Ukraine Crisis, February 17, 2022: Cold War with Russia in progress, could last for decades; Russia confirms threat of use of force in writing; U.N. Security Council meets; U.S. and NATO must seize control of narrative, move to offense with sanctions, war footing

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Moscow confirms threat of use of force in writing

Today Russia replied in writing to the U.S. written responses to the written Russian demands presented to the U.S. and NATO in December.

Significantly, Russia’s response contained an explicit threat of the use of force by “military-technical measures” if it did not get its way. This repeats a threat last made by Vladimir Putin in December, 2021.

Together with the massing of 150,000 Russian soldiers near the borders of Ukraine, this  written threat constitutes a flagrant violation of the prohibition of the threat of the use of force contained in Article 2 paragraph 4 of the U.N. Charter.

It will stand for generations as a textbook example of what is meant by that prohibition.


Isabelle Khurshudyan, Missy Ryan and Mary Ilyushina1, “Russia expels deputy U.S. ambassador, rejects U.S. security proposals,” Washington Post, February 17, 2022 (1:03 p.m.EST).

They report:

Russia on Thursday made public a written response to U.S. proposals submitted Jan. 26 regarding Moscow’s demands on halting NATO expansion. “In the absence of the readiness of the American side to agree on firm, legally binding guarantees of ensuring our security by the United States and its allies, Russia will be forced to respond, including through the implementation of military-technical measures,” it said.

Not since Adolf Hitler threatened to invade Poland in late August, 1939 has the world faced such a frontal challenge to international law and the international legal and security order.

U.N. Security Council meeting on February 17

“The situation in Ukraine – Security Council, 8968th meeting”

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken showed up on short notice at the U.N. Security Council meeting on February 17.

He was the only foreign minister at the meeting. If his presence was meant to impress, it didn’t.

Blinken whiffed.

Blinken seemed unprepared, and unaware of the very special nature of his audience, or of the fact that the meeting represented a golden opportunity for the U.S. to rock the Russians back on their heels with a powerful legal critique of their actions under the U.N. Charter and international law.

Instead, he dramatically described what would likely happen during tbe first few days of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. He may have made headlines for a day, but even this is uncertain. He completely failed to outline the legal case against Russia and its attempt to overthrow the U.N, Charter, and the Charter-based system of international peace and security that has existed since 1945, and why that is important.

Fortunately, other countries made the case, though not as powerfully as the U.S. might have. Germany pointed out quite clearly that the Charter prohibits not only the use of force but also the threat of using force.

America, the leader of NATO and the coalition opposing Russia’s threatened invasion of Ukraine, failed to articulate its legal case, which is one of the most powerful tools it has to mobilize its allies and other nations to stand up to Russian aggression.

The U.S. and NATO must seize the initiative

The United States and NATO have up until now been reacting to Putin’s military threats. They have done an admirable job in shoring up alliance solidarity and securing support for very serious economic sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine.

Now, however, they need to shift from a policy of essentially waiting for Putin’s next move, perhaps an invasion, to a policy of taking active measures to force him to back down.

Putin could maintain his current threat, with troops massed for a potential invasion of Ukraine, for months.

Among the steps the U.S. and NATO might take are the following:

1) Begin imposing lesser sanctions on Putin and his friends. Good steps would be for Britain and other countries to start freezing bank accounts, real estate transactions, and cross-border money flows of dirty money.

2)  A second step would be to start imposing some sanctions on Russian companies, for Russian violation of the U.N. Charter prohibition of the threat of the use of force.

These sanctions could be designed to ratchet up the longer Putin maintains his troops near the border of Ukraine threatening an invasion, and to ratchet down as Russian troop withdrawals are verified.

3)  A third and urgent step would be to table a resolution in the U.N. General Assembly reaffirming the basic principles of the U.N. Charter, and specifically reaffirming the text of the 1970 Declaration on Friendly Relations (Resolution 2625). Once the resolution is drafted, the U.S. and its democratic partners should use the tools at their disposal to secure a very large number of co-sponsors, and an overwheming vote of support for the resolution.

No country should be allowed to abstain or vote against tbe resolution without paying a heavy price, to be imposed by the U.S. and its allies.

4)  A fourth step would be to convene a special NATO working group to consider the question of what military responses member countries might take, individually or collectively, in response to aggression against a non-NATO country. This move should be announced publicly, and loudly.

The Trenchant Observer