The Russian-Ukrainian War: Minsk Protocol near collapse; What is at stake; Harsher sanctions against Russia needed

UPDATE: OSCE reports movements of armed colums and tanks in eastern Ukraine


(1) REF/RL (with AP and AFP), “OSCE Reports Convoys In East Ukraine,” Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, November 9, 2014.

(2) “Spot report by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM),” OSCE, 8 November 2014.

Earlier News and Analysis

(1) Julia Smirnova, “Panzer und Haubitzen – Moskau rückt in Ukraine ein; Eine Kolonne von fast 80 Fahrzeugen mit Soldaten, schweren Waffen und Munition verstärkt die prorussischen Kämpfer in der Region Lugansk. Ist es nur eine Frage der Zeit, bis der Krieg offen ausbricht?” Die Welt, 7. November 2014.

Smirnova reports that, according to Ukrainian military spokesman Andrei Lysenko, a column of 32 Russian tanks, 30 trucks with arms and fighters, and 16 Type D-30 Howitzers crossed from Russian territory into the Ukraine in the region of Luhansk.

(2) Elena Vicéns (Moscú), “Ucrania denuncia la entrada de una columna de tanques y camiones rusos; Kiev exige a los ucranios pasaportes para entrar en la zona de conflicto,” El País, 7 Noviembre 2014 (17:26 CET).

The Stakes, and Recommended New Sanctions Against Russia

With reports that Russia has sent additional tanks, artillery, and troops into the Donbas following the the “separatists’ November 2 “elections”, the U.S. and like-minded countries need to consider the adoption of new and stronger (real) sanctions.

But perhaps first they should reflect on whether the values and institutions they have inherited from their fathers and grandfathers, and their mothers and grandmothers, are worth fighting for.

Through great sacrifice their parents and grandparents, and even those who preceded them, secured the rule of law in Europe and other countries, and after 1945 a more or less stable international order built on the U.N. Charter and also a willingness to stand up and fight to uphold its bedrock principles. The most important of these have been the prohibition of the use of force across international frontiers, the obligation to observe treaties and other international law, and the obligation to settle international disputes exclusively by peaceful means.

To be sure, these achievements were largely the product of developments in Europe and countries settled by Europeans, though we must bear in mind that the founding members of the League of Nations included Ethiopia, Thailand, and South Africa under enlightened leadership at the time. In Latin America, after Independence, a century and a half of political struggle and intermittent periods of democratic government led to the consolidation of democracy and the rule of law throughout the continent by the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Yet for many countries which were European colonies prior to 1948, or 1960, these achievements (or at least ideals) were inherited from the colonial powers. Particularly in the area of international security, the contributions of the former colonies, while important, were modest in terms of leadership.

Now Europe and the United States and other democracies must re-examine whether these post-World War II achievements are worth defending.

Do the rule of law on the domestic level, including democracy and respect for fundamental human rights, and on the international level, including respect for basic principles of the U.N. Charter, treaties, and international law in general, represent values and objectives still worth fighting for today, in the second decade of the 21st century?

These are not rhetorical questions.

For it is the response of Europe, the United States and other democratic and civilized countries, particularly with respect to Russian military aggression in the Ukraine, that will largely determine whether the values and achievements of previous generations will continue to inform our actions, helping to ensure that respect for international law, democracy, and human rights will endure.

As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, we should reflect on the lack of freedom that existed behind that wall, and connect the dots to the lack of freedom that exists under the “separatists” in the eastern Ukraine, in the Crimea, and now in Russia itself.

We should remember that we fought, and ultimately won, the Cold War in order to defend our most basic values. But time and history move on, and such achievements must be constantly defended, if they are not to be lost.

If leaders in the West and other civilized countries still hold these values dear, and are willing to fight to defend them, they should give urgent consideration to immediate adoption of some or all of the following sanctions against Russia, in order to halt its ongoing military aggression against the Ukraine:

1. Cancellation of the FIFA 2018 world cup matches in Russia;

2. Termination of Russia’s use of the SWIFT international banking money transfer system;

3. Immediate abrogation of the Russia-NATO Partnership Agreement.

4. U.S. Congressional repeal of most-favored nation (MFN) treatment for Russia.

5. Vigorous enforcement of the Magnitsky Act’s provisions for sanctioning individuals and organizations responsible for human rights abuses in Russia and areas under its effective control, such as the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

6. Cancellation of all present and future defense-sector related contracts with Russia, including the supply of rockets for the space program and military programs.

7. Provision of lethal military aid to the Ukraine, and a large-scale military training and assistance program to help the country modernize its defense forces.

8. Emergency meeting of NATO heads of state.

9. Further permanent military deployments  in the East, to provide credible conventional defense capabilities to defend against Russian “stealth” or other wars against NATO members on the eastern front.

The New Cold War is already underway.

The only way it will be ended is through a policy of containment and strength.

These actions, and others like them, will be required to stop Putin, if we want to live in a world like the one we have known.

If we don’t take such measures, we are likely to live in a different kind of world, one which we can hardly imagine today, one more like Europe and Asia between 1933-1945, where relations between countries are determined by the threat or use of force, now including nuclear weapons.

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.