Hollande “understands” Putin as stage is set for collapse of EU sanctions against Russia

It is peculiar how articles with the greatest time-sensitivity and broadest political importance are often not indexed by Google in a timely manner. It is almost as if someone at Google didn’t like the article. Could that be happening, or is it pure coincidence?

For example, this article has not yet been indexed by Google.

See “Not indexed by Google: Trenchant Observer article with text of Security Council Resolution 2118; the unregulated power of a totalitarian instrument of thought control,” The Trenchant Observer, originally published September 28, 2013 (6:23 p.m.). (updated January 6, 2015).

Russian President Vladimir Putin is making progress in his efforts to split EU member states so that the sanctions against Russia will not be re-authorized when they come up for renewal in March, 2015.


Andrew E. Kramer (Moscow), “French Leader Urges End to Sanctions Against Russia Over Ukraine,” New York Times, January 5, 2015.

Kramer reports that French President Francois Hollande stated today,

Western nations should stop threatening Russia with new sanctions and instead offer to ease off on existing restrictions in exchange for progress in the peace process in Ukraine, President François Hollande of France said in an interview on Monday.

Backing President Vladimir V. Putin into a corner will not work, he said, giving a high-level voice to what is seen as mounting sanctions fatigue among European politicians, as the Ukraine crisis lurches into a second year.

“I’m not for the policy of attaining goals by making things worse,” Mr. Hollande said in the interview on France Inter radio. “I think that sanctions must stop now.”

One key to the future is the fact that there are no sanctions in place that will prevent Francois Hollande from delivering “The Vladilovstok”, a Mistral-class helicopter carrier and attack vessel, with advanced theater command and control capabilities, as soon as he feels he can get away with it.

Putin appears interested in making some kind of “an appearance of a deal” to implement the September 5, 2014 Minsk Protocol and ceasefire agreement.

Of course, had he simply implented the deal he agreed to at Minsk on September 5, 2014, or the deal he agreed to in Geneva on April 17, 2014, we would not be at this point of needing to negotiate further.

But we are where we are.

Putin may now tone down Russian activities in the Eastern Ukraine in order to get the Europeans to drop or weaken the sanctions they have in place in coordination with the U.S., while retaining the ability to ramp up those activities when it suits his purposes.

If he appears to be reasonable at the upcoming talks between France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine on implementing the Minsk Protocol, he can probably count on Francois Hollande’s acceptance of the Russian invasion and annexation of the Crimea.

Kramer quotes Hollande as follows:

Russia’s position is misunderstood, he suggested. “Mr. Putin does not want to annex eastern Ukraine, I am sure — he told me so,” Mr. Hollande said. “What he wants is to remain influential. What Mr. Putin wants is that Ukraine not become a member of NATO. The idea of Mr. Putin is to not have an army at Russia’s borders.”

At the same time, Putin can probably count on the socialists in Europe to argue for “more understanding” of Russia’s interests and concerns. They now hold key positions: Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the EU Commission, Matteo Renzi as prime minister of Italy and his protege, Francesca Mogherini, as EU foreign policy chief, and Hollande as President of France.

In Germany, the so-called Putin apologists (Putin Versteher) are a huge drag on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ability to implement a tough policy towards Russia. When she speaks out forcefully against Russia, as she did at the G-20 summit in Brisbane recently, her socialist (SPD) Foreign Minister in the CDU-SPD “grand coalition” government, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, immediately steps forward to propose some new talks or negotiations with Putin, undercutting her position. As a result, German foreign policy towards Russia is limited by an approach which points in two directions, appeasement and endless negotiations with Putin on the one hand, and determined resistance to Russian aggression including support for strong sanctions, on the other.

The great difficulty the EU had in implementing its Semptember 5, 2014 decision to impose “stage 3” sanctions on Russia, in which the decision almost came unraveled in the long week it took to implement it, suggests the fragility of European unanimity to uphold the existing sanctions. This remains the case even as Putin continues with his “salami technique” in the Eastern Ukraine, sending — according to the OSCE — some 300 “little green men” into the Donbas in recent days in the region of Luhansk, where the leadership of the “separatists” has become highly unstable.

In view of the above, Francois Hollande’s statement regarding the EU sanctions must be regarded as the the first salvo in Putin’s efforts to storm the barricades of Europe.

Treacherous to the core, Hollande demonstrates to all the members of NATO and the EU the absence of trust which exists within their communities, and the absence of trustworthy leaders.

Without such trust and commitment to common values and objectives, it is hard to see how the foreign policy interests of Europe can be effectively defended.

Ultimately, such lack of unity in the face of Russian aggression could pose a threat to these communities themselves.

In Europe, trust and commitment are currently in short supply.

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.