of this song is available on YouTube here.

See also, pasquetflowerponderings.blogspot.com, “Grandpa’s War – A Veteran’s Day Post,” November 11, 2011, which contains recollections of America’s recent wars, and a link to a clip of Pete Seeger singing ” Where have all the flowers gone” with a moving montage of photographs evoking American experiences of war, created by the TheSpadecaller in 2008.

Joan Baez, in a more recent performance of the song, can be found on YouTube here.

Marlene Dietrich’s recording of this song in English is also found on YouTube here.

For Dietrich’s performance of the song in French, see “Qui peut dire ou vont les fleurs?” here.

For her performance of the German version of this song, see “Sag mir wo die Blumen sind”, here.

Marlene Dietrich, in a version of perhaps her most famous song, “Lili Marleen”, written in 1915 and later a hit among troops on both sides during World War II, takes us back to November 11, 1918 and the terrible war that preceded the armistice on that day. Her recording of the song, in English, is found on YouTube here. The original German version of the song is found here.

Obama’s Vision of Perpetual War and International Law

In his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech in Oslo, on December 10, 2009, President Obama said:

In the wake of such destruction (World War II), and with the advent of the nuclear age, it became clear to victor and vanquished alike that the world needed institutions to prevent another world war. And so, a quarter century after the United States Senate rejected the League of Nations – an idea for which Woodrow Wilson received this prize – America led the world in constructing an architecture to keep the peace: a Marshall Plan and a United Nations, mechanisms to govern the waging of war, treaties to protect human rights, prevent genocide, restrict the most dangerous weapons.

I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war. What I do know is that meeting these challenges will require the same vision, hard work, and persistence of those men and women who acted so boldly decades ago. And it will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace.

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

To begin with, I believe that all nations – strong and weak alike – must adhere to standards that govern the use of force. I – like any head of state – reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation. Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards, international standards, strengthens those who do, and isolates and weakens those who don’t.

Closely parsed, these statements are full of contradictions, as when President Obama affirms:

(1) “We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.”
(2) “To begin with, I believe that all nations – strong and weak alike – must adhere to standards that govern the use of force.”
(3) “I – like any head of state – reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation”; and
(4) “Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards, international standards, strengthens those who do, and isolates and weakens those who don’t.”

Affirmation (1) accepts violent conflict as inevitable. (2) states that all nations must adhere to the norms that govern the use of force. (3) states that he, the president, “like any head of state”, reserves the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend his nation. And (4) states he is convinced adhering to “international standards” strengthens those who do.

These contradictions in Obama’s thinking, it is submitted, have contributed to the incoherence of U.S. foreign policy, particularly when measured against the requirements of international law, and the historical burden of strengthening international law and building better international institutions, which is no less important today than it was in 1945.

Reading these excerpts and the whole speech reveals that the president does not have a clear vision of peace as the goal, or a strategy on how to achieve that goal. While he pays lip service to observing international law, he insists that he has the paradoxical right–“like any head of state”–to violate it if necessary, in his view. So much for the concept of international law governing the use of force.

Without the clear and overriding goal of peace or a strategy for achieving peace, it is hard to see how we and other nations can view as the highest priority taking the steps necessary to achieve peace.

President Obama and the United States currently seem to have no overarching vision of peace, or strategy for achieving peace. As a result, their policies and actions are not guided by the pursuance of this goal in a strategic sense, but rather only by the demands of meeting with expediency the challenges of the moment.

By way of contrast, consider, if you will, the vision of the founders of the United Nations in 1945, particularly as set forth in the Preamble and Articles 1, 2, and 51 of the Charter.

We in the United States, like citizens in other countries, need a strong vision of peace and a coherent strategy for achieving it. Consequently, we need a president who has such a vision, and is guided by it.

The Trenchant Observer

Russia poised for much larger military intervention in Ukraine

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

Roger Cohen of the New York Times points to the grave dangers of further Russian aggression in the Ukraine, and the temptation Washington might feel to sacrifice the Ukraine in exchange for vital Russian assistance in making a deal with Iran on the nuclear issue.

See Roger Cohen, “The Iran-Ukraine Affair,” New York Times, November 10, 2014.

Cohen suggests Putin may have designs on all of the Ukraine, while pointing out the formidable military force he has amassed within and on the border of the eastern Ukraine. He reports:

…There is every reason to believe he has designs on all Ukraine. The West’s mistake has been to think that Putin is not serious in wishing to reconstitute the Soviet Union in new guise.

The current Russian buildup has all the signs of preparation for an offensive. Large, unmarked convoys of heavy weapons and tanks manned by personnel without insignia on their uniforms (like those who took over Crimea) have been seen rumbling toward the front lines in rebel-held territory. Sophisticated artillery and ground-to-air missile systems have been moved into position. Units all the way from the east and far north of Russia have been massed. You don’t move military units thousands of miles for nothing.

A retired NATO general who recently held talks with the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, told me that intelligence estimates are of some 45,000 regular Russian troops on the border; tens of thousands of Russian irregulars of various stripes inside Ukraine organized by a smaller number of Russian officers and military personnel; some 450 battle tanks and over 700 pieces of artillery.

“Ukraine has no real fighting capacity to face all this,” he said….

Cohen connects the dots, and draws the right conclusions.

Watch what Vladimir Putin does, not what he says.

Not only the future of the Ukraine — and freedom from tyranny like that East Germans escaped when the Berlin Wall came down 25 years ago — but also the whole future of NATO and the Atlantic Alliance are at stake.

The U.S. should impose harsher sanctions on Russia today, for its ongoing military aggression in the eastern Ukraine and its undermining of the Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014, including the ceasefire and 12-step peace plan it established.

See

“The Russia-Ukraine War: Minsk Protocol near collapse; What is at stake; Harsher sanctions against Russia needed,” The Trenchant Observer, November 3, 2014 (updated).

The Trenchant Observer

The Russian-Ukrainian War: Minsk Protocol near collapse; What is at stake; Harsher sanctions against Russia needed

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

UPDATE: OSCE reports movements of armed colums and tanks in eastern Ukraine

See
(more…)

The meaningless “sham” elections in “separatist”-held areas of the Ukraine on November 2, 2014

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

“Une dictature est un pays dans lequel on n’a pas besoin de passer toute une nuit devant son poste pour apprendre le résultat des élections.”

“A dictatorship is a country in which one doesn’t need to spend a whole night at one’s workplace in order to learn the result of elections.”

–Georges Clemenceau

For background relevant to the sham “elections” being held in Donetsk and Luhansk and other areas in the Donbas under the control of Moscow’s puppets, the so-called “separatists” of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” and the “Luhansk People’s Republic”, see

(1) “Historical context for current Russian aggression in the Ukriane; The sham “referendum” on May 11, 2014 in the eastern Ukraine,” The Trenchant Observer, May 12, 2014.

(2) “Despite Concerns about Governance, Ukrainians Want to Remain One Country; Many Leery of Russian Influence, as Putin Gets Boost at Home,” Pew Research Global Attidudes Project, May 8, 2014.

The observations made in the articles above apply equally to the so-called elections being staged by the “separatists” in the Donbas.

They are neither free, nor fair, nor “elections” in the true meaning of that term, as defined in international human rights treaties and official guidelines of organizations such as the OSCE.

The fact that Russia announced it would recognize the election results before they were held simply underlines how accustomed the Russian government is to fixed elections. It was like a puppeteer approving of its own puppet’s actions. Any objective observer would have waited to see if the elections were fraudulent, and whether the internationally recognized standards for the holding of free elections had been met, before approving anything.

Moreover, the “elections” are being held in express violation of the terms of the Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014, which called for them to be held on December 7 under the terms of a special law which was in fact enacted by the parliament and the government of the Ukraine.

No one should be fooled by the staged “elections” of groups who seized power by force, have held on to it with the help of Russian troops, arms and materiel amounting to an ongoing invasion, and in which the opponents of the “separatists” have been ruthlessly repressed by the use of terror.

News organizations should be careful not to repeat any numbers or “results” of the “elections”, because they are meaningless, like the results of old Soviet elections were meaningless. The most they should say is that the de facto rulers of these regions announced “x” results.

The real story in the Donbas today is the repression of the right to participate in government and in free and fair elections, which has been denied to the population under the dictatorial control of the “separatists”.

The following excerpts from the May 12 article cited above, following the independence referenda in the Donbas on May 11, apply equally to the elections of November 2, 2014:

As for the refendum itself, the following observations are in order:

There was no legally constituted electoral commission. There were no electoral rolls used to control who voted. There was no electoral body to which to appeal charges of corruption. There was no presence at voting tables of different parties. There were no independent international observers.

There was no mechanism to ensure the “results” announced by “separatists” (who gained their de facto positions through Russian aggression and the use of force) bear any resemblance to the number of ballots actually cast in favor of the proposal on the referendum.

There was no opportunity for opponents of a “yes” vote to be heard in the media, and those who might have spoken out for a “no” vote reported that they were subject to great intimidation and fear. A number of politicians who opposed the “separatists” were assassinated.

See David Blair (Donetsk) and Roland Oliphant,”The ‘disappeared’ whose voices will be silent in vote on self-rule in Ukraine’s east; Pro-Russian separatists continue to hold a number of prisoners against their will, in a campaign against dissent,” The Telegraph, May 10, 2014 (7:18PM BST).

The question on the May 11 ballot was essentially so ambiguous as to be meaningless.

The so-called referendum failed to meet the lowest standards of even the most blatantly corrupt of Soviet and Russian sham elections.

Why Western news media would give any weight to referendum “results” secured under these conditions defies understanding.

The real story was about these factors which rendered the “results” meaningless. But by reporting the numbers again and again, Western media helped give credence to the erroneous belief that the election results had any significance at all, other than to check the box in Vladimir Putin’s step-by-step stretegy in his war of aggression against the Ukraine.

The under-reported real story about the May 11 “referendum”

There is a real story about the gross violations of internationally protected human rights that are underway in the eastern Ukraine, including the right to political participation and free and independent elections, the rights to freedom of the press and freedom of speech, and the right to public order in which the physical integrity of each human being is protected from violation by others, including the rights which protect individuals from the depredations of armed thugs acting in concert with foreign special operations forces who have invaded the country.

The story in the eastern Ukraine is about these human rights violations, and Russian involvement, and not merely about the various steps of Putin’s plan of aggression aimed at subversion of the rights of Ukrainian citizens to the political independence, territorial integrity, and sovereignty of their country.

The Trenchant Observer