Ukraine War, April 10, 2022 (I): The weak link–Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer will meet with Putin on Monday; the current military situation in Ukraine; Tom Friedman asks the hard, big-picture questions

Developing

Due to rapidly-breaking developments and in order to facilitate readers’ access to the latest dispatches, we are publishing this article as it is being written. please check back for updates and additions.

To see a list of previous articles, enter “Ukraine” in the Search Box on the upper right, on The Trenchant Observer web site, and you will see a list in chronological order.

Dispatches

1) Lateshia Beachum, “Austrian chancellor will meet with Putin on Monday,” Washington Post, April 10, 2022 (2:34 p.m.);

2) Oliver Pink, “Nehammer trifft Putin in Moskau,” Die Presse (Wien), den 10. April 2022 (19:55):

Österreichs Bundeskanzler Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) ist am Sonntagabend überraschend mit dem Flugzeug via Türkei nach Russland aufgebrochen. Er wird am Montag in Moskau den russischen Präsidenten Wladimir Putin treffen. Seine „intrinsische Motivation“ für die Mission sei, „alles zu tun, um den Krieg zu stoppen“.

Deutschlands Kanzler Olaf Scholz und dem türkischen Präsidenten Recep Tayyip Erdogan über seine Reise nach Moskau, EU-Kommissionspräsidentin Ursula Von der Leyen informierte er. Bereits informiert war die ukrainische Seite. Nehammer hatte dies Präsident Wolodymyr Selenskij während seines Aufenthalts in Kiew mitgeteilt. Dieser habe nichts dagegen gehabt.

Die deutsche „Bild“-Zeitung zitiert allerdings – anonym – einen ukrainischen Diplomaten: „Was für eine Selbstüberschätzung des österreichischen Kanzlers, dass er ernsthaft glaubt, die Reise hätte zum jetzigen Zeitpunkt irgendeinen Sinn, nachdem Putin gezeigt hat, was für ein brutaler Kriegsverbrecher er ist.”
..
Die Idee zu seiner Moskau-Mission sei ihm gekommen, als er seinen Kiew-Trip geplant habe, erklärte er. „Die Initiative ist von mir ausgegangen“, so der Kanzler. Er sehe sich in dieser Angelegenheit als „redlichen Makler“.

3) Yaroslav Trofimov, “Ukraine, Russia Gear Up for War’s Biggest Battles; Officials expect large-scale tank and artillery battles; it ‘will remind you of the Second World War,’ Ukraine’s foreign minister says,” Wall Street Journal, April 10, 2022 (1:12 pm ET).

Excellent report on the current military situation.

4) Thomas L. Friedman, “How Do We Deal With a Superpower Led by a War Criminal?” New York Times, April 10, 2022 (6:00 a.m. ET).

UPDATED
5) Stefan Schocher, “Darum gilt Österreich als „Flugzeugträger Russlands,“ Die Welt, den 11. April 2022 (18:15 Uhr);

Commentary

Austrian Chancellor Frank Nehammer has had the bright idea to go to Moscow to meet with Vladimir Putin on Monday. He will be the first Western leader to meet with Putin since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

And hopefully the last.

Did Woldymyr Zelensky ask the Austrian Chancellor to meet with Vladimir Putin on Monday on his behalf?

This is hardly likely. Zelensky apparently didn’t oppose the idea when Nehammer informed him of his plans, in a meeting in Kviv. Zelensky has to be careful not to oppose anyone who might provide him with weapons or financial assistance. To date, “neutral” Austria has provided no weapons.

Nehammer is trying to leave the impression that Olaf Scholz, Ursula van der Leyen and Zelensky agreed with his bright idea to go and visit Putin. The truth seems to be that he simply “informed” them of his plans.

What we have is a leader who thinks he’s smarter than everyone else, or at least more cunning, and that he can persuade Putin to stop his invasion of Ukraine and his massive war crimes against the civilians and cities of Ukraine. Or at least gain some domestic political advantage from his trip.

Oh! Vanity!

You have to wonder what goes through politicians’ heads. Was he not reading the newspapers and their accounts of how Putin used his meetings with Emmanuel Macron, Olaf Scholz, and other Western leaders only to gage the strength of their opposition and potential divisions among Western allies?

Pink reports,

Revised Google translation

(T)he German newspaper “Bild” quotes – anonymously – a Ukrainian diplomat: “What hubris on the part of the Austrian Chancellor that he seriously believes that the trip makes any sense at this point in time, after Putin has shown what a brutal war criminal he is.”

The idea for his Moscow mission came to him when he was planning his trip to Kyiv, Nehammer explained. “The initiative came from me,” said the Chancellor. He sees himself in this matter as an “honest broker”.

It is important to visualize this meeting: Putin, whose hands and clothes are covered with blood, is sitting at a long conference table with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, probing to see how many more innocent civilians including women and children he will need to kill today, and throughout his campaign, to get his way.

This war criminal has the blood of tens of thousands of people in Ukraine on his hands, including young Russian soldiers. He is an arch war criminal, like those tried at Nuremberg.

This trip to see Putin is what it would have been like for Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg to travel to Berchtesgaden to meet with Adolf Hitler a few days before German toops marched into Austria on March 12, 1938 and Adolf Hitler declared that Austria was now a part of the Third Reich.

Shame is far too soft a word to describe the Austrian Chancellor’s trip to see Putin. Maybe he thinks he’ll get a political bump out of his efforts, as Emmanuel Macron apparently has in tbe first round of the French presidential elections today.

Nehammer’s party, the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) has been facing a great corruption scandal since former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz was forced to resign in December 2021, and Nehammer took over. The Austrian People’s Party led a governing coalition under Chancellor Kurz with the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) from December 2017 until May 2019. The FPÖ was founded by former Nazis and is well-known for its anti-Islamic policies.

Ukraine’s allies  in the war to repel Russian aggression should make it absolutely clear to the Austrian Chancellor that his free-lancing effort to meet with Putin undercuts the allied cause.

No one should meet with Putin until after he withdraws his troops from Ukraine.

Even Zelensky should not meet with Putin. Not after Bucha and Mariupol. His subordinates can meet with Putin or Putin’s subordinates.

Words and even the immense persuasive abilities which vain political leaders may imagine they have will not move Putin. Putin will only see such efforts as signs of weakness, and feel emboldened to commit further aggression and atrocities.

EU leaders should shun the Austrian Chancellor, and make sure no other leader gets the bright idea that he or she can gain a domestic political advantage, or negotiate peace or anything else with arch war criminal Putin.

The Trenchant Observe

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.

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