Ukraine: Appeasement continues; Putin’s victory at Minsk; Latest news and commentary

Each act of apeasement dishonors those who fought for, and in many cases died for, the freedoms which we now enjoy.

Developing

For the lastest on Russian military moves in the Ukraine, see

(1) “Poroschenko meldet Invasion durch russisches Militär,” Suddeutsche Zeitung, 28. August, 2014 (10:56 Uhr).

(2) Andrew E. Kramer and Michael R, Gordon, “Ukraine Reports Russian Invasion on a New Front, New York Times, August 27, 2014.

The pacifists and appeasers who lead the West seem lost.

Angela Merkel is reportedly concerned that EU and NATO actions vis-vis the Ukraine not hurt Russia’s interests. A high EU official stresses that the European Union will do what it can to meet Russia’s concerns over the EU-NATO cooperation agreement signed in June.

They don’t get it.

We are no longer living in that world.

Vladimir Putin emerged from his meeting in Minsk with Petro Poroshenko, and others including high European officials, with victory in hand.

No third-stage or “stage 3” sanctions are going to be imposed, even after his sending regular Russian forces into the eastern Ukraine.

No one was even discussing implementing tougher “stage 3” sectoral sanctions against Russia. These had long been threatened (with several deadlines passing without consequences) if Russia invaded the eastern Ukraine or didn’t stop its military support of the so-called “separatists”.

Putin called the West’s bluff, and won.

Then he intensified the overt Russian invasion of the Ukraine, opening another front to the South toward Mariupol.

This is his pattern. He does whatever necessary to deflect the adoption of really harsh sanctions, and after he succeeds he escalates Russia’s military intervention in the Ukraine.

He may be executing a strategic plan to join the Crimea to Russia by seizing territory to the South of Donetsk and Luhansk.

This may have been a long-term strategy for some time, but as he encounters no resistance from the West he appears to be speeding it up, as he did in the Crimea when he encountered no opposition from the West.

After Minsk, Angela Merkel has now demonstrated her pacifism and appeasement of Putin beyond the slightest doubt. However skilled in economic matters, she comes off as a naive schoolgirl when dealing with Vladimir Putin, no doubt under the strong influence of her SPD foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Steinmeier is the former chief of staff of SPD ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Putin’s business partner and leading apologist in Germany.

We can’t look to Germany any more for leadership on the Ukraine.

Nor can we look to France, given Francois Hollande’s sell-out to Moscow by guaranteeing delivery of the two Mistral-class warships to Russia.

Great Britain is a possible but dubious potential source of leadership. David Cameron comes out strutting like a rooster, saying the right things, but then withdraws to the barn at the first sign of opposition. The strongest example was when he lost an ill-prepared vote in the House of Commons to authorize military action against Syria after Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons at Ghouta in August, 2013. Instead of renewing the political fight with better preparation, he simply gave up.

The only potential leadership to stand up to Russia is in Poland and the Baltics, with support from other countries such as Norway. After the downing of Malaysian Flight MH17, the political backbone of Holland seemed to stiffen, but time will be needed to see if that change holds.

The key decision at the EU summit this weekend is going to be the choice of the new foreign affairs boss. If the Italian Federica Mogherini is voted in, Putin can break out the Champagne, as she will not be inclined to lead stiff opposition to Russian aggression.

According to late reports, however, she will be chosen.

The effect is likely to be to neuter the EU as a force that can act effectively to rein Putin in.

On the other hand, if someone like the Pole Radoslav Sikorski were to be selected, Europe could expect strong and experienced foreign policy leadership, particularly with respect to Russia.

As for the United States, Barack Obama has been on vacation while Russia was launching an invasion of the eastern Ukraine with regular Russian soldiers.

What more can be said?

Can one imagine John F. Kennedy leaving Washington for a two-week vacation at Hyannisport during the Cuban Missile Crisis?

Given the hopeless incompetence of Barack Obama and his White House foreign policy team, the only hope for stronger leadership from the U.S. would be if Hillary Clinton and other Democratic leaders were to pull off the gloves and start setting forth a much more robust set of foreign policy options and policies. Were they to do this strongly enough, and soon enough, it could push the Obama administration toward stronger policies of containment toward Russia.

It would also position these Democratic leaders to better withstand a hard charge from Republican critics of Obama’s policies and foreign policy failures.

Unless the direction of current U.S., EU, and NATO actions changes sharply, and quickly, future historians are likely to write of “the summer of appeasement of 2014”, the story of how the leaders of the West failed to effectively stand up to Putin’s policies of military aggression and annexation.

They will be writing, and living, in a different world.

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.