Speak to Putin with actions, not threats

The news headline tonight is that President Barack Obama and Chancelor Angela Merkel are “demanding” that President Vladimir Putin withdraw his “humanitarian aid” truck convoy from Ukrainian territory.

They can save their breath.

Speaking to Putin with threats, given the number of threats they have made and not carried out—resorting to new threats instead, is like trying to communicate with a human by blowing a dog whistle which is out of the human range of hearing.

The only language Putin and Russia can hear is the language of actions. This assertion is fully supported by the factual record.


(1) “REPRISE: The language of actions—Russia, the Ukraine, and the response of the West,” The Trenchant Observer, July 20, 2014.

(2) “The language of actions: Russia, the Ukraine, and the response of the West,” The Trenchant Observer, April 10, 2014.

Obama and Merkel should quit calling and meeting with Putin, and immediately impose broad and deep economic or “stage 3” sectoral sanctions against Russia, as they threatened they would do if he invaded the Ukraine again.

The policy of appeasement has dramatically failed.

More than that, as Putin probed for weaknesses in the West, he found them in the pacifism and appeasement of Western leaders, in which Western responses to his aggressions were deeply rooted.

This pacifism and appeasement emboldened him, and is a major cause of the Russian aggression in the Crimea, and its agggression in the eastern Ukraine that we are witnessing now.

So, Merkel and Obama can save their breath and not even bother to make threats of future actions if Putin does or does not do a certain thing.

His forces have invaded and are fighting in the Ukraine. The West must find actions, not words or threats, that can reverse this course of events.

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.