Pacifists and appeasers in EU delay entry into force of new sanctions, undermining hard actions which produced Minsk ceasefire and peace process agreement

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See

(1) “Sanktionen in der Ukraine-Krise: EU lässt Moskau noch einige Tage,” Der Spiegel, 8. September 2014 (2153 Uhr).

Sie sind schärfer, aber sie verzögern sich: Erst in wenigen Tagen sollen die EU-Sanktionen gegen Russland greifen. Ölkonzerne wie Rosneft und Gazprom bekommen dann schwerer Kredite. Wird der Kreml doch noch einlenken in der Ukraine-Krise?

(2) Jan Strupczewski (Brussels), “EU delays signing off on new Russia sanctions,” Reuters, September 8, 2014 (1:26 p.m. EDT).

(3) “Full text of Minsk Protocol on Ceasefire in Ukraine (August 5, 2014), The Trenchant Observer, September 7, 2014.

Return to “Threats of Sanctions” Strategy Could Cause Unraveling of Ceasefire and Peace Process Initiated in Minsk

The first ray of hope that the crisis caused by Russian invasions in the Ukraine might be brought under control and a process of de-escalation begun is now threatened by pacifists and appeasers among the leaders of EU countries who are acting to halt implementation of the specific new third-stage (stage 3) sanctions agreed by EU leaders on September 5, when they were gathered at the NATO summit in Wales.

These hard measures, together with NATO’s decisions to create a quick reaction force for the East and to insist on Alliance countries meeting a requirement that they invest 2% of the GDP in defense, produced the Minsk ceasefire agreement and the first real Russian actions leading toward de-escalation in the six months since Russia invaded the Crimea in late February, 2014.

The Minsk Ceasefire and Peace Process Agreement Reached in Minsk on September 5 provided the following:

1. Ensure the immediate bilateral ceasefire.

2. Ensure the monitoring and verification by the OSCE of the ceasefire.

3. A decentralization of power, including through the adoption of the
law of Ukraine “about local government provisional arrangements in some
areas of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts” (law on the special status).

4. Ensure the permanent monitoring of the Ukrainian-Russian border and
verification by the OSCE with the creation of security zones in the
border regions of Ukraine and the Russian Federation.

5. To immediately release all hostages and illegally detained persons.

6. A law on preventing the prosecution and punishment of persons in
connection with the events that have taken place in some areas of
Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts.

7. Continue the inclusive national dialogue.

8. To take measures to improve the humanitarian situation in Donbass.

9. Ensure early local elections in accordance with the law of Ukraine
“about local government provisional arrangements in some areas of
Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts” (law on the special status).

10. Withdraw the illegal armed groups, military equipment, as well as fighters and mercenaries from Ukraine.

11. To adopt the program of economic recovery and reconstruction of Donbas region.

12. To provide personal security for the participants in the consultations.

Prior to these decisions, both the EU and the U.S. had pursued a strategy of pacifism and appeasement in the face of Russian aggression, adopting a strategy of using future sanctions to secure Vladimir Putin’s desisting from further acts of aggression or halting those underway.

This strategy failed, in a most spectacular way, emboldening Putin to “annex” the Crimea, and then to conduct what was at first a “stealth” invasion of the eastern Ukraine, and then in August became an increasingly brazen invasion by regular Russian forces into the eastern Ukraine with thousands of troops, artillery, armored personnel carriers, and advanced air-defense systems, including the one that shot down Malaysian Flight MH17, a civilian flight), on August 17.

This failed strategy of threatening sanctions, and then failing to impose them, has led to the deaths of over 3,000 soldiers and civilians, on both sides, in the Eastern Ukraine.

It is abundantly clear that the only thing that has caused Putin finally to show signs of willingness to slow his military advances has been the very recent united response of the EU and the U.S. in imposing new and harsh sanctions on Russia, in execution of earnest and specific threats they made in early August, and the strong unity shown at the NATO summit in Wales which produced the decisions described above.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that only decisive steps by the West can cause Putin and Russia to slow and halt their aggression, the pacifism and appeasement that has taken very deep roots among the leaders of Europe and the United States is not dead. It survives, and now threatens to scuttle the progress that has been made as a direct result of unity and hard decisions to impose sanctions and take military decisions now, leaving the question of their relaxation dependent not on Russian promises which are worthless, but on Russian actions on the ground as observed in the field.

The idea, finally, has been to adopt the sanctions first, and then to relax them if and only if Russia ceases its support of the “separatists” and its direct military intervention in the Ukraine.

It is not a quid pro quo. The West is not holding off on its sanctions in order to secure promises from Putin that Russia will stop its military intervention in the future.

Rather, the EU, the U.S. and the EU are acting to change the facts on the ground, including the facts on the ground within Russia), to which Putin and Russia must respond.

By doing so they are also setting in motion powerful forces which will help to deter Putin from further military aggression through “stealth warfare” or otherwise in Eastern Europe, particularly in Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, which have large Russian-speaking minorities.

The ceasefire in the eastern Ukraine is tenuous, as is the incipient peace process meant to accompany it.

Any Western hesitation in carrying out the solemn decisions of EU leaders will appear as weakness to Putin.

Putin’s word is worthless, as worthless as that of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, who Russia counseled and supported diplomatically, militarily and financially as some 200,000 people were killed. Anyone who has looked carefully at Russia’s and Assad’s actions in Syria in the last three years knows well the Russia modus operandi of duplicity, false promises, and uncompromising military activity on the ground.

Why would anyone want to exchange concrete progress on the ground achieved through implementation of the Minsk agreement for promises and undertakings from a known liar who has broken every promise he has made about the Ukraine?

The sanctions need to be imposed now, at once, if Putin’s illusions about the weakness of the West are to be dispelled, and if the West has any hopes that not only the Minsk ceasefire, but also the Minsk peace process, might take root and lead toward a defusing of the conflict.

Finland or Slovakia may fear the sanctions’ impact on their economies, and in the case of Finland on its relations with Russia in general, since it is not a member of NATO.

However, their short-sighted concerns should not be allowed to defeat the united will of Europe and NATO, whose members have only in the last week had a glimpse of how powerful they are acting together, and the strength of the economic weapons they can deploy to halt the advance of Russian tanks.

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.

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