Treacherous French President, Francois Hollande, holds surprise meeting with Vladimir Putin at Moscow airport

The ever-treacherous President Francois Hollande met Vladimir Putin at the Moscow airport on his way back from a state visit to Kazakhstan, on December 5-6.

Among subjects discussed, acording to press reports, was the situation in the eastern Ukraine including compliance with the Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014, and apparently a message from Hollande to Putin that France would oppose Ukraine joining NATO. According to Le Monde, the Elysee Palace no longer mentions the Crimea in its press releases.

For a picture of two men who should never be trusted, a smiling Putin and a Francois Hollande freelancing with EU and NATO foreign policy, see

Benoît Vitkine (Almaty, Kazakhstan), “Rencontre imprévue entre Hollande et Poutine à l’aéroport de Moscou,” Le Monde, 6 Decembre 2014 à 09h03 (Mis à jour à 09h10).

Putin must have been pleased Hollande broke His diplomatic isolation by being the first Western leader to visit Putin in Moscow since the annexation of the Crimea. Hollande performed a similar service in June when he invited Putin to the D-Day celebrations in Normand and a dinner at the Elysee Palace.

According to Le Monde, the hottest subject, the delivery of the two Mistral-class warships, was not discussed. That is the story Hollande and Putin put out, at any rate. See

Isabelle Mandraud (Moscou, correspondante), “Mistral, le grand non-dit de la rencontre Hollande-Poutine, Le Monde, 6 Decembre 2014 (Mis à jour à 19h16).

“Isolé sur la scène internationale, Vladimir Poutine a apprécié le geste : « Je suis sûr que votre visite aujourd’hui, même si elle est très courte, est une vraie visite de travail, et elle va donner des avancées », a-t-il déclaré. De fait, en deux heures de temps, plusieurs sujets internationaux ont été abordés : la Syrie, l’Iran, et bien évidemment l’Ukraine.”

RT reported that Putin had reaffirmed his cimmitment to the Minsk Protoco, as follows:

“The situation [in Ukraine] is tragic, we can see that people are still dying there, but I very much hope that in the near future a final decision on the ceasefire will be made,” (Putin) said.

Russia expects Kiev to exclude any possibility of a blockade of the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk republics, he added: “Otherwise it is difficult to imagine the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Russia, as you know, supports the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

“Russia initiated the meeting [between Kiev and representatives of the eastern republics] in Minsk, with our direct participation these protocols were signed, so we support their full implementation,” Putin elaborated (emphasis added).

It strains credulity that in a two- hour conversation on the Ukraine and other international subjects, the issue of the delivery of the Mistral-class warship “The Vladivlostok” did not come up. Hollande has tied delivery of “The Vladilovstok” to observance of the ceasefire established by the Minsk Protocol. Putin wants the warship and the technology that comes with it.

Only a day earlier, the French Defense Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, was quoted as saying that the Mistral-class warships might never be delivered to Russia.


Isabelle Lasserre, “Paris pourrait définitivement renoncer à livrer les Mistral à la Russie,” Le Figaro, 5 Decembre 2014 (16:19 h).

In France and with Hollande, what a difference a day makes!

The pacifists and appeasers are just itching to find some way out of the sanctions against Russia. (The two Mistral-class warships aren’t even covered by the sanctions.)

And, as we have stressed before, if NATO can’t defend itself against its own members, how can it be expected to defend its members against Russian aggression?

Germany’s stance toward Moscow is stronger than that of France, but it suffers from an internal defect which undermines its effectiveness.

Even if Angela Merkel talks tough to Putin, as she did in Brisbane at the G-20, she is immediately undercut by her SPD coalition partner and independent-minded foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who would probably be the next Chancellor of Germany if the SPD were to win the next elections.

With this two-headed foreign policy leadership, Merkel pulls one way and Steinmeier the other. When Merkel takes a tough position, Steinmeier always seeks to smoothe things over with words, and to seek solutions with new verbal formulations–as Russian soldiers and tanks operate in the Donbas region of the Ukraine, and build up their forces in Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory in the Crimea.

Steinmeier, in his incessant efforts to keep talking to Putin, no matter what the latter does or what the facts on the ground may be, increasingly resembles Kofi Annan, who continually held out false hopes that peace in Syria could be achieved just through talking, as Bashar al-Assad continued his atrocities and ultimately at the cost of tens of thousands of lives.

With Hollande freelancing where the only EU foreign policy voice is Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s protege, Francesca Mogherini, we can’t expect much beyond continued pacifism and appeasement from Europe’s leaders.

There is no solidarity among the 28 EU members, and no structure or mechanism to organize the vanities and parochial concerns that determine each nation’s positions. When leaders freelance, as Hollande currently is doing, Putin can and continues to paralyze EU and NATO action, through his very effective use of the “divide and conquer” technique.

This is fairly easy for him to do, given the requirement of agreement by all 28 EU member states for the EU to act on sanctions, or by all 28 NATO members to take significant actions. The memberships of the two organization largely coincide, but are not identical.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S., when it comes to understanding and acting to counter Russian aggression, President Barack Obama is not acting like “the smartest man in the room”, but rather like “the slowest boy in the class”. Nine months after the Russian seizure of the Crimea, he has only recently come to the conclusion that the Russian invasion of the Donbas in eastern Ukraine amounts to more than an ” incursion”.

Given the weakness in the ranks of EU member states, no further forceful action on sanctions against Russia can be expected any time soon. That means the U.S. is the only country in a position to strenghten economic sanctions against Russia. Yet there is little evidence that Obama is willing to step up to the task. The National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have lobbied him very effectively not to adopt sanctions that are not also adopted by the EU.

Under present circumstances, this means paralysis, and a further triumph for pacifism and appeasement toward Russia as it continues its illegal occupation of the Crimea and its military intervention in the eastern Ukraine.

With Russian troops and special forces in the Donbas and supplying troops at will across an border it has dismantled by military force, neither Obama nor NATO nor the EU has any plans for action to change the situation, other than to wait and hope the Russian Dictator will act nice. In fact, he may, at least for a time as long as it serves his purposes, which include receiving the Mistrals and blocking Ukrainian membership in NATO.

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.