Posts Tagged ‘Wall Street Journal’

REPRISE — Putin’s wager: Russia’s rogue authoritarianism versus fundamental human rights and the existing international political and legal order

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

Russia and the Ukraine—The Big Picture

Originally published April 24, 2014

In a fatal error, Putin challenges the modern postwar international political and legal order

It is historically ironic, and from Vladimir Putin’s point of view perhaps tragic, that Russia’s crowning achievement at the Sochi Winter Games culminated precisely when the Yanukovych government in the Ukraine began to stumble and fall. On the other hand, Putin had only himself to blame.

Since then, Vladimir Putin has overreached, and made the fatal mistake of undertaking actions that put Russia permanently at odds with the world’s international political, legal and economic order.

While formally created during and at the end of World War II (1939-1945), the system has roots that go back to Hugo Grotius and the Thirty Years’ War of 1618-1648. The idea for the United Nations can be traced back to the Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907, and the Covenant of the League of Nations and the founding of the League in 1919.

Since the founding of the United Nations in 1945, the system of international law established within the framework of the United Nations Charter, including its bedrock principle prohibiting the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, has become the very fabric of international society, constituting principles that have been repeatedly accepted in countless treaties and agreements as binding norms of international law by virtually every country.

Now along comes Russia’s new Dictator to suppress within Russia fundamental human rights such as freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the right to a fair trial; to challenge the entire structure of the existing international political and legal order by invading the Ukraine, seizing the Crimea by military force and annexing it to Russia; and now threatening to invade the eastern Ukraine if the government of that country responds to Russia’s initial invasion by special forces and seizure of government buildings by force with its own necessary and legal use of force to reassert its control over its own government offices and territory.

Putin wants Russia to be able to invade the eastern Ukraine with special forces, and then to be able to decry any attempt by the Ukrainian government to restore public order as “crimes” against the Ukrainian constitution. He does so without mentioning his own crimes against the Russian constitution by suppressing civil liberties, or his own use of brutal force in putting down the rebellion in Chechnya–which included the commission of war crimes on a very large scale.

Putin and his lieutenant, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, accuse the Ukraine and the West of violating international law, as they sit on the spoils of Russian aggression in the Crimea, and openly threaten military intervention in the Eastern Ukraine if that country’s government moves with force to restore public order and the ordinary functioning of government institutions.

Like the case of Northern Cyprus, invaded by Turkey in 1967, or East Timor which was invaded and annexed by Indonesia in 1975, Russian invasion and annexation of the Crimea will never be accepted by other nations.

Nor will any further conquests in the eastern Ukraine, or of independent countries which formerly made up the Soviet Union, ever be recognized.

An invasion of the eastern Ukraine will indeed produce results, just not those Putin in his demented shortsightedness seeks to secure.

An immediate result will be stiffer sanctions from the U.S. and the EU, which moreover are likely to grow in intensity over time.

An invasion is highly likely to produce permanent enmity toward Russia in the Ukraine, and to strengthen the desire of Ukrainians, East and West, to join the European Union and, if necessary to protect their independence in the future, to join NATO as well (whatever time may be required to achieve this result).

An invasion is also likely to produce energetic responses from NATO aimed at Russia, if not immediately then at least over the intermediate term. To counter potential Russian aggression, large forces of American and other NATO-country troops are likely to eventually be moved from Germany to forward bases in Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. The current drawdown of American forces from Europe, in time, could be reversed.

Europe will probably also undertake vigorous policies to reduce its consumption of Russian gas and oil, though this may take a few years.

Putin’s wager is that his domestic repression and suppression of freedom of the press, free elections, the right to a fair trial and other fundamental human rights will be a model others will want to emulate, or at least be willing to ignore.

His wager that wars of aggression involving military invasions and the annexation of conquered territories will not matter to other countries, which will be happy to look the other way and continue doing business with Russia, is not likely to be successful in the middle or long term.

To be sure, the slowness with which democracies respond to military challenges may appear to be acqiescence or appeasement in the short term, but in the intermediate to longer term the combined economic and military strength of the U.S., NATO, Japan and their allies will be able to contain Russian military expansionism while depriving Russia of vital opportunities to join the first ranks of nations in a wired and interconnected world.

Finally, Putin’s wager overlooks the vital forces within Russia itself, symbolized by courageous dissidents such as Andrei Sakharov, or even Communist party leaders like Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. These forces have visions of Russia that are deeply at odds with Putin’s embodiment of autocratic dictatorship at home, and wars of aggression abroad.

Putin’s wager may in fact hasten the day when his greatest fears are realized, the day the Maidan comes to Red Square.

The Trenchant Observer

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.”

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Trenchant Observer

Ukraine: Latest news and opinion (with links to May 2 Security Council meeting, and to text of April 17 Geneva agreement)

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

See below Le Monde’s dispatch on the latest developments in Sloviansk, and Torsten Krauel’s commentary on the real stakes in the Ukraine — no less than the fruits of victory in World War II and the war aims of Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Harry Truman — published in Die Welt today.

Benoît Vitkine (Sloviansk, envoyé spécial), “Ukraine: dans Sloviansk, ville assiégée,” Le Monde, le 3 Mai 2014 à 02h17 (Mis à jour à 03h16)

Torsten Krauel, “Zerschlagung der Ukraine wäre das Ende der UN,” Die Welt, 2. Mai 2014.

Die Ukraine ist ein unabhängiger UN-Staat, dessen Grenzen Russland feierlich anerkannt hatte. Die Ukraine jetzt gewaltsam zu zerschlagen würde nicht nur bedeuten, die UN-Charta in den Staub zu treten.

The webcast of the May 2, 2014 U.N. Security Council meeting on the Ukraine is found here.

See also:

Stefan Kornelius (Kommentar), “Merkel und Obama: In Ohnmacht vereint,” Süddeutsche Zeitung, 3. Mai 2014 (06:36 Uhr).

Eric Guje, “Der Westen ist nicht wehrlos: Ein neuer Geist der Konfrontation,” Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 2. Mai 2014 (14:03 Uhr).

​Simon Denyer and Anna Nemtsova, Ukraine suffers deadliest day in months; 34 killed in Odessa,” Wasington Post, May 2, 2014 (Updated: Updated: 3:20 PM).

The text of the April 17, 2014 Geneva “Statement” (Agreement) between Russia, the Ukraine, the EU and the U.S. ia found here.

The May 2, 2014 Security Council Meeting and Press Release SC/11377

The Press Release regarding the U.N. Security Council Meeting on May 2, 2014 (U.N. Doc. SC/11377) is found here.

The text of the Press Release is reproduced below.

The webcast of the May 2, 2014 Security Council meeting is found here.

The Trenchant Observer

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

SC/11377
May 2, 2014

Security Council
7167th Meeting* (AM)

DIPLOMATIC SOLUTION ONLY WAY OUT, AS SITUATION IN UKRAINE DETERIORATES,

UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL

The situation in parts of eastern and southern Ukraine had seen “further severe deterioration”, with fresh events — including the downing of two helicopters — threatening to destabilize the country and the region, the Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs told the Security Council today.

Jeffrey Feltman, briefing the Council three days after his most recent update, said that in more than a dozen cities in Donetsk Oblast and Luhansk, armed groups had taken over a growing number of buildings. The situation in the eastern city of Slovyansk, occupied by armed insurgents since 12 April, was of most immediate concern.

According to Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence, he said, two helicopters had been shot down overnight during operations by the authorities, with at least one pilot killed. Other casualties had been reported on both sides. In Donetsk Oblast and in the city itself, self-declared separatists had seized the regional prosecutor’s office on 1 May. Other reports cited clashes during a pro-unity protest in the southern city of Odessa.

He understood that the President of the Russian Federation had dispatched a special envoy to help free the seven military monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and accompanying Ukrainian staff being held by gunmen in Slovyansk. A diplomatic solution was the only way out of the crisis and all sides must redouble efforts to revive the spirit of compromise shown during the 17 April Geneva talks.

The representative of the Russian Federation said he had called today’s meeting because of the punitive operations being conducted in south-east Ukraine by the Kyiv Government, which was using military helicopters, striking at protestors and entrenching fighters. Unless its criminal misadventures were stopped, dire consequences would be unavoidable. Ukraine’s measures against its own people showed it had no desire to comply with the Geneva Statement.

While the Russian Federation was making efforts to de-escalate the crisis, Ukraine had started full-scale use of military force, annihilating any hope of agreement, he said. Urging an end to outside interference in Ukraine’s affairs, he said that by supporting those who had perpetrated a coup d’état in Kyiv, the United States and the European Union were destroying the path to a peaceful solution.

The representative of Ukraine said his country was committed to implementing the Geneva Statement, noting that free and fair presidential elections on 25 May were a top priority. The Russian Federation had made no effort to implement the Geneva accords. Instead, it supported illegal militants in eastern Ukraine and had created an atmosphere of violence.

He said the counter-terrorist operation, renewed in Slovyansk, sought to isolate militants from civilians in the city. Illegal militants were using heavy weapons against Ukrainian Special Forces, having shot down two helicopters and used the local population as shields. Earlier today, Russian saboteurs had attempted to cross the border. He urged the Russian Federation to stop supporting illegal militants. Russian claims of English-speaking foreigner involvement were “cynical” and “false”, as only Russian saboteurs and mercenaries were involved.

Also speaking in today’s debate were the representatives of France, United Kingdom, United States, Luxembourg, Argentina, Australia, China, Chad, Lithuania, Nigeria, Jordan, Chile, Rwanda and the Republic of Korea.

The meeting began at 12:03 p.m. and ended at 1:50 p.m.

Background

Meeting this afternoon to consider the situation in Ukraine, members of the Security Council had before them a letter from the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation (document S/2014/264) addressed to the Council President. Dated 13 April, it requests a meeting to consider “alarming” developments in Ukraine.

Briefing

JEFFREY FELTMAN, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said that since the Council’s last meeting on 29 April, there had been a further, severe deterioration of the situation in parts of eastern and southern Ukraine. Recent developments in those areas threatened a serious further destabilization of the country and the region, as well as Ukraine’s unity. In more than a dozen cities in Donetsk Oblast and Luhansk, an increasing number of buildings were being taken over by armed groups, he said, emphasizing that the situation in the eastern city of Slovyansk, occupied by armed insurgents since 12 April, was of most immediate concern.

According to Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence, he continued, two helicopters had been shot down overnight during ongoing operations by the authorities, with at least one pilot killed. A number of other casualties had been reported on both sides, but the total could not be verified. The acting Interior Minister had stated that a number of roadblocks had been removed from around the city, but it was understood from the media that tense standoffs continued, at least in parts of the city and around it.

At the same time, he continued, the seven military monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) accompanying Ukrainian military staff and held by gunmen in Slovyansk remained in detention amid repeated calls for their release. To that end, it was understood that the President of the Russian Federation had dispatched a special envoy to help free the hostages, he said, reiterating the Secretary-General’s call to those responsible to release them immediately, unconditionally and unharmed.

The crisis had also escalated in the Donetsk Oblast region and in Donetsk itself, where self-declared separatists had seized the regional prosecutor’s office on 1 May, he said. Other reports stated that the Ukrainian authorities had banned Russian passenger planes from flying to Donetsk and Kharkiv, while still others reported clashes during a pro-unity demonstration in the southern city of Odessa. Reiterating elements of the Secretary-General’s statement today, in which he expressed his grave concern over the situation, he said the escalating violence and reported further loss of life in Slovyansk were a stark reminder of how dangerous the situation had become. A diplomatic solution was the only way out of the crisis and all sides must redouble efforts to revive the spirit of compromise demonstrated during the 17 April Geneva talks, Mr. Feltman stressed, adding that during his meetings in Kyiv and Moscow next week, he would continue to reiterate a message of restraint and an immediate return to dialogue.

Statements

VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said he had called for today’s meeting because of the resumed punitive operations being conducted in south-east Ukraine by the Kyiv Government, which was using military helicopters, striking at protestors and entrenching fighters, leading to casualties. Unless the criminal misadventures of the Kyiv clique were stopped, dire consequences would be unavoidable, he warned, adding that the Ukrainian Government’s criminal measures against its own people showed that it had no desire to comply with the 17 April Joint Geneva Statement. It was now clear that the Kyiv Government’s many declarations in favour of dialogue were nothing less than hypocrisy.

At a time when the Russian Federation was making efforts to de-escalate the crisis, Ukraine had started full-scale use of military force, annihilating any hope of agreement, he continued. On the radio waves, one could hear English-speaking foreigners among those carrying out assaults in Slovyansk. Calling for an end to outside interference in Ukraine’s affairs, he urged the United States to end its double standards, adding that by supporting those who had perpetrated a coup d’état in Kyiv, that country and the European Union were in effect destroying the path to a peaceful solution. He called upon signatories to the Geneva Statement not to commit a fatal error, and on the West to stop its destructive policy concerning Ukraine and halt its operations there. An authentic political dialogue was needed, he emphasized.

GÉRARD ARAUD (France) said that the armed groups involved in progressively taking over cities in eastern Ukraine were being manipulated by Russian forces and refusing to implement the Geneva Statement. Ukraine, which had shown great restraint all along, had now decided to use its army and police against armed groups creating a climate of insecurity, he said, emphasizing that the latter were not spontaneous local demonstrators, who would be incapable of shooting down a helicopter with surface-to-air missiles. The Russian Federation had invoked the 21 February agreement, which it had not endorsed, while waiving the Geneva Agreement, to which it had consented but had made no effort to implement. He described as “comical” the Russian Federation’s accusation blaming the European Union for the violence, emphasizing that the Russian Federation had opened a Pandora’s box and unleashed the demon of nationalism. “We have a pyromaniac situation,” he said, stressing that the Russian Federation must disarm the groups that it had armed, free the OSCE monitors and negotiate with Ukraine.

MARK LYALL GRANT (United Kingdom) said the Russian Federation’s description of events in Ukraine as a punitive military operation against activists was a gross distortion of facts. Ukraine had a duty to uphold the rule of law and to protect its territory, and should carry it out in a proportionate, measured way, he emphasized. Its actions in and around Slovyansk were meant to relieve that city from armed groups sponsored by the Russian Federation who were terrorizing the population. No Council member would allow its towns to be overrun by armed militants, he pointed out, stressing that the Russian Federation’s claims about “peaceful activists” were not credible given the use of sophisticated weapons against Ukrainian forces, including by professionals funded and equipped by the Russian Federation. He urged the Russian Federation to refrain from inflammatory propaganda, throw its full weight behind the 17 April accord and rein in the armed groups that it supported.

SAMANTHA POWER (United States) described as false the Russian Federation’s claims that Ukraine was carrying out a large-scale attack on unarmed civilians, emphasizing that the latter’s actions were intended to contain Russian paramilitaries and protect Ukrainian citizens. Russian-directed agents and paramilitaries were the source of the violence, she stressed. Another falsehood was that the Russian Federation was concerned about instability in the east, while it was itself behind the instability. With Russian troops massing along its border, Ukraine had shown “remarkable, almost unimaginable” restraint, implementing international agreements, refraining from military responses to aggression and committing to direct dialogue with Moscow. Ukraine’s efforts to reclaim its cities were the same as any country would have made in the face of threats, she said, adding that 32 buildings in 17 eastern Ukraine towns were occupied by pro-Russian separatists. The Council had heard the Russian Federation build its case for outright intervention, but there was no evidence that Ukraine had threatened the Russian Federation in any way, she said. Ukraine’s steps to restore order were justified, but the fact that the Russian Federation had chosen to call an emergency Council meeting was another sign that it was trying to replicate the Crimea charade, she said, urging the latter to pull back its troops, stop its campaign of instability, and work to release international observers and journalists.

SYLVIE LUCAS (Luxembourg) expressed concern over the actions of pro-Russian, militant separatists intent on destabilizing Ukraine and preventing it from holding elections on 25 May. Confronted with violations against its sovereignty, Ukrainian authorities had shown restraint. Until Thursday, their response to the illegal seizure of public offices and the growing number of attacks and violence by armed groups against peaceful protests had been moderate. The presence of impartial United Nations and OSCE monitors across Ukraine was vital to establish the facts and put an end to bellicose propaganda. She condemned the taking of OSCE monitors as hostages and called on the pro-separatists to free them as soon as possible.

MARÍA CRISTINA PERCEVAL (Argentina) said that the spirit of compromise reached in Geneva must be restored. Hate speech and incitement to violence had only lead to rising tensions, undermining the international community’s efforts. All actors must work towards constructive diplomacy so the Geneva Statement could be implemented. The Council’s calls for a de-escalation of tensions had not been consistent. “It is not too late. It is still possible to avoid the worst,” she said, calling on the Council to assume its responsibility to maintain international peace and security.

GARY QUINLAN (Australia) said the planned, coordinated destabilization of Ukraine could not happen without external support, as seen with the downing of two helicopters. Armed groups had consolidated control in Donetsk and Kharkiv and had orchestrated violence which had spread to Odessa. The actions of pro-Russian groups were not legitimate protests, but rather calculated, highly provocative actions intended to undermine Ukrainian authority. They made a mockery of what the Russian Federation had committed to in the Geneva agreement. The Ukraine Government was implementing its Geneva obligations and was committed to holding public debate on constitutional change. In response to extreme provocation, Ukrainian authorities had a responsibility to restore public order. It must take measures to ensure security and protect its citizens in its territory. “We are at a very dangerous, manipulated moment,” he said, urging the Russian Federation to implement the Geneva Statement and demonstrate it had no further territorial ambitions in Ukraine.

LIU JIEYI (China), stressing that the situation in parts of eastern and southern Ukraine was of deep concern, urged parties to safeguard ethnic groups, keep calm, exercise restraint and avoid a further deterioration of conditions. A political solution was the only way out of the crisis. Ukraine must consider the full situation and accommodate the aspirations of various regions and ethnic groups in order to achieve a balance. Noting his Government’s efforts towards promoting peace and facilitating negotiations, he expressed hope that the parties would pursue dialogue, implement the agreements reached, start a political settlement process and realize the stability of Ukraine. China would continue to support good offices with the aim of promoting a political settlement.

MAHAMAT ZENE CHERIF (Chad) said that, despite repeated calls for restraint and calm, the situation continued to deteriorate, politically and in terms of security. There was a risk of a war that carried incalculable consequences. While a number of efforts had been made to open the way for dialogue, the results had been far from expectations. Reiterating the call for an immediate halt to combat, he urged non-violence by the authorities and separatists alike, as well as for the release of the seven OSCE observers. The solution must be political, sought in full respect for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. Further, countries with influence should use all means possible to help establish direct dialogue. He also encouraged the Secretary-General to step up efforts to bring about a rapprochement.

RAIMONDA MURMOKAITĖ (Lithuania) said Ukraine could not be blamed for taking steps against those trying to carve it up and parcel it out. It had a right to protect its sovereignty. The Russian Federation so far had not condemned the Syrian regime’s missile and bomb attacks this week in Aleppo or similar previous acts. Today, two Ukrainian helicopters were downed by mobile air defence systems. Militants, not protestors, had opened fire. Had the separatists carried out the Geneva Statement or had the Russian Federation called on the separatists to enter into peace talks with the Ukrainian Government, such attacks, and today’s deadly provocations in Odessa, would not be happening. The Russian Federation continued to blame Ukraine, the only side taking steps to implement the Geneva Statement. She rejected all Russian attempts to validate its intentions or send Russian “peacekeeping” forces to Ukraine. She noted that OSCE observers must be able to carry out their tasks.

U. JOY OGWU (Nigeria) expressed concern over the downing of a military helicopter and the seizure of Slovyansk. All sides must refrain from violence, intimidation and provocative action, and all armed groups must vacate buildings they had seized. Territorial integrity must be respected. The alternative would be “falling dominoes” in Eastern Europe and every region of the world. “The scenario is simply mortifying. It is our collective responsibility to prevent the domino theory from being replayed in our times,” she said.

MAHMOUD DAIFALLAH MAHMOUD HMOUD (Jordan), expressing deep concern over events in Ukraine, called on all hostages held by rebels in Slovyansk to be released, including OSCE monitors. An unfolding mutiny in eastern Ukraine, as rebels seized public and Government buildings and threatened civilians, had contravened both international law and the Geneva agreement. Ukraine had a right to take appropriate measures to retain its unity and sovereignty, as well as uphold the constitutional and legal order. It must work towards a peaceful resolution of the crisis, within international criteria, sparing no effort to engage in dialogue with all stakeholders. He urged implementing the Geneva Statement and exerting pressure on the rebels to end the crisis. Further, all stakeholders should refrain from racist or hate speech, he said, underscoring the importance of respecting Ukrainians’ aspirations, notably by ensuring that elections were held in May.

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile), emphasizing that the crisis was quickly entering an unpredictable phase, expressed concern over events in Slovyansk and urged the Council to again call for all means to pursue a peaceful settlement through dialogue. Parties must refrain from acting unilaterally and must support international mediation efforts, he said, condemning the kidnapping of OSCE observers and reiterating the call for their release. It was vital to work in a spirit of compromise, he said, urging the disarmament of armed groups and returning illegally occupied buildings. He reiterated the need to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, supporting both the Secretary-General’s efforts and visit to the Russian Federation by the Under-Secretary-General.

EUGÈNE-RICHARD GASANA (Rwanda) said the situation in Ukraine had escalated. Pro-separatist forces had continued to occupy buildings and they had shot down helicopters. OSCE observers had been detained. He condemned the armed methods used by militants and called for a proportionate response by Ukraine’s armed forces. He called on all Council members to give the Under-Secretary-General the meaningful backing necessary, and noted that only a genuine dialogue by the Ukrainian parties and a strong commitment by those with influence could resolve the crisis. Otherwise, the conflict would become regional or worse, and the Council would continue holding emergency meetings on that matter. “We need here to scale down the rhetoric,” he said.

OH JOON (Republic of Korea) expressed concern over continuing tensions in Ukraine, particularly over the violence in Slovyansk, which had included an attack on a military helicopter. Dialogue among all parties was the only way to achieve a peaceful solution, and he called on all parties to the Geneva Statement to implement it. With elections scheduled for May, it was all the more important to ensure an environment conducive to free and fair elections and without any outside interference. He expressed hope for a transparent, Ukraine-led process.

OLEKSANDR PAVLICHENKO (Ukraine) said his country remained committed to implementing the 17 April Geneva Statement, adding that free and fair presidential elections on 25 May were a top priority. The Russian Federation had made no effort to de-escalate the situation and implement the Geneva Statement, and had instead supported illegal militants in eastern Ukraine and created an atmosphere of violence. Security for all Ukrainians was another top priority, and the purpose of the counter-terrorist operation renewed in Slovyansk was to isolate militants from civilians in the city, he said, adding that its commander required the militants to free all hostages and captured administration buildings, and to stop the violence. Ukrainian authorities were ready to grant amnesty to all militant group members who had not committed serious crimes, he said. Describing the Russian Federation’s claims that English-speaking foreigners were involved in the crisis as “cynical” and “false”, he said only Russian saboteurs and mercenaries were present.

He went on to note that the Russian Federation’s embassy in Kyiv had not been notified about the arrival of Special Presidential Envoy Vladimir Lukin. Nonetheless, Ukraine was prepared to discuss with him practical contributions to resolving problems. Due to the situation in Slovyansk, the National Security and Defence Council had launched a counter-terrorist operation, the active phase of which had been renewed in that city and elsewhere, he said. The operation had taken control of nine terrorist checkpoints in Slovyansk. Illegal militants were using heavy weapons against Ukrainian special forces, and had shot down two helicopters with man-portable air defence systems, killing two people and wounding seven others, he said, adding that they had not hesitated to use the local people as shields. Russian saboteurs had tried to break through the border today but they had been stopped by Ukrainian guards, he said, calling upon the Russian Federation to stop supporting illegal militants and other actions that undermined his country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, including the use of military threat as a form of pressure.

The representative of the Russian Federation took the floor a second time to refute the claim by his counterpart from France that his country had not endorsed the 21 February agreement. On the contrary, it looked forward to implementing the accord and had helped to conclude the 17 April Geneva Statement, which, while simple, would pave the way out of the crisis. People in eastern Ukraine merely wanted their rights guaranteed, he said. Since the signing of the Geneva Statement, no one had taken up weapons, but there had never been a reasonable response from Kyiv. The Council had heard that on 25 May Ukrainian officials would unveil some sort of decentralization process, he said, noting that his Western colleagues seemed to know about all the operations currently being carried out by the Kyiv Government. He asked why the United States did not want OSCE efforts for dialogue, pointing out that the Russian Federation had suggested different formats for dialogue on several occasions during the course of the crisis, and suggested convening a constitutional assembly, while they had said they were not ready to organize such forums. He also denied claims that his country was refusing to implement the Geneva Statement.

The representative of the United States also took the floor again, saying that for the Russian Federation to blame Ukraine for defending its own actions on Ukrainian territory was like the story of the boy who told his mother that a fight between him and another boy had started when the other had hit him back. “We must be clear about cause and effect here,” she emphasized. It was not true that the United States had never called on the Maidan protestors to leave buildings and renounce violence, and that it was exercising double standards. On 10 January, it had condemned the actions of rioters outside Government buildings, and later that month it had condemned targeted attacks against journalists and called on all protestors to refrain from violence and destruction of property. Those were among the many public statements by the United States Government aimed at ending the fighting. The future was more important, she said, asking whether the Russian Federation would publicly urge the separatists to end their siege of public buildings. It had repeatedly taken aim at the so-called illegitimate Government in Kyiv while refusing to acknowledge its failure to embrace the 21 February agreement after it had been negotiated. Furthermore, the Russian Federation would not come out in support of the 25 May elections, she said, stressing that doing so would be best way to ensure that rights were more autonomous in eastern Ukraine.

The representative of the Russian Federation, responding to a question by the Council President about a possible presidential statement from today’s meeting, first addressed comments made by his United States counterpart. He said that what had been heard from the United States, and the way that message had been delivered, showed everyone that it approved of the forceful change of power in Ukraine, which, in the end, did not serve Ukrainian interests. As for a presidential statement, he said it would be good to end today’s meeting with a statement calling for a swift end to violence and serious implementation of the Geneva Statement.

OH JOON (Republic of Korea), Council President, said he would ask the coordinators to take up the matter.

* *** *

__________

* The 7166th Meeting was closed.

A weak American president fails to lead, and anarchy is unleashed upon the world

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Mark Landler of the New York Times published an article today, April 29, that reveals not only the deep roots of pacifism and appeasement in President Obama’s thinking and character, of which attendant observers were previously quite aware, but also—and shockingly–the confused and muddled state of his thinking about foreign policy in general, and responding to Russia’s ongoing aggression in the Ukraine in particular.

Mark Landler, “Ending Asia Trip, Obama Defends His Foreign Policy,” New York Times, April 28, 2014 (April 29 print edition).

As reported by Landler, Obama feels on the defensive, and throws out straw men to knock down in his own defense. For example, in rebutting critics of his responses to Russian aggression in the Crimea and its subsequent annexation, or his failure to respond to Putin’s attack against the eastern Ukraine, and continuing threats of an invasion, Obama argues that the introduction of troops in the Ukraine would not help to solve the problem.

With all due respect, Mr. President, you are being criticized at the moment for your failure to impose real economic sanctions on Russia that are serious enough to get them to stop their present takeover of the eastern Ukraine, and dismemberment of Europe’s largest nation in area which also has a population of 45 million people.

What is truly shocking to hear is the muddled thinking of Obama, who doesn’t seem capable of recognizing critical issues and the time frame within which they will be decided. He doesn’t seem to understand what is at stake in the Crimea, or the eastern Ukraine, or in terms of upholding international law.

As he had done in Syria through Medvedev, Putin through his media and spokesmen has made not so subtle allusions to the possibility of nuclear war. In both Syria and in the Ukraine, it would appear that such threats, delivered obliquely to be sure, may have gotten to Obama.

Whether that is the case or not, Obama has repeatedly manifested the dug-in attitude of a diehard pacifist willing to do almost anything to appease Russia.

Obama acts not as the principal protagonist on the world stage who can laad the West and its allies in facing down Russian aggression, as only an American president is in a position to do, but rather as a detached observer who does not even believe the latest round of targeted sanctions will achieve the effect of making Putin and Russia change course.

He seems to be afraid of Putin and Russia, and entering into a confrontation with them over anything, whether that be the future of the Ukraine, of NATO, or of the postwar international political and legal order established under the framework of the United Nations Charter.

If there are no circumstances in which the U.S. will impose strong economic sanctions, or even use military force, Putin has an open playing field as wide as central and eastern Europe. Others around the world will take their cues from Obama’s pacifism and appeasement, and from Russia’s success in taking advantage of America’s current lack of leadership and resolve.

It’s too bad Obama didn’t play American football in high school. He might have learned something about how to summon the courage to tackle and stop a large body coming directly at him at high speed and with great force and momentum.

The West is without a leader, and anarchy is unleashed upon the world.

The Trenchant Observer

New sanctions, the U.S., Russia and the Ukraine: The smartest people in the room are blundering idiots in foreign policy

Monday, April 28th, 2014

The Editorial Board of the Washington Post addressed the contradiction between Russia’s actions and whatis happening on the ground in Ukraine in terms that cut to the heart ofthe matter:

VLADIMIR PUTIN’S assault on Ukraine has been relentless and increasingly
reckless: Forces working with Russian personnel in eastern Ukraine are torturing and murdering opponents and holding international observers hostage. In contrast, President Obama’s response has been slow and excruciatingly measured. New U.S. sanctions announced Monday fall well short of the steps that senior officials threatened when the Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine began three weeks ago.

No wonder that, even as he announced them, Mr. Obama expressed skepticism that they would work. “We don’t expect there to be an immediate change in Russia’s policy,” a top aide told reporters. This official acknowledged that the United States could take steps that would impose “severe damage on the Russian economy” but was holding them back. The obvious question is: Why would the United States not aim to bring about an immediate change in Russian behavior that includes sponsorship of murder, torture and hostage-taking?

–Editorial, “Obama’s half-measures give Vladi­mir Putin little to fear,” Washington Post, April 28, 2014 (1:38 p.m. ET).

The fine-tuned “targeted sanctions” imposed on Russia by the U.S. and the West are like mosqito bites on Putin and Russia’s leaders. Meanwhile, as Europe and America debated which Step II sanctions to impose this week, Russia’s invasion with special operations forces and others under its direction and control continued to spread unrest in the eastern Ukraine, as Kiev increasingly lost authority and control in the region.

Angela Merkel is reported to have told Barack Obama, after a conversation with the Russian president, that Putin is in another world.

But in point of fact it is Barack Obama, and his extraordinarily weak foreign policy team, who are in another world. Their world is one in which a dictator who has invaded and annexed the Crimea, sent special operations teams into the eastern Ukraine to stir up and coordinate unrest and rebellion, and who has 40,000 to 80,000 troops in combat-ready status poised for an all-out invasion, will be deterred by sanctions prohibiting defense exports “that will increase the capability of the Russian military”.

Barack Obama, the highly-touted and self-proclaimed “smartest man in the room”, in foreign policy and when it comes to dealing with Russia is in fact an amateur, one of the more cluelss members of the group in the room.

His fine intellectual distinctions have had no impact in the Crimea, or now in the eastern Ukraine.

Russian decision making is not attuned to or responsive to such fine intellectual distinctions.

While Russia and its followers are assassinating opponents in the eastern Ukraine, and town after town slips from Kiev’s control–as evidenced above all by the refusal of local police to defend local leaders or buildings, or pro-Kiev demonstrators—Obama thinks of his next round of “smart sanctions” targeted at individuals and companies in Russia.

There is no strong evidence that targeted individual sanctions, alone, have ever worked. Obama is betting the future of Europe on the proposition that, with Russia and the Ukraine, they will.

Obama’s and Europe’s policy toward Russia has been flawed from the start, when they failed to react with serious economic sanctions and other measures in response to Russia’s invasion of the Crimea, and again when Russia annexed The Crimean peninsula.

As made clear in the Geneva meeting on April 17, they clearly signaled to Putin that they would accept a return to business as usual despite the annexation of the Crimea, provided Russia committed no further aggression in the esstern Ukraine. Their statements left the impression that only the movement of regular troops in an invasion of the eastern Ukraine would trigger real economic sanctions–the so-called “Step III” sanctions.

The slaps on the wrists that they ordered have had no apparent impact on Putin or Russian leaders.

When the tale is told by historians of how Barack Obama lost the Crimea to Russia, and then the Ukraine, the story will revolve around an incometent foreign policy team, and the deep roots of pacifism and appeasement that guide Barack Obama, and other U.S. and European decision makers.

Obama’s policy of “slap-on-the-wrist” sanctions has failed. He and Europe have failed to deter Russian intervention in the eastern Ukraine, which is currently proceeding.

Unless radical changes are immediately made in the responses of the U.S. and the West, the eastern Ukraine will soon be lost.

These are the fruits of pacifism and appeasement in the face of Russian aggression in Europe.

The Trenchant Observer

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Russia’s propaganda and empty justifications for aggression in the Ukraine; the urgent need for the West to broadcast accurate news into eastern Ukraine

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

See Nik Afanasjew, “RUSSISCHE PROPAGANDA: Senden, um zu siegen; Im Krieg der Worte ist die Ukraine zum Schlachtfeld geworden; Die russische Propaganda ist Putins schärfste Waffe und Dmitri Kisseljow sein General,  Die Zeit, 28. April 2014  (17:46 Uhr)

Russia’s bald lies and cynicism in seeking to justify its aggression against the Ukraine seem to know no limits. It is difficult to understand how Foreign Mininster Sergey Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin can advance their empty justications with straight faces, and even feigned anger.

To grasp the wholly fallacious nature of their case, and their propaganda, we need to step back a little from the latest ferocious arguments over disputed facts, in which they engage in the classic strategem of defending their utterly false propaganda narrative from being deflated in any aspect by the truth.

Their key objective here is to shift the attention of the broad public, which has a short memory and does not think and feel in rational, analytical fashion, to endless and unrelenting arguments over specific details and facts, while diverting its attention from the essential facts of the larger situation.

The bad faith of the Russian justifications for their aggression can be quickly grasped by posing a series of hypothetical questions:

Would Russia view subversion by “little green men” from the West or Arab countries in the Gulf, stirring up unrest in a republic in the Caucusus, seizing buildings, and calling for a referendum on independence from Russia as legitimate, as it does similar activities in the Crimea and the eastern Ukraine?

In such a situation would Russia agree that attempts to retake control of public administration buildings, by force if necessary, would be wholly illegitimate and provide troops massed on the border with a neighboring country a justification for invading the Russian republic involved?

Russia should be careful here, if they recall the events in Chechnya, and the potential for foreign subversion in restive republics within the Russian Federation.

Would Russia permit the seizure and annexation of any of its territory by China or Japan?

Would Russia and Putin accept in Russia itself the kinds of demands for regional autonomy they support in the eastern Ukraine?

Just a moment’s thought about these questions shows how empty and cynical Russia’s arguments are.

But, we must always bear in mind, Russia’s propaganda arguments are not aimed at intellectuals and pundits in the West. Rather, they are aimed at the broad public, and have a specific propaganda purpose which is an integral part of the Russian strategy of aggression.

Their goal is to create mass emotions which support the actions and goals of Russian subversion, both in eastern Ukraine (as in the Crimea earlier) and in Russia as a whole.

The entire propaganda bubble depends on denying access to any alternative narratives or versions of the facts which otherwise might be available through public dissemination, whether by television, radio, the press, or social media.

To counter Russia’s propanda supporting the “Big Lie” that Russian-speakers are under threat in the Ukraine, the West must counter Russia’s attempt to establish an “electronic curtain” around the population of the eastern Ukraine to shield them from hearing objective news reporting and the truth. That is why it is important for the Russians to seize television towers, and replace Ukrainian TV channels with Russian channels which endlessly repeat the lies of the Russian propaganda machine. That is why they have taken control of Russia’s leading social media site in recent days.

What the West Must Do to Counter Russian Propaganda

Russia shut down the Voice of America transmissions on local frequencies in Moscow just weeks before the Russian invasion of the Crimea.

This fact alone demonstrates how critically important it is to get objective, factual news reporting to be heard (and where possible seen) by the broad public in eastern Ukraine, and in Moscow.

The U.S. has the capabilities, and should use them, to get the truth into the ears of the populations of the eastern Ukraine and Russia.

Every available short- and middle-wave transmitter of Radio Free Europe (RFE), the Voice of America (VOA), and other Western state broadcasters such as Radio France International (RFI), Deutsche Welle (DW), and Radio Netherlands, should be aimed at the eastern Ukraine with round-the-clock coverage of events. Let them continue to broadcast objective news programs as well as commentary according to their own judgments. But get their signals into the eastern Ukraine and Russia.

The U.S. military has airborne broadcast capabilities, which should be used.

The bubble of Russian propaganda is what gives life support to the Russian sabateurs and special operations forces operating in the eastern Ukraine.

That bubble must be burst, within days, by establishment and operation of such enhanced broadcasts to the eastern Ukraine and to Russia itself.   All bureaucratic obstacles must be overcome on an emergency basis.  Western countries can quickly supply short-waive receivers to hear their broadcasts if middle-wave broadcasts are jammed.

The West can also help the Ukrainan government in maintaing access to the Internet in eastern Ukraine, by providing mobile cell phone platforms and internet signals, including in particular wireless wide-area networks (WWAN’s). The technology exists. Google should be brought in (quietly) to help, if necessary. Wireless wide-area network modems can be made readily available throughout the region in great numbers.

A multi-pronged attack, given the highest priority and urgency, should be able to pierce through Russia’s electronic curtain in the eastern Ukraine in fairly short order. The effect will be to let some of the air, if not a great deal of it, out of Putin’s tires.

The people in the eastern Ukraine undoubtedly have a great desire to find out the truth about events in their region, and on the diplomatic front as well.

Western countries can also assist the Ukraine in producing newspapers in Russian and Ukrainian for widespread dissemination throughout the region, making up in part for the closure and supression of local newspapers in various localities. The newspapers might usefully reproduce key articles from leading newspapers in the West and throughout the World, which would give them added credibility.

The one weapon the West has and which Russia doe not have, is the truth.

For Putin’s subversion in the eastern Ukraine to succeed, that truth must be suppressed and replaced by the blatant lies and disortions of Russian propaganda.

The West should spare no effort in piercing Russia’s electronic curtain, and taking that truth to the people of the eastern Ukraine and Russia.

Congress should immediately approve whatever emergency funds are required to produce the actions outlined above within a matter of days, not weeks.

The need for such action is extraordinarily urgent.

The Trenchant Observer

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Le Figaro reports diplomatic sources at UN believe Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine imminent

Saturday, April 26th, 2014

Latest News and Opinion

Reports are coming in to the effect that a Russian invasion of the eastern Ukraine appears “imminent” or “inevitable”.

See:

(1) Maurin Picard, “L’ONU redoute une invasion russe; La Russie serait sur le point d’envahir militairement l’est de l’Ukraine, peut-être dès ce week-end, selon des sources diplomatiques concordantes,” Le Figaro, le 25 avril 2014 (Mis à jour le à 22:45).

(2) Natalia Antelava, “Ukraine crisis: ‘Sense of inevitability of Russian invasion’,” BBC News, 26 April 2014 (Last updated at 10:33 BST).

We should not forget that the two biggest nuclear powers are on opposite sides of this conflict, and the risk of developments spinning out of control is real.

This fact argues for prudence on all sides in terms of moving troops or aircraft across international frontiers.

Putin must be stopped, in an extremely careful manner, but without succumbing to pacifism and appeasement.

What is more likely than a nuclear showdown, however, is an economic showdown, in which Russian tanks will not be able to ensure the export of Soviet goods or financial transfers from abroad to pay for them.

The Trenchant Observer

Putin’s wager: Russia’s rogue authoritarianism versus fundamental human rights and the existing international political and legal order

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

In a fatal error, Putin challenges the modern postwar international political and legal order

It is historicly ironic, and from Vladimir Putin’s point of view perhaps tragic, that Russia’s crowning achievement at the Sochi Winter Games culminated precisely when the Yanukovych government in the Ukraine began to stumble and fall. On the other hand, Putin had only himself to blame.

Since then, Vladimir Putin has overreached, and made the fatal mistake of undertaking actions that put Russia permanently at odds with the world’s international political, legal and economic order.

While formally created during and at the end of World War II (1939-1945), the system has roots that go back to Hugo Grotius and the Thirty Years’ War of 1618-1648. The idea for the United Nations can be traced back to the Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907, and the Covenant of the League of Nations and the founding of the League in 1919.

Since the founding of the United Nations in 1945, the system of international law established within the framework of the United Nations Charter, including its bedrock principle prohibiting the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, has become the very fabric of international society, constituting principles that have been repeatedly accepted in countless treaties and agreements as binding norms of international law by virtually every country.

Now along comes Russia’s new Dictator to suppress within Russia fundamental human rights such as freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the right to a fair trial; to challenge the entire structure of the existing international political and legal order by invading the Ukraine, seizing the Crimea by military force and annexing it to Russia; and now threatening to invade the eastern Ukraine if the government of that country responds to Russia’s initial invasion by special forces and seizure of government buildings by force with its own necessary and legal use of force to reassert its control over its own government offices and territory.

Putin wants Russia to be able to invade the eastern Ukraine with special forces, and then to be able to decry any attempt by the Ukrainian government to restore public order as “crimes” against the Ukrainian constitution. He does so without mentioning his own crimes against the Russian constitution by suppressing civil liberties, or his own use of brutal force in putting down the rebellion in Chechnya–which included the commission of war crimes on a very large scale.

Putin and his lieutenant, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, accuse the Ukraine and the West of violating international law, as they sit on the spoils of Russian aggression in the Crimea, and openly threaten military intervention in the Eastern Ukraine if that country’s government moves with force to restore public order and the ordinary functioning of government institutions.

Like the case of Northern Cyprus, invaded by Turkey in 1967, or East Timor which was invaded and annexed by Indonesia in 1975, Russian invasion and annexation of the Crimea will never be accepted by other nations.

Nor will any further conquests in the eastern Ukraine, or of independent countries which formerly made up the Soviet Union, ever be recognized.

An invasion of the eastern Ukraine will indeed produce results, just not those Putin in his demented shortsightedness seeks to secure.

An immediate result will be stiffer sanctions from the U.S. and the EU, which moreover are likely to grow in intensity over time.

An invasion is highly likely to produce permanent enmity toward Russia in the Ukraine, and to strengthen the desire of Ukrainians, East and West, to join the European Union and, if necessary to protect their independence in the future, to join NATO as well (whatever time may be required to achieve this result).

An invasion is also likely to produce energetic responses from NATO aimed at Russia, if not immediately then at least over the intermediate term. To counter potential Russian aggression, large forces of American and other NATO-country troops are likely to eventually be moved from Germany to forward bases in Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. The current drawdown of American forces from Europe, in time, could be reversed.

Europe will probably also undertake vigorous policies to reduce its consumption of Russian gas and oil, though this may take a few years.

Putin’s wager is that his domestic repression and suppression of freedom of the press, free elections, the right to a fair trial and other fundamental human rights will be a model others will want to emulate, or at least be willing to ignore.

His wager that wars of aggression involving military invasions and the annexation of conquered territories will not matter to other countries, which will be happy to look the other way and continue doing business with Russia, is not likely to be successful in the middle or long term.

To be sure, the slowness with which democracies respond to military challenges may appear to be acqiescence or appeasement in the short term, but in the intermediate to longer term the combined economic and military strength of the U.S., NATO, Japan and their allies will be able to contain Russian military expansionism while depriving Russia of vital opportunities to join the first ranks of nations in a wired and interconnected world.

Finally, Putin’s wager overlooks the vital forces within Russia itself, symbolized by courageous dissidents such as Andrei Sakharov, or even Communist party leaders like Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. These forces have visions of Russia that are deeply at odds with Putin’s embodiment of autocratic dictatorship at home, and wars of aggression abroad.

Putin’s wager may in fact hasten the day when his greatest fears are realized, the day the Maidan comes to Red Square.

The Trenchant Observer

Details of clash at pro-Russian checkpoint near Sloviansk

Monday, April 21st, 2014

For an extraordinary account, citing eyewitnesses, of the clash at a pro-Russian checkpoint near Sloviansk in the eastern Ukraine on April 20, Sunday, see:

Julia Smirnova (Slawjansk), “Die russische Invasion hat längst begonnen,” Die Welt, 21. April 2014.

In der gefährlichsten Stadt der Ukraine herrscht seit Tagen Angst. Vieles spricht dafür, dass Militärs und Geheimdienstmitarbeiter Slawjansk in der Ostukraine zum russischen Brückenkopf ausbauen.

This and other sources suggest that whatever the origins of the shoot-out, it seems highly unlikely that it was an attack launched by Rightest Sector operatives, as alleged in the Russian media.

The Trenchant Observer

After Geneva: Putin’s double game, and what to do about it

Monday, April 21st, 2014

(Developing—check back for updates)

Geneva agreement delays further sanctions; Russian non-compliance and new conditions; tacit acceptance of Crimean annexation; 40,000 combat-ready troops on border continue to threaten invasion; Western response

For recent commentary, see

(1) Andreas Umland (Kommentar), “KRIM-ANNEXION: Wie Putin den Westen austrickste,” Die Zeit, 18. April 2014 (1949 Uhr).

“Wladimir Putin hat sein Ziel erreicht: Die Genfer Erklärung imnpliziert, dass die Krim nicht mehr zur Ukraine gehört. Der Westen lässt Russland wieder einmal gewähren.”

(2) David J. Kramer, “Action, not words, needed for Ukraine,” April 21, 2014 (10:29 AM).

The response of the EU, the U.S., and NATO to Russian aggression in the Ukraine continues to be one of pacifism and an unwillingness to confront Putin which is so great that it amounts to appeasement.  For example, there was no mention of the invasion and annexation of the Crimea in the communiqué which was issued at the end of the four-party meeting between Russia, the EU, the U.S. and the Ukraine in Geneva on April 17, 2014.

The West has adopted no sanctions which can seriously be considered as aimed at forcing Russia to undo the annexation and return the Crimea to the Ukraine restoring the situation to the status quo ante prior to the invasion.

The West has adopted no serious sanctions against Russia for threatening an invasion of the eastern Ukraine with 40,000 combat-ready troops on the border fully equipped for an invasion.

The West has adopted no serious sanctions against Russia for having invaded the eastern Ukraine with special operations forces and others under their control, which have seized and continue to occupy public buildings through the use of armed force.

The next stage of sanctions which the West is threatening to adopt if Putin expands his invasion of the eastern Ukraine with regular military forces appears to be limited to the addition of more individuals and companies to the list of those targeted by individual sanctions.

On the military front, NATO and the U.S. have announced some token deployments of troops (e.g., 150 U.S. troops) to Poland and one or more of the Baltic nations which are members of NATO.

What the West has Forgotten

The West has forgotten the history of the Soviet Union, and Russia. Europe and the U.S. seem to have no memory of the methods, lies and subterfuge which were essential elements of Soviet diplomacy after World War II, as they took over one Eastern European country after another with lies, subterfuge, and where necessary assassinations of democratic opponents. The West has both forgotten this history and failed to recognize the fact that the new Russian leaders and apparatchiks have resumed the use of such methods in the conduct of Russian foreign policy.

Hitler, Goebbels, and Soviet leaders since Stalin have understood that the public has a very short memory, that the “Big Lie” must be endlessly repeated, and that non-official sources of news and information must be ruthlessly suppressed. Every assertion by the enemy that is at variance with the official propaganda and narrative of the party or the state must be vigorously, endlessly disputed, so as to create confusion in the minds of the public and to effectively suppress the real news about what is going on.

The greatest enemy of official propaganda, both Hitler and Soviet dictators have always known, is the truth.

It is not difficult to see and understand the implementation of this strategy by the current Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and his apparatchiks such as foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.

Among the constantly repeated lies the Russians are propagating, and which are repeated again and again, is the assertion that the Kiev government, which was elected by a vote of parliament after President Viktor Yanukovych fled first Kiev and then the country, assumed power as a result of a “military coup”.  Yet there was no military coup, and indeed the military had nothing to do with Yanukovych abandoning the government and fleeing Kiev.

Another lie, constantly repeated, has been that the Kiev government is controlled by neo-Nazis and fascists. Even if in fact the Rightist sector is represented in the government, to a limited degree, it is very far from the truth to say they control the government, when the President and the Prime Minister come from the party most closely associated with Iulia Timoshenko.

The point is that, nurtured by 25 years of illusions that Russia might become like a Western country, Europe and the U.S. are having a very difficult time disabusing themselves of these illusions despite growing and incontrovertible evidence that they are false.

This evidence includes:

(1) Russian aggression against Georgia in 2008 and the fact that it still has troops occupying several Russian-speaking enclaves in that country;

(2) The harsh repression of fundamental human rights in Russia, including the right to a free press and freedom of expression, the right to engage in peaceful demonstrations, and the right to a fair trial; and

(3) Russia has become an authoritarian dictatorship where alternative versions of reality are no longer permitted to be transmitted through the press or the media. In a highly revealing move, Russia stopped transmissions by the Voice of America on local frequencies only weeks before the Crimean invasion.

Alternative versions of reality which question official facts cannot be permitted. The greatest enemy of Russian propaganda is the truth. That is why the truth must be suppressed and factual reports from outside the area whose media Russia controls must be vigorously contested and contradicted at every step of the way.

The greatest enemy is the truth, because if the truth is allowed to penetrate the bubble of propaganda, the whole bubble will burst.

It is in this context that we must understand Sergey Lavrov’s assertions that the U.S., the EU and the U.S. are violating the “agreement” reached in Geneva on April 17, 2014, or engaged in actions which violate international law, or his assertions that the government in Kiev is violating the Ukrainian constitution. This propaganda, which is dutifully and endlessly repeated in the Russian television and press, and by U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin in the Security Council whenever that body meets, is an integral part of a strategy which is based on (1) the “big lie” that Russian-speakers in the Crimea or the eastern Ukraine are under threat or being attacked; and (2) the “need” or asserted “right” of Russia to respond by the use of military force to protect those threatened Russian-speakers, or cultural nationals.  Hitler used the term “Volksdeutsche” in referring to cultural nationals as he claimed the same right Putin claims to intervene on their behalf.

It is in this context that the armed clash which occurred at a checkpoint in the eastern Ukraine on Sunday, resulting in the death of at least one person, must be considered. Russian camera crews were suspiciously on the scene very quickly, and it is far from clear that Ukrainian “Rightest Sector” supporters were behind it, as was immediately asserted in the Russian media. Students of history will recall that Adolf Hitler staged a fake attack on German soldiers by Polish forces, to provide a pretext for his invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939.

The Rightest sector forces in Ukraine deny that they were behind the attack. It is entirely possible, if not probable given the unusual circumstances such as the presence of Russian television crews, that the operation was executed by Russian special forces in an effort to continue building a case for Russian military intervention in the eastern Ukraine.

In the light of Vladimir Putin’s uncompromising speech on April 17, delivered as his foreign minister was agreeing in Geneva for the militia and “protesters” to withdraw from the buildings they had seized in a number of localities in the eastern Ukraine, their subsequent refusal to do so, and the attack on the checkpoint on Sunday, such an intervention may indeed be likely, if not imminent.

As for the Geneva agreement, it served the obvious purpose of throwing a monkey-wrench into Western plans to adopt stronger sanctions against Russia for  (1) its military seizure and annexation of the Crimea; (2) its attacks in the eastern Ukraine by Russian armed forces and others under their control, who seized and continue to occupy a number of public administration buildings; and (3) its massing of 40,000-50,000 combat-ready troops on the Ukrainian border, in an obvious threat of invasion if Kiev does not accede to its demands regarding internal constitutional arrangements and other matters within its domestic jurisdiction.

The vagueness of the agreement in Geneva also leaves open to Russia the argument that the refusal of the militia and “protestors” in the government buildings seized in the eastern Ukraine is beyond their control, since Russia has no military or other forces in the eastern Ukraine, and exerts no control over the pro-Russian “demonstrators”.

Furthermore, in analyzing the conduct of Russia vis-à-vis any agreement, such as the April 17 agreement in Geneva, one must bear in mind that Russia was working very closely with Bashar al-Assad when he signed an Arab League peace agreement in November 2011, the agreements pursuant to Security Council resolutions 2042 and 2043 (2012) under which al-Assad agreed to ceasefire provisions and observers to verify compliance, and the June 30, 2012 Geneva I agreement which established a process (clearly illusory) for a ceasefire and resolution of the conflict.

Al-Assad complied with none of these agreements, while blocking Western sanctions initiatives and gaining valuable time through signing them. It should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with this history, and Russia’s diplomatic and military role in supporting the al-Assad regime, to see similar behavior now from Russia in relation to the Ukraine.

The Significance of the April 17 Geneva Agreement

At Geneva on April 17, Russia achieved a tacit recognition that its invasion of the Crimea should not be the subject of further dispute, while derailing efforts then underway to adopt stronger sanctions against Russia for the behavior described above.

What the West achieved was an agreement for an expanded team of OSCE observers to deploy to the region.  They also “achieved” the illusion of progress on the ground with withdrawal of militia and “demonstrators” from public buildings they have seized and still occupy in the eastern Ukraine, and a further undertaking not to continue such seizures.

If the U.S. and the EU quickly adopt really serious sanctions, e.g., for the invasion and annexation of the Crimea, and expand military moves in eastern countries of the NATO alliance, and the OSCE observers are robustly backed by the West, it is possible that the Geneva agreement of April 17 may play a useful role in defusing tensions in the eastern Ukraine.

However, it must be recognized that Putin and Russia represent a powerful military force that is moving, with great momentum, which will not be stopped or slowed until it encounters an equally strong opposing force. That force may consist of real economic sanctions that are implemented, and military moves by NATO that should make Russia think twice.

This would be a good time, for example, to launch a vigorous discussion within NATO about the need to permanently move the deployment of U.S. and other NATO troops forward to Poland, Romania, and Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. U.S. troops were stationed during the Cold War within hundreds of kilometers of East Germany and Czechoslovakia, where opposing Warsaw Pact forces were stationed. Given the changes in geopolitical realities revealed by the Russian invasion of the Crimea, a strong case can now be made that to deter future Russian military aggression against member states, NATO forces should be forward-deployed to where they might have a significant military impact in deterring or halting any such action.

Real, permanent economic sanctions should now be imposed against Russia for its invasion and annexation of the Crimea. As suggested previously, a good start would be to impose a total ban on financial transactions with, or doing any other business with, companies in the Crimea, or with other companies doing business with such companies. These sanctions should have the goal of eventually reversing the effects of the invasion and annexation of the Crimea, and should not be lifted until those conditions are met. They are limited and proportional measures of collective self-defense, which Kiev has or will formally request from NATO, the U.S. the EU countries, and other countries.

The U.S. should adopt these sanctions immediately, because it can, while the EU should adopt these measures or the closest approximation they can reach, as soon as they can. Other NATO allies or U.S. allies, such as Canada and Australia, should adopt such measures as quickly as they can.

Can we expect such concentrated attention and concerted action from Barack Obama and Europe’s leaders?

It does not appear likely on the record they have established to date for pacifism and appeasement. If Germany is not willing to sacrifice one half of one percent of its GDP in order to impose sanctions that might help to uphold the postwar military, political and economic order, appeasement may carry the day.

But at some point, hopefully soon, they will see behind Putin’s mask, and understand that he and Russia are a force, moving with great momentum, that will not be stopped until it encounters a countervailing force of equal strength. To reach that point, we can only hope that they experience a sudden infusion of insight and political courage.

Is the effort to uphold the U.N. Charter and the prohibition of the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of another state worth what it will cost, even when we are talking about a country that is not a member of NATO or any other military alliance with the United States?

Ask the war veterans who fought in the Korean War to repel North Korean aggression.

Ask the 500,000 veterans who fought in the 1990-91 Gulf War to repel the Iraqi invasion and attempted annexation of part of Kuwait.

Ask any serious student of diplomatic history or international law.

The Trenchant Observer

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