What if Russian truck convoy enters into Ukraine without Kiev’s authorization?

For background, see “Putin’s Trojan Horse: Military aggressor sends military-style aid convoy to Ukraine as its irregular forces are encircled,” The Trenchant Observer, August 12, 2014.

280 Russian trucks, apparently military trucks painted white with no license plates or identifting insignia, are headed south from Moscow toward the Ukraine to deliver “humanitarian aid” to the population in the Donbass region, including Donetsk and Luhansk. These two cities are the last remaining “separatist” strongholds. They are coming under intense military pressure from Ukrainian military forces as the latter tighten their nooses around the encircled cities.

The ICRC, the EU, the Ukraine, and even the U.S. are concerned about not allowing the trucks into the Ukraine unless they comply with certain conditions: 1) entry only through Ukraine-controlled border crossings; 2) customs inspections; and 3) unloading and delivery to the ICRC for distbution under its auspices and according to its criteria to the population in the eastern Ukraine.

No matter what the Russians say they will do, their record of honoring what they promise, and the sovereignty of the Ukraine, leaves everything up in the air.

What is likely to happen is that some part of the truck convoy will be diverted for direct entry into the Ukraine through border posts or other territory not controlled by Kiev.

Putin will have then by this method created new “facts on the ground”.

What is the West doing to prevent this from happening?

Remember, this is a new form of “stealth warfare” adopted by the Russians, which is characterized by deception and lies.

Is the Ukraine prepared to use air power to prevent the convoy or portions of it from entering Ukrainian territory without authorization? Do they have the means, or can others provide them with the means, to overcome the sophisticated air defense systems which Russia has supplied to the so-called “separatist” forces?

In a number of ways, this convoy of Russian trucks, whose contents are unknown and which are bearing down on the Ukrainian frontier, is reminiscent of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, when Soviet ships carrying nuclear missiles were bearing down on Cuba.

But this time, instead of John F. Kennedy using his Executive Committee to consider all the angles, explore all the options, and recommend urgent actions, President Obama is off on his two-week holiday on Martha’s Vineyard (an island in Massachusetts), where his primary focus appears to be on his game of golf.

NATO and Russia are only a few steps away from being involved in a direct military confrontation. Nikita Kruschev miscalculated in 1962. So could Putin in 2014. Moreover, in situations fraught with risk, accidents and other unexpected things can happen.

If the Russian convoy or part of it enters the Ukraine without Kiev’s approval, what is anyone going to do about it?

More to the point, other than making verbal threats, what is anyone doing now to prevent such an illegal entry into Ukrainian territory from taking place?

Are we going to wake up Thursday morning with white Russian trucks in the Donbass, having entered the Ukraine in defiance of Kiev’s conditions and without its authorization?

Viewing the overall Russian preparations for an invasion, the very recent perfidy of Putin and other Russian officials in misrepresenting what was said in different telephone conversations with Western, international, and Ukrainian officials vis-a-vis the convoy, and other developments that fit into a larger pattern, does anyone truly believe that Russia will stop these trucks from entering the Ukraine until their passports have been stamped? Will it stop the trucks’ progress until their cargoes have been inspected, off-loaded, and turned over to the ICRC for distribution under international auspices?

Does the ICRC even have the vehicles and equipment lined up that will be required for delivery of water and other supplies? It is hard to imagine how they could, as Russia has deliberately withheld information on what is in the trucks.

It looks like there is going to be a lot of trouble as these trucks approach the Ukrainian border.

Could that distract President Obama from focusing on his golf swing, or re-introducing American military personnel and operations into Iraq?

Is anyone in a high position, in Washington, Brussels, or European capitals, paying close attention to these events, hour by hour, as they unfold?

Is there any established mechanism for coordination of allied actions and responses to Russian actions?

So far, it looks like the pacifists and appeasers in the West haven’t thought about much, or very much thought things through. They are in reactive mode, and haven’t even begun to spell out the consequences for Russia of those trucks crossing that border without Ukrainian authorization.

They are on vacation.

While the future of the international political and legal order hangs in the balance.

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.