Putin: “I could take Kiev in two weeks.”

In a telephone conversationwith EU Commission President Jose Mauel Borroso, Russian President Vladimir Putin, when confronted by Barroso over the Russian invasion of the eastern Ukraine, retorted: “I could take Kiev in two weeks.”


(1) “Ich koennte in zwei Wochen Kiev einnehmen,” Die Welt, 31. August 2014.

(2) Ben Farmer (Defence Correspondent, in Brussels) and Nick Squires in Rome, “‘I can take Kiev in two weeks,’ Vladimir Putin warns European leaders
The Russian president is reported to have boasted his forces could sweep into Kiev in a fortnight if he wanted to as Nato announced it would build a new “spearhead” rapid reaction force,” The Telegraph, September 1, 2014 (9:11 PM BST).

The new threat appears to be a continuation of the Russian pattern of making new threats to forestall the adoption of stronger economic sanctions by the EU and the U.S. Everything Putin abd Russian officials say in the coming week will be aimed at defusing the momentum in the EU for really harsh sanctions, and at dividing NATO so it won’t make hard decisions on deployments in the East.

Nonetheless, we have to ask, if the West does not interpose a countervailing force that could stop the forward afvance of Russia’s well-prepared war machine, why shouldn’t Putin take the next step and move on to capture Kiev?

The logic of war is such that, once all restraints of international law have been cast aside and an army is on the march, new strategic possibilities appear, and beckon to be seized.

What is to keep Putin from taking Kiev, establishing a new (puppet) regime to take over from “the fascists like Hitler” and to reestablish a government that will “protect” the Russian-speaking population in the eastern part of the Ukraine?

Or perhaps the West will be happy to avoid really biting economic sanctions in exchange for Putin’s promise not to march on Kiev.

75 years to the day after the German invasion of Poland, setting off World War II, Europe, America and the West need to wake up from the pacifism and appeasement that have characterized their responses to Russian military aggression in the Ukraine since February, and take strong actions to defend the Ukraine and themselves.

The time for telephone calls to Putin or foreign ministers’ meetings with Sergey Lavrov is past. Only actions can speak to Russia now.

The actions should include:

1) the adoption of very hard-hitting sectoral sanctions against Russia by the EU and the United States, including crippling limitations on financial tranactions, all financing (even overnight), and access to the international financial system.

2) the abrogation of the 1997 NATO-EU Partnership agreement, and the prompt dispatch of a minimum of 20,000 troops to be stationed in member countries bordering Russia.

3) an immediate increase in the scale and nature of the provision of military training, weapons and other assistance to the Ukraine.

4) the dispatch of a force of 10,000 or more NATO troops to the Ukraine, to be held in reserve in Western portions of the country. If NATO will not take such actions, individual members should be left free to send troops on their own.

This is the “Cuban Missile Crisis” of September, 2014.

The West must react accordingly. Or be prepared to accept the Ukraine as a vassal state of Russia following the collapse of the international political and legal order.

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.