OSCE President after Thursday meeting: “The risk of war in the region is now greater than at any other moment in the last 30 years.”

Developing

See,

Javier G. Cuesta and Manuel V. Gómez, “Rusia ve ‘en punto muerto’ la negociación con la OTAN sobre el conflicto en Ucrania; La tensión entre Moscú y Occidente aumenta al avisar el Kremlin de que eliminará las ‘amenazas inaceptables’ a su seguridad,” El País, el 13 de enero 2022 (14:19 EST).

Cuesta and Gómez quote Zbigniev Rau, the new President of the OSCE (and Polish foreign minister), as saying after the OSCE meeting in Vienna on Thursday, January 13, “The risk of war is the region in now greater than at any other moment in the last 30 years.” Translation from Spanish translation of English text.

Developments appear to confirm previous analyses that Putin is merely going through the motions of attempted diplomacy to bolster his case that he tried everything and had no alternative other than to invade Ukraine.

It now appears that he is doubling down on his threat and plans to invade Ukraine, in what may be in his mind a giant game of “chicken” with Joe Biden and the U.S.

If this is his thinking, his analysis is flawed, because in the U.S. Biden will have no political alternative to imposing extremely heavy sanctions on Russia if in fact it invades Ukraine.

The Russian foreign ministry has announced that Annalena Bierbock, the foreign minister of Germany’s new coalition government, will be traveling to Moscow on Tuesday to meet with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. This could be a Russian move to try to ensure the Nordstream II gas pipeline is not blocked in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Bierbock, a member of the Green Party, has been opposed to the Nordstream II Project in the past. Nonetheless, it seems unlikely that guaranteeing the operation of the Nordstream II project is behind Putin’s threats, or that even a commitment from Bierbock to support the project would dissuade Putin from invading Ukraine.

Recent reports suggest Russia has been taking measures to blind surveillance satellites that might be photographing and tracking Russian troop and heavy equipment movements in the region of the Ukrainian border.

With indications that Sweden and Finland may move toward joining NATO if Russia invades Ukraine, and the potential impact on his internal support in the Russian power structure of thousands of body bags returning to Russia from the Ukraine, Russian expulsion from the SWIFT international payments system, and severe sectorial sanctions that would have a major effect on the Ruusian economy, not to speak of blocking operation of Nordstream II, if Russia invades Ukraine, it appears that Putin is acting in a manner far from that of the unitary “rational actor” that some may assume.

Putin has backed himself into a corner and, to mix metaphors, is like a treed cat. It is hard to see how he will be able to climb down. This fact makes the current moment extraordinarily perilous, as he is a man who is not acting rationally, in the ordinary sense of the term, and a man who holds in his hands the power to destroy the world.

What would be helpful, and could potentially change the calculations even of Putin in his delusional state, would be a simple statement by individual NATO members or other countries that they do not rule out the possibility of supporting Kiev with military force if Ukraine is invaded by and becomes engaged in a war with Russia.

The Atlantic Treaty in Article 5 requires member states to treat an attack against one as an attack against all, and to join in repelling the attack.

Nothing in the Atlantic Charter, however, prohibits individual members from using force in exercise of the right of collective self-defense, under Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, in assisting a nonmember state, such as Ukraine, which is the victim of an armed attack. The only requirement beyond those of necessity and proportionality inherent in the right of self-defense, is that the state that is attacked must request such assistance.

Certainly the United States or any other country would be justified not only in sending troops to help Ukraine, but also in engaging in active cyber-warfare operations aimed at repelling the attack and bringing it to a halt.

The Trenchant Observer

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