Ukraine: Russian military intervention underway or likely, as Putin follows Hitler’s playbook in the Crimea

Russian President Vladimir Putin may have already decided to intervene militarily in the Ukraine, in order to seize the Crimea where the Russian Black Sea fleet is based.

All events unfolding in the last two days are consistent with this hypothesis. He has today ordered Russian troops to block off he airport in Sebastopol, committing a flagrant act of aggression against the Ukraine in violation of the most fundamental prohibition in the U.N. Charter, contained in Article 2 paragraph 4. That article establishes the following:

Article 2

(4) All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

On the latest developments regarding Russian intervention in the Ukraine, see

“KRIM: Russische Soldaten sperren Militär-Flughafen in Sewastopol; Milizen im Flughafen in Simferopol, russisches Militär auf dem Flughafen in Sewastopol: Die Lage auf der Krim ist angespannt. Am Mittag will sich Janukowitsch äußern,” Die Zeit, 28. Februar 2014 (08:38 Uhr).

Vladimir Putin and his government appear to be following the playbook Adolf Hitler used in whipping up sentiment in the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia, in the lead-up to the threatened invasion and formal annexation of that province in September, 1938.

The forced annexation of the Sudetenland was ratified by Edouard Daladier of France and Neville Chamberlain of Britain in the infamous “Munich Pact” on September 29-30, 1938. Hitler invaded “rump” Czechoslovakia in March, 1939, and then Poland on September 1, 1939, launching World War II.

In the present case, look out for any efforts by Russia to respond with military force to calls for assistance to protect Russian citizens in the Crimea or the larger Ukraine, and any effort to use military force to re-install Yanukovych as president of the Ukraine. These would be transparent subterfuges, but similar lies have been used before.

What Putin and the old KGB boys may not fully appreciate, however, is how the Internet and social media will inevitably frustrate any Russian efforts to keep the the truth about what they are doing from public eyes, even in Russia.

The prohibition of the threat or the use of force, the cornerstone of the U.N. Charter, clearly reflected the experience of the annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938, a day before the invasion by Hitler’s armies that had already been ordered.

Putin is carrying out large-scale military exercises near the border with the Ukraine in an obvious effort to intimidate the leaders of the country’s new government and the West, and in an equally obvious violation of Article 2(4)’s prohibition of the threat of the use of force.

What is to be done?

1. An emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council should be immediately called so that the world can focus on Russia’s flagrant violations of the international community’s most basic legal prohibition.

2. The foreign ministers of Germany, Poland and France should constitute an EU crisis team which engages and coordinates European efforts to persuade Putin to pull back from the brink.

3. In Washington and Brussels draft legislation should be prepared establishing the most stringent sanctions possible against the Russian Federation and its leaders. Sanctions and an end th MFN status for Russia should be implemented at an early date if Russia does not desist from any military interference or intervention in the Ukraine.

4. The new transitional government of the Ukraine should immediately seek repeal of the law passed in recent days stripping Russian speakers of their rights to use Russian as a second language.

The law should be restored to the situation existing prior to the new law, while the government should announce that it will name a commission to study the language issue. The commission should be tasked with taking into account the positive experience of Estonia in managing a gradual transition toward the use of Estonian by all, while upholding the right of Russian-speakers to receive primary and the majority of secondary education in Russian where such schools already existed.

5. The Europeans must lead energetically, while the Americans should support their efforts with financial assistance. Above all, the United States must coordinate its efforts with those of the Europeans, and not try to call all the shots. This is no time for a repeat of Victoria Nuland’s hubris and “F… the EU” attitude.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

The Observer
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by The Observer, an international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. He is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (IACHR), where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, The Observer has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. The Observer speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, The Observer has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on the best articles that have appeared in the blog.

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