Western leaders, claiming there is no military solution in the Ukraine, prepare weak sanctions that will give Putin a military victory by Russian tanks (Updated September 4, 2014)

Updated September 4, 2014

Western leaders who say there is no military solution in the Ukraine are wrong: A miltary solution is in the making, one forged by Russian artillery, tanks and soldiers who have invaded the Ukraine


(1) Peter Baker and Steven Erlanger, “U.S. and Europe Are Struggling With Response to a Bold Russia, September 2, 2014.

(2) Laurence Norman, “European Union Considers Modest Increase in Sanctions on Russia; EU May Widen Limits on Access to Financial Markets for Other Russian State-Owned Companies, Wall Sreet Journal, September 2, 2014 (Updated 11:59 p.m. ET).

(3) Christoph B. Schiltz (Brüssel), “Die neuen Strafmaßnahmen der EU könnten noch mehr russische Kreditinstitute treffen; Doch auch Separatistenführer aus der Ostukraine sollen mit Sanktionen belegt werden; Bis Freitag wird entschieden, Die Welt, 2. September 2014 (23:44 Uhr).

One is tempted to simply wonder why American and European leaders cannot see and understand the most obvious facts in dealing with Russia and Putin with regards to the Ukraine.

Until one remembers that big business, and its money, are lobbying European governments and the U.S. alike not to adopt any sanctions that would interfere with their businesses, joint ventures, or profits from trade relationships.

Until one remembers the arms industries and the power they have over governments, or within governments, as is the case in France with its delivery of two Mistral-class warships to Russia.

Europe speaks of imposing further sanctions on Russia for invading the Donbass region of the Ukraine, after it swallowed whole the Crimea through the use of military force.

But the sanctions under consideration represent political compromises among the pacifists and appeasers who lead major EU member states, rather than direct and effective measures whose purpose is to halt Putin’s invasions and defend the territory of the Ukraine and of Europe.

Even their proponents cannot say, with a straight face, that the sanctions they propose will even slow Putin’s military aggression.

These leaders are no different in moral or leadership qualities from Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier who, breaking their treaty commitments to Czechoslovakia, urged Edvard Beneš of Czechoslovakia to “mediate” his country’s differences over the Sudetenland with Adolph Hitler and The Third Reich.

Then they sold out the Czechs by signing the Munich Pact, on September 29-30, 1938,hours before a scheduled military invasion of Czechoslovakia.

The treaty commitments from the U.S. and the U.K. (and Russia) to the Ukraine contained in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, in exchange for the latter giving up its nuclear weapons and signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty, were similar to the commitments of the U.K. and France to Czechoslovakia that existed in 1938.

Like Chamberlain and Daladier, NATO and EU countries, particularly Germany and France, have urged the victim of aggression to negotiate a solution to the problem with Russia and its puppet “separatists” in the Donbass.

Like Daladier and Chamberlain, they are not inclined to lift a finger militarily to help defend the Ukraine. Faced with a vastly superior Russian army, which has been inflicting grievous losses, Ukrainian President Petro Petroshenko may see few if any alternatives to accepting Putin’s 7-point ceasefire plan, which amounts to no more than a diktat demanding Ukrainian surrender on Moscow’s terms.

America, incapacitated by a pacifist and incompetent president who cannot lead, needs Europe to play a decisive leadership role right now, rallying the countries of the West and other civilized nations to a strong defense of the Ukraine, the U.N. Charter, and the international law prohibition of the use of force.

According to reports, however, what the Europeans are considering in terms of new sanctions against Russia are laughable, and likely to spawn derision and further aggression on the part of Putin.

If these new sanctions do not include a ban on French delivery of two Mistral-class warships to Russia, they will only convince Putin that he has nothing to fear from the West, nothing at all.

Francois Hollande’s last-minute “suspension” of the delivery of the warships is no reason not to include an absolute ban on the making or performance of any and all defense contracts, past and future, with Russia.

Otherwise, Hollande is fully capable of weaseling his way out of the present “suspension” and proceeding with actual delivery the ships. The delivery was suspended before, it should be recalled. Hollande lifted that suspension in June, when he invited Putin to visit him for dinner at the Elysee Palace after the D-Day celebrations at Normany.

Barack Obama’s words of assurance to leaders in Tallinn, Estonia will have little effect in convincing them that the U.S. is serious, if they are not at the same time accompanied by strong actions.

What are needed are sanctions that will make Putin stop in his tracks, or at least deflate the bubble of illusions in which he and Russia seem to be floating. A bucket of cold water, so to speak.

But what we have are pacifists and appeasers, who are dead set to continue on the path they have followed since Russia invaded the Crimea in February, 2014.

The EU’s leaders may think there is no military solution to the conflict in the Ukraine, but they are mistaken.

For there is one such solution, that dictated by Russian tanks and troops as they proceed to carve out a land corridor linking Russia proper wirh the Crimea.

Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of a military-industrial complex which could exercise undue influence on government decisions. Added to that force we now have “big business” engaged with Russia telling the President of the United States what to do or not do on sanctions.

Similar business interests undergird the pacifism and appeasement of Europe, whose first act following the election of Francesca Mogherini as foreign policy chief is likely to be the adoption of further “stage 3” sanctions against Russia which will be received in Moscow as a joke, and only goad Putin on to further acts of aggression.

One of her first statements after being selected was that the possibility of a military solution in the Ukraine simply did not exist. Putin no doubt appreciated the clarification.

Obama, Merkel, Holland, Cameron, all of them, will go down in history as the craven appeasers who through their inaction gave unstinting encouragement to Vladimir Putin to tear down the existing edifice of international law and institutions, which the heroic generation which emerged from World War II left as its legacy in 1945.

When you pull back and reflect a little, and think about the fact that we are seven billion humans on a fleck of earth in a remote corner of a galaxy with some 200 billion stars, in a “visible universe” of over 170 billion galaxies, you can begin to understand that there is no guarantee that the existing international order, including the U.N. Charter and the international law prohibition of the use of force, will continue to endure.

Our current leaders are the custodians of that order and of our future.

Unfortunately, they are woefully inadequate to the task.

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.