Russia seizes Crimea through use of military force

While Obama and his administration appear unable to think quickly on their feet and to understand what is going on as Russia seizes control of the Crimea by military force, independent observers with a keen eye can figure out what is happening and the significance of events.

See, for example,

(1) Luke Harding, “Crimean coup is payback by Putin for Ukraine’s revolution; After what Moscow regards as the western-backed takeover of Kiev, the Kremlin’s choreography has been impressive,” The Guardian, February 28, 2014.

(2) “Krim-Regierungschef bittet Russland um Hilfe; Der prorussische Regierungschef hat sich zum Oberbefehlshaber des Militärs und der Polizei erklärt. Er bittet Russland um Unterstützung; Der Kreml will die Bitte prüfen,” Die Zeit, 1. März 2014 (9:39 Uhr).

Little room for doubt exists that a coup orchestrated and carried out by the Russians has taken place. The new president of the regional assembly, elected under the gaze of men with automatic weapons who had seized the regional parliament building, made the following statements, according to Die Zeit:

Angesichts der angespannten Lage auf der ukrainischen Halbinsel Krim hat der Regierungschef der autonomen Teilrepublik Russland Unterstützung gebeten. “Aus Verantwortung für das Leben und die Sicherheit der Bürger bitte ich den russischen Präsidenten Wladimir Putin um Hilfe bei der Sicherung von Frieden und Ruhe auf dem Gebiet der Krim”, sagte Sergej Axjonow in einer von örtlichen Medien verbreiteten und im russischen Fernsehen ausgestrahlten Botschaft.

Axjonow sagte zudem, er habe die Befehlsgewalt über alle Militäreinheiten sowie für die Polizei und Sicherheitskräfte auf der Halbinsel übernommen. Alle Kommandeure sollten sich seiner Befehlsgewalt fügen oder ihre Posten verlassen.…Aksjonow, der am Donnerstag vom Krim-Parlament zum Regierungschef ernannt worden war, ist der Chef der größten pro-russischen Partei auf der Halbinsel.

What has occurred is a seizure of control of the Crimea by the Russians, in what might be termed a Blitzputsch, a kind of a lightning military coup d’etat (here by a foreign power) that is over before anyone knows what is going on.

Now the charade of Russian citizens in the Crimea requesting military intervention to protect Russian citizens is being played out, as we write. This is a well-orchestrated act that was aleady foretold by Dmitri Medvedev when he claimed Russians lives and safety were being threatened earlier this week, on February 24.


(1) “Konflikt in der Ukraine: Krim-Regierung ruft Putin um Hilfe an,” Der Spiegel, March 1, 2014 (8:40).

Die Regierung der Krim geht überraschend einen großen Schritt Richtung Russland: Der Premier der Halbinsel Sergej Aksjonow bittet den Kreml um Unterstützung “bei der Friedenssicherung” in der Region. Er übernahm zudem die Kontrolle über Flotte, Polizei und Innenministerium.

(2) “Russia’s Prime Minister Medvedev claims direct threat to Russian citizens, laying basis for Russian military intervention in Ukraine,” The Trenchant Observer, February 24, 2014.

(3) Pilar Bonet, “El nuevo líder de Crimea pide ayuda a Putin para restablecer la paz,” El Pais, 28 Febrero 2014 (23:57 CET).

–Un portavoz del Kremlin responde que no ignorarán la petición de la región ucrania prorrusa
–El jefe del Gobierno pone bajo su control “temporal” todas las instituciones armadas de Crimea
–Obama advierte a Rusia de que intervenir en Ucrania tendrá “costes”
–La tensión en Crimea crece tras la ocupación militar de dos aeropuertos
–Kiev teme un estallido de las tensiones entre comunidades

Now we will see if Obama and the Europeans have the guts, the commitment and the resources to stand up to the mighty King of the Caucasus and his well-honed propaganda machine.

Among the first responses to “Putin’s coup” that should be implemented are the following:

1) Expulsion of Russia from the Group of Eight;

2) Repeal of most-favored-nation status for Russia by the U.S.

3) Re-establishment of the Johnson-Vanik amendment, which was reapealed when MFN status was granted to Russia in 2012.

4) Imposition of strong eonomic sanctions on Russia. If they block transit routes for America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, so be it.

5) If the Russians do not withdraw from the Crimea, agreement on early accession of the Ukraine to full NATO membership.

The point is that Putin will not yield to the persuasive logic of fancy words. Something much stronger, like actions that directly hurt Russia, must be used instead.

Europe, America and the other civilized nations in the world must now take firm action against Russia, in order to uphold and reaffirm the prohibition of the threat or use of force contained in Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and 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. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , 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, Dr. Rowles 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. Dr. Rowles 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.=LL.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, Dr. Rowles 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 some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.