FEAR OF THE AGGRESSOR: Merkel reported planning to push for ceasefire in Ukraine at Minsk meeting with Poroshenko, Putin

Draft (developing)

Richard Balmforth of Reuters reports tonight that President Petro Petroshenko plans to ask Russian President Vladimir Putin to withdraw his fighters from the Ukraine when he meets with Putin and other leaders in Minsk next week.

He also reports that Chancellor Angela Merkel is planning to push for a ceasefire in the Donbass at the talks in Minsk.


Richard Balmforth (Kiev), “Ukraine’s Poroshenko talks tough ahead of meetings with Merkel, Putin,” August 21, 2014 (9:57pm EDT).

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is scheduled to visit Kiev on Saturday to show her support for Poroshenko – but diplomats say she is also bearing a message that he should consider calling a ceasefire so as not to incur a backlash from Putin.

What is appalling about Merkel’s reported intention to push for a ceasefire is that it reveals, in the starkest possible terms, the primal fear of the aggressor which has dictated the West’s response to Russian aggression in the Ukraine, first by invading and annexing the Crimea, and then by launching and sustaining an invasion by Russian special operations, intelligence and irregular forces to foment and carry out an insurrection in the eastern Ukraine.

The West’s responses to these continuing acts of Russian aggression have been dictated by fear, pure and simple, fear of provoking the aggressor, Vladimir Putin.

European and NATO country leaders have been extraordinarily slow to grasp the significance of military invasions carried out by Russia, a major European and world power (with its nuclear arsenal), against an important European country.

They have stumbled ovver themselves in trying to “help” Vladimir Putin find an “exit” or an “off ramp” from his headlong rush of military invasion and intervention in the Ukraine.

They are grateful he hasn’t sent the regular Russian armed forces into Ukraine, and flatter themselves in thinking that their pathetic “telephone diplomacy” has had something to do with this “forebearance”, when in fact it has only allowed the confict to grow in intensity as Russia intervenes more actively.

Surprisingly, NATO after warning that a Russian invasion of the Ukraine was “highly probable”, has failed to make public information regarding that invasion as it has been taking place in the last two or three weeks.

This is the submission by the abused party to the abuser. There is a kind of intuitive understanding that Russia will deny it is invading the Ukraine (in stealth mode), while the West will pretend not to see the tanks crossing across the border at night, or the Russian artillery firing into the Ukraine to give them and the separatists control over a zone 20-40 kilometers deep in the Ukraine.

Russia denies. The leaders of the West pretend not to see. They do so because making public details of Russian military intervention could increase pressure on them to undertake measures they don’t want to take. Out of fear of the aggressor.

Not one of them seems to give one whit for upholding the United Nations Charter by taking forceful and effective measures to halt and roll back Russian aggression.

They have by their silence telegraphed to Putin that they will accept his invasion and annexation of the Crimea, if only he will be nice enough now not to invade the remaining portion of the country with his regular armed forces.

They have responded to Russia’s aggression with pacifism (no talk of using armed force to halt Russia, no active military support of the Ukrainian army with heavy weapons, advanced weapons systems, and onsite training), and appeasement.

Even the downing of Malaysian Flight MH17 on July 17 (by a Russian SA-11 air-defense system sent to the Donbass) produced only a fleeting stiffening of free will in the EU. Some Stage 3 sanctions were imposed on Russia, but no further threatened actions have been adopted despite Putin’s continued support and coordination of the “separatists”.

Let’s call it what it is: Appeasement.

That is what helping Putin “save” face, or “not pushing him into a corner” or “creating an off-ramp” for Putin is, quite simply: Appeasement.

(One can conjure up what an off-ramp for Adolf Hitler might have entailed.)

Now the unthinking leaders of the West, according to the Reuters’ report on Merkel’s intentions, are prepared to push for a “ceasefire” in the Donbass.

In other words, when Putin’s invaders find themselves on the ropes and at great risk of being defeated by the Ukrainian army–at great sacrifice, to be sure–Chancellor Merkel wants to come to Putin’s rescue and pull his bacon out of the fire.


Primal fear is the answer. Fear of provoking the aggressor, grounded in deep pacifism and unwillingness to stand up for the values of the West, which include the United Nations Charter and the rule of law.

SPD Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s close connection to former SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (he was his chief of staff) does not help.  (Schroeder is Putin’s buddy, business partner in the Nordstream gas pipeline, and one of his leading apologists in Germany.

Instead, the pacifists and appeasers in Germany, France and other countries want to give way before those who have invaded the Ukraine in violation of Article 2 paragrap 4 of the U.N. Charter (which prohibits the use of force), to shore up the position of those who have terrorized inhabitants of the Donbass in areas under their control, and to “freeze” the conflict in the Ukraine, all in order to placate Mr. Putin.

They continue to labor under the illusion that they can get back to “business as usual” with Putin and Russia, with all of the trade and joint business projects between Germany anf Russia, with France’s delivery of advanced technology with the two Mistral-class attack warships sold to Russia, and two more to be built jointly with the Russians in St. Petersburg, and London’s lucrative business of sanitizing the wealth of Russian billionaires acquired through the corrupt crony state capitalism of the Putin regime.

They want to continue all of that, despite Russian annexation of the Crimea in flagrant violation of the U.N. Charter’s prohibition of the use of force, and despite Putin’s moral and legal responsibility for over 2,000 deaths in the eastern Ukraine as a result of his launching a war of aggression.

They are like the supporters of Neville Chamberlain in England before the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, who wanted to celebrate “peace in our time”. In this year of commemorations (100 years since the onset of WW I, 70 years since the D-Day landing at Normandy in 1944), it should be noted that the 75th anniversary of the invasion of Poland is only 11 days away. The 46th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia was yesterday.

So, they want to appease Putin. And one way of doing that is to force the Ukraine to accept a ceasefire that is not a surrender by the “separatists”, but rather a way of helping Putin freeze the conflict in the Ukraine, so that the Ukraine can not follow the democratic path and join Europe as its citizens desire.


Somewhere there must be a modern-day Winston Churchill waiting in the wings, who will have to lead what remains of the EU and NATO out of the rubble which is left after the pacifists’ and appeasers’ illusions about Putin, and Russia, have been shattered.

Or, if there is no new Churchill, it will all simply fall apart.

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.