Posts Tagged ‘United States’

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 Joutnal, 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 Russia-Ukraine 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

(1) REF/RL (with AP and AFP), “OSCE Reports Convoys In East Ukraine,” Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, November 9, 2014.

(2) “Spot report by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM),” OSCE, 8 November 2014.

Earlier News and Analysis

(1) Julia Smirnova, “Panzer und Haubitzen – Moskau rückt in Ukraine ein; Eine Kolonne von fast 80 Fahrzeugen mit Soldaten, schweren Waffen und Munition verstärkt die prorussischen Kämpfer in der Region Lugansk. Ist es nur eine Frage der Zeit, bis der Krieg offen ausbricht?” Die Welt, 7. November 2014.

Smirnova reports that, according to Ukrainian military spokesman Andrei Lysenko, a column of 32 Russian tanks, 30 trucks with arms and fighters, and 16 Type D-30 Howitzers crossed from Russian territory into the Ukraine in the region of Luhansk.

(2) Elena Vicéns (Moscú), “Ucrania denuncia la entrada de una columna de tanques y camiones rusos; Kiev exige a los ucranios pasaportes para entrar en la zona de conflicto,” El País, 7 Noviembre 2014 (17:26 CET).

The Stakes, and Recommended New Sanctions Against Russia

With reports that Russia has sent additional tanks, artillery, and troops into the Donbas following the the “separatists’ November 2 “elections”, the U.S. and like-minded countries need to consider the adoption of new and stronger (real) sanctions.

But perhaps first they should reflect on whether the values and institutions they have inherited from their fathers and grandfathers, and their mothers and grandmothers, are worth fighting for.

Through great sacrifice their parents and grandparents, and even those who preceded them, secured the rule of law in Europe and other countries, and after 1945 a more or less stable international order built on the U.N. Charter and also a willingness to stand up and fight to uphold its bedrock principles. The most important of these have been the prohibition of the illegal use of force and, except in the case of individual or collective self-defense, the obligation to settle international disputes exclusively by peaceful means.

To be sure, these achievements were largely the product of developments in Europe and countries settled by Europeans, though we must bear in mind that the founding members of the League of Nations included Ethiopia, Thailand, and a progressive South Africa under enlightened leadership at the time. In Latin America, after Independence, a century and a half of political struggle and intermittent periods of democratic government led to the consolidation of democracy and the rule of law throughout the continent by the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Yet for many countries which were European colonies prior to 1948, or 1960, these achievements (or at least ideals) were inherited from the colonial powers. Particularly in the area of international security, the contributions of the former colonies, while important, were modest in terms of leadership.

Now Europe and the United States and other democracies must re-examine whether these post-World War II achievements are worth defending.

Do the rule of law on the domestic level, including democracy and respect for fundamental human rights, and on the international level, including respect for basic principles of the U.N. Charter, treaties, and international law in general, represent values and objectives still worth fighting for today, in the second decade of the 21st century?

These are not rhetorical questions.

For it is the response of Europe, the United States and other democratic and civilized countries, particularly with respect to Russian military aggression in the Ukraine, that will largely determine whether the values and achievements of previous generations will continue to inform our actions, helping to ensure that respect for international law, democracy, and human rights will endure.

As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, we should reflect on the lack of freedom that existed behind that wall, and connect the dots to the lack of freedom that exists under the “separatists” in the eastern Ukraine, in the Crimea, and now in Russia itself.

We should remember that we fought, and ultimately won, the Cold War in order to defend our most basic values. But time and history move on, and such achievements must be constantly defended, if they are not to be lost.

If leaders in the West and other civilized countries still hold these values dear, and are willing to fight to defend them, they should give urgent consideration to immediate adoption of some or all of the following sanctions against Russia, in order to halt its ongoing military aggression against the Ukraine:

1. Cancellation of the FIFA 2018 world cup matches in Russia;

2. Termination of Russia’s use of the SWIFT international banking money transfer system;

3. Immediate abrogation of the Russia-NATO Partnership Agreement.

4. U.S. Congressional repeal of most-favored nation (MFN) treatment for Russia.

5. Vigorous enforcement of the Magnitsky Act’s provisions for sanctioning individuals and organizations responsible for human rights abuses in Russia and areas under its effective control, such as the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

6. Cancellation of all present and future defense-sector related contracts with Russia, including the supply of rockets for the space program and military programs.

7. Provision of lethal military aid to the Ukraine, and a large-scale military training and assistance program to help the country modernize its defense forces.

8. Emergency meeting of NATO heads of state.

9. Further permanent military deployments  in the East, to provide credible conventional defense capabilities to defend against Russian “stealth” or other wars against NATO members on the eastern front.

The New Cold War is already underway.

The only way it will be ended is through a policy of containment and strength.

These actions, and others like them, will be required to stop Putin, if we want to live in a world like the one we have known.

If we don’t take such measures, we are likely to live in a different kind of world, one which we can hardly imagine today, one more like Europe and Asia between 1933-1945, where relations between countries are determined by the threat or use of force, now including nuclear weapons.

The Trenchant Observer

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

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

Friday, October 31st, 2014

Der Spiegel reports renewed fighting around the Donetsk airport and, much more ominously, that the leader of the “Donetsk People’s Republic”, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, has threatened to seize Mariupol by force if Ukrainian forces do not withdraw, as renewed fighting in the direction of Mariupol erupted.

See

“Ostukraine: Heftige Gefechte um Flughafen von Donezk; Keine Entspannung in der Ostukraine: Separatisten und Armee kämpfen um den Flughafen von Donezk. Die Aufständischen drohen zudem mit einer gewaltsamen Einnahme der wichtigen Hafenstadt Mariupol,” Der Spiegel, 30. Oktober 2014 (21:10 Uhr).

Donezk ist in der Hand der Rebellen, die sich ungeachtet einer Anfang September vereinbarten Waffenruhe mit der Armee Kämpfe um den Flughafen liefern. Der Armeesprecher Andrij Lyssenko sagte am Donnerstag, in den vergangenen 24 Stunden seien in der Ostukraine ein Zivilist und sieben Soldaten getötet worden. Demnach wurden außerdem elf Soldaten verletzt. Es war der höchste Verlust für die ukrainische Armee an einem Tag seit mehr als zwei Wochen.

Lyssenko zufolge nahm der Beschuss auf die Armee zuletzt zu, insbesondere im Süden von Donezk nahe Mariupol. Die strategisch wichtige Hafenstadt ist die letzte von Kiew kontrollierte größere Stadt in der Region. Die Separatisten drohten damit, Mariupol einzunehmen. Wenn die Ukraine die Stadt nicht auf friedlichem Wege abtrete, “dann setzen wir Gewalt ein”, sagte Separatistenführer Alexander Sachartschenko russischen Agenturen zufolge.

A move on Mariupol would be consistent with Vladimir Putin’s modus operandi. With each setback, he has escalated the conflict in the Ukraine. The EU just reviewed and decided not to lift the “Stage 3″ sanctions adopted on September 5 (implemented on September 12). The October 26 legislative election results in the Ukraine represented a stinging rebuke to Putin’s efforts to prevent that country from moving toward Europe. On October 24, Putin gave a speech in Sochi in which, within the delusional bubble he has created in Russia, he almost sounded reasonable. He argued in favor of international law and institutions, for example (if only we could overlook the facts that he has invaded the Ukraine twice and “annexed” the Crimea!).

This is how he operates, as a black belt judo master. Just as you think you see him moving from one direction, you get kicked in the head from another.

That other direction could be a move on Mariupol.

****************

Originally piblished on October 3, 2014.

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

Developing

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

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

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

French President François Hollande is hoping to be able to deliver “The Vladivostok”, the first of two Mistral-class attack warships with theater-command and coordination capabilities to Russia, in November.

Twice he has lifted suspensions of the delivery imposed because of Russian aggression in the Ukraine, the last time when he invited Vladimir Putin first to the Normandy commenoration exercises on June 6 and then to dinner at the Elysée Palace (the same night he had dinner with President Barack Obama at a restaurant in Paris). Under intense pressure from EU and NATO allies, Hollande “suspended” the delivery of  “The Vladivostok” again on the eve of the adoption of harsher “Stage 3″ sanctions on Russia on September 5, 2014. In retrospect, it appears that he did so mainly in order to avoid the inclusion of the Mistral delivery contract on the new sanctions list. In this, at any rate, he succeeded.

Now an invitation to a ceremony at which the first of the two Mistral-class attack warships is to be delivered, dated October 8, 2014, has been made public by a high-ranking Russian military official. Hollande’s government responds that the conditions are not ripe for the delivery of the warship.

The conditions he has stated are that the ceasefire in the Ukriane be fully honored, and that Russia be supporting other provisions of the “peace plan”, by which the Minsk Protocol of September 5 is presumably meant.

The fact that Hollande is even considering delivering the warship to Russia is an appalling commentary on the state of the NATO alliance. As Russian fighters and bombers are carrying out the greatest air maneuvers challenging NATO aircraft perhaps since the end of the Cold War, as Russia has kidnapped an Estonian oficial only days after President Obama’s visit to Estonia, and as Russian President Vladimir Putin sets forth his vision of a blueprint for international law and order (!) in a speech on October 24 in Sochi, Hollande wants to do business as usual with the Russians–even as their troops stand on conquered Ukrainian soil in the Crimea, which they have purported to annex.

See

(1) Dietrich Alexander, Stefanie Bolzen, and Julia Szyndzielorz, “Nato-Chef droht Putin – “Stärke ist unsere Antwort”; Nato-Chef Stoltenberg will mit Stärke und Innovationen auf die russischen Provokationen an den Grenzen der Allianz reagieren. Das Verhalten der russischen Führung verlange “hohe Alarmbereitschaft”,
Die Welt, 30. Oktober 2014 (14:51 Uhr).

(2) Julia Smirnova (Moskau), “Raketen, Jets, Radare – wie Moskau aufrüstet; Russland verstärkt seine Schlagkraft in Weißrussland und in der Arktis. Moskau fühlt sich von der Nato in die Enge getrieben und reagiert darauf mit harten Worten – und Waffen,” Die Welt, 30. Oktober 2014 (22:49 Uhr).

François Hollande is not a leader which other NATO members can trust to act in the interests of the defense alliance.

The great danger, given the perfidious character which Hollande has already demonstrated in connection with Putin, is that France will deliver “The Valadilovstok” to Russia at sea, presenting NATO and the EU with a fait accompli. This can be easily done, since the French have been training Russian sailors in France at St. Navarre since July in how to operate the ship. All that is needed is for the ship to set to sea, and for another ship to come and pick up the French sailors.

And Voilà! the Mistral-class warship will have been delivered!

Hollande will say that he was only complying with the requirements of the contract for the ship, and that there was no EU regulation or other binding legal order to prevent him from making delivery.

With that, France will have passed on to Russia, the greatest antagonist of the NATO countries of Europe, advances in high technology and battlefield management software and associated systems that is at least 10 or more years further advanced that what Russia now has.

What can NATO or the EU then do?

Once “The Vladilovstok” has been delivered, the second Mistral-class warship (reportedly to be named “The Sevastopol”) will be ready for delivery in a year. Two further Mistral-class ships are then envisioned to be built in St. Petersburg with French assistance.

For the latest news stories, see

(1) AFP, “La livraison du Mistral à la Russie impossible en l’état, selon Paris,” 30 octobre 2014 (Mis à jour à 10:13).

François Hollande avait indiqué le 16 octobre qu’il conditionnait la livraison des bâtiments à la Russie à une application intégrale du plan de paix en Ukraine et à un cessez-le-feu entre l’armée ukrainienne et les séparatistes prorusses «entièrement respecté». Ce cessez-le-feu est violé quasiment chaque jour par les protagonistes du conflit. En septembre le chef de l’Etat français avait indiqué qu’il rendrait sa décision «à la fin du mois d’octobre» en fonction de la situation en Ukraine, où les hostilités dans l’Est ont fait plus de 3 700 morts depuis avril selon l’ONU.

(2) “Les conditions ne sont pas réunies pour livrer le Mistral à la Russie, selon Michel Sapin,” Le Figaro, 30 Octobre 2014 (Mis à jour à 09:27).

(3) Isabelle Lasserre, “Imbroglio franco-russe autour des navires Mistral,” Le Figaro, 29 Octobre 2014, (Mis à jour le 30/10/2014 à 11:18).

(4) Véronique Guillermard, “Mistral russes : Hollande se donne du temps pour trancher,” Le Figaro, 28 Octobre 2014 (Par à jour le 29/10/2014 à 14:36).

See also the stories cited in the article published here yesterday, and in particular the article by Vincent Jaubert, which recounts the history of the whole sordid Mistral affair.

“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.

Vincent Jauvert, “Mistral: enquête sur un contrat qui dérange, Le Nouvel Observateur, 10 août 2014.

The bottom line here is that France should not be allowed to unilaterally decide to hand “The Vladilovstok” over to Russia, when doing so would greatly undermine the security of all NATO members, and particularly those in eastern Europe, on what one is almost tempted to call now “the Eastern Front” in the new Cold War.

The Trenchant Observer

The End of NATO: France proceeds with plans to deliver the first of two Mistral-class warships to Russia

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

Treachery Most Foul: François Hollande and France, in an appalling betrayal of NATO and NATO countries, plan to deliver a Mistral-class high-tech helicopter carrier and attack warship to Russia

See

(1) L’Obs avec AFP, “Le porte-hélicoptère Mistral sera-t-il livré à la Russie le 14 novembre ? Un ministre russe annonce la livraison pour cette date. Jean-Yves Le Drian, lui, affirme que François Hollande rendra sa décision “courant novembre”. Le porte-hélicoptère Mistral sera-t-il livré à la Russie le 14 novembre ? Le Nouvel Observateur, 29 Octobre 2014 (Mis à jour à 18h57).

(2) Sascha Lehnartz, “Frankreich liefert nun doch Kriegsschiffe an Russland; Wegen der Ukraine-Krise hatte Präsident Hollande einen umstrittenen Rüstungsdeal ausgesetzt. Aber nun will Frankreich die Helikopterträger offenbar doch ausliefern. Sie sind optimal für Invasionen,” Die Welt, 29. Oktober 2014.

(3) “Official document of the delivery of the Mistral to Russia on 14th of November, Nomistralsforputin.com, October 29, 2014.

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

(5) Vincent Jauvert, “Mistral: enquête sur un contrat qui dérange, Le Nouvel Observateur, 10 août 2014.

We commented at the time the “Stage 3″ economic sanctions against Russia were under consideration, when France “suspended” its delivery of the first of two Mistral-class attack warships to Russia, that the move may have been aimed at avoiding inclusion of the delivery contracts on the sanctions list, and that Hollande could well proceed with their delivery at a later date.

This now appears to be imminent.

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

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

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

Appeasement Triumphs over the Goals and Aims of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

There are no words that can fully express the dismay and outrage that the latest announcements regarding the delivery of the Mistral-class warship named the Vladilovstok evoke.

The fact that Hollande is even considering delivering these advanced weapons systems, that are fully a decade more advanced than those in Russia, to the principal antagonist to the member countries of NATO, to the one country which now poses the greatest threat toward their peace and security since the end of the Cold War and the demise of the Soviet Union, speaks volumes about the craven moral character of the French President, and indeed all of the major French political parties which at one time or another have been involved in this scandalous deal.

Contrast Hollande’s attitude toward the delivery of the Mistral-class warships to the eloquent words he spoke at Liège on August 4, 2014, at a conmemoration of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I:

(Use Google Translate for text in other languages)

J’ai évoqué la neutralité, deux fois bafouée, de la Belgique. Mais aujourd’hui, la neutralité n’est plus de mise. Comment rester neutre lorsqu’un peuple, non loin d’Europe, se bat pour ses droits et pour son intégrité territoriale? Comment rester neutre lorsqu’un avion civil est abattu en Ukraine? Comment rester neutre devant des massacres de populations civiles, comme en Irak, comme en Syrie, où les minorités sont persécutées ? Comment rester neutre quand un pays ami comme le Liban voit son intégrité territoriale menacée ? Comment rester neutre quand à Gaza, un conflit meurtrier dure depuis près d’un mois ?

Nous ne pouvons pas rester neutres. Il y a une obligation d’agir. C’est l’Europe qui doit en prendre les responsabilités avec les Nations Unies. C’est le message que nous devons retenir aussi de cette journée. Nous ne pouvons pas être simplement des gardiens de la paix, des évocateurs du souvenir. Nous ne pouvons pas simplement évoquer le culte de la mémoire. Nous sommes aussi devant nos responsabilités. Ici, à Liège, au mois d’août 1914, il y a exactement un siècle, des hommes ordinaires sont devenus illustres par leur courage et leur vaillance. Aujourd’hui le temps est aussi à être illustre, par les actions que nous sommes capables de mener. Ces hommes, il y a un siècle, au fond de leur cœur, espéraient qu’un jour tous les pays d’Europe seraient rassemblés. Cent ans après, cette utopie est réalité. L’Europe est là, mais l’Europe doit faire encore davantage car la paix n’est jamais sûre. Elle exige une vigilance, un combat, une organisation, une défense de son propre continent.

Voilà pourquoi l’Europe doit toujours être en mouvement, ne doit jamais être lasse et ne doit surtout jamais être fatiguée de la paix.

–Président Franois Hollande, “Allocution au Mémorial de Cointe” (Liège, Belgique), Èlysée, Présidence de la Républicque, Publié le 04 Août 2014

Reproduced in “Remembering World War I: European leaders should spend one week in simulated trench warfare, instead of going to banquets and giving noble speeches filled with hyprocrisy,” The Trenchant Observer, August 5, 2014.

From Putin’s point of view, this is just one more step in Russia’s relentless campaign to use threats, invasions, and military force to break NATO and to undermine the leadership of the West.

The Russian vision is one of a world ruled by the kind of Machtpolitik (the politics of military power) that characterized international relations in Europe between 1933 and 1945, and which after the departure in 1890 of the great German statesman, Otto von Bismarck, characterized the rivalries and alliances in Europe that led to World War I in 1914. Bismarck, like his predecessor the Austrian foreign minister Klemens von Metternich, successfully managed the European balance of power system following the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and the peace treaties that ensued. The one major exception was, ironically, the Crimean War (1853-1856), in which Russia was defeated by a coalition of France, Britain, the Ottoman Empire, and Sardinia. There were also short wars in 1866 (Austro-Prussian War) and in 1870-71 (German-French War).

Machtpolitik or Rechtstaat–Europe’s choice–now stands before Europe, NATO and the EU as a real and urgent choice.

To deliver your best technology and most advanced assault warships to your principal enemy–and let there be no illusions about whether Russia is now the enemy of NATO including in particular those countries lying within the borders of the former Soviet Empire—is a historic betrayal of the values and interests that have undergirded the strongest and most successful defense alliance in history since its founding in 1949.

The delivery of the Mistral-class warship, scheduled for November 14 according to a letter to the Russians dated October 8, 2014 and made public recently, will sound the death knell of the Atlantic Alliance.

The Inevitable Break-up or Neutering of NATO?

The fact that the United States lacks effective foreign policy leadership, and that European and American pacifists and appeasers have succeeded in blocking more forceful actions in response to the Russian invasion and “annexation” of the Crimea, and the invasion and seizure of large sections of the Donbas region in the Ukraine including Donetsk and Luhansk, points to the inevitable breakup of NATO or its neutering.

Only if very drastic changes are made immediately, under new or reinvigorated leadership in NATO countries including the U.S., can this catastrophic scenario be averted. Signs that such leadership will emerge and that effective actions will be taken are not promising.

Even if the Mistral delivery is suspended again, NATO countries and particularly those in the East, will always know that they have enemies within the Alliance, enemies who would sell them down the river whenever they could if they could do so without incurring a signifricant cost.

The essential trust upon which the NATO alliance is built is now shattered.

What should be done?

The often apparently clueless U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, has recently met with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and publicly declared that Russia and the U.S. will work closely together in the future on intelligence matters, particularly in regard to the war on the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

President Barack Obama has been unable to formulate a coherent policy towards Syria and the Islamic State group, despite the fact that U.S. military forces are engaged in bombing (and probably other activities) in Syria.

At the same time, he appears not to understand the threat represented by Putin’s Russia, and seems singularly ill-equipped to lead the Atlantic Alliance in responding to military aggression by that country.

David Cameron of the U.K. is small-minded politician, currently demonstrating that he is a purely domestic Prime Minister by wrecklessly poisoning relations with the EU and Angela Merkel for short-sighted perceived political advantage.

In a world with real leaders, the President of the U.S. would tell France that it will cease future military and intellligence cooperation with that country if it proceeds to deliver the Vladilovstok to Russia, in November or at any other time.

In a world with real leaders, NATO would immediately convene an emergency meeting of foreign ministers (if not heads of state) to make it clear to the French that they must desist from the delivery of the Mistral-class warships to Russia.

And while the European Union is now under the leadership of a new Commission and Council which appear to be decidedly more appeasement-oriented than their predecessors, European foreign ministers if not heads of stage should immediately convene to consider the adoption of mandatory sanctions against Russia which would prohibit the execution of the Mistral-class warship contracts and their delivery.

But alas! we live in a world with pacifists and appeasers leading Europe and the United States, in “the great unraveling” in the memorable words of New York Times columnist Roger Cohen, in a world where as in 1914 and 1938-1939, things are spinning out of control.

The French decision, or the mere fact that François Hollande is considering delivery of the Mistral-class warship, when Russia still illegally occupies the Crimea following a military invasion and conquest and its purported “annexation”, demonstrates the chaotic nature of international politics in the absence of U.S. leadership.

Whereas 20 years ago a telephone call from the U.S. President to the President of France might have forestalled the disastrous decision that Hollande is about to take, Obama and the U.S. have lost the respect and authority which they once commanded.

As a result, now no country can lead the Atlantic Alliance. And with leaders like Hollande, NATO will surely collapse or become irrelevant. Vladimir Putin is relentlessly determined to destroy it.

In fact, NATO may already be irrelevant.

The Trenchant Observer

REPRISE II: 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.”

Monday, October 20th, 2014

October 20, 2014

Since the article below was written, Russia continued its invasion of the eastern Ukraine sending in Russian troops, tanks, artillery and other equipment, which participated in the fighting and rolled back some of the recent gains of the Ukrainian army. NATO decided on September 5 to establish a rapid reaction force in eastern Europe, and to reiterate the goal of each member spending 2% of GDP on defense (to be achieved within 10 years). The EU adopted harsher “Stage 3″ economic sanctions against Russia on September 5, and after some hesitation finally implemented them on September 12. The U.S. implemented parallel harsher sanctions shortly thereafter.

The Minsk Protocol was also signed on September 5, and generally halted the advance of Russian and separatists forces on Mariupol, though sporadic fighting has continued. The current situation is that of a truce which is only partially working, as Russian troops remain in the eastern Ukraine or on the border poised to dictate terms to Kiev. Vladimir Putin’s announced order to withdraw 17,000 troops from the border area, made in anticipation of the Milan summit and side meetings on October 16-18, 2014, has not produced any noticeable movement on the ground accounting to NATO’s top commander, U.S. Gen. Philip Breedlove.

Putin has had the effrontery to argue that his invasion of the Crimea was legal under international law.

Angela Merkel disputed that assertion in Milan.

The whole world should dispute that assertion, every minute of every day, until even Vladimir Putin, the dictator of Russia, get’s the point. He has no legitimacy or authority to criticize anyone. He needs to implement the Minsk protocol, all 12 steps, including the withdrawal of Russian troops.

Putin will also need to return matters to the status quo ante in the Crimea, perhaps as part of and in order to make possible a negotiated settlement of the Crimean conflict of 2014. International administration of the peninsula for a couple of years, followed by a genuine plebiscite under international supervision, represents one potential path that might be explored. As a military diktat, the invasion and annexation of the Crimea will not stand.

Following is the introduction to the REPRISE of this article and then the original article itself.

*****************

July 6, 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,” July 6, 2014.

First published on May 3, 2014

REPRISE published on July 6, 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, South Africa, India 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

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

Friday, October 3rd, 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 conquring 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