Ukraine War, May 13, 2022: Scholz has 75-minute telephone conversation with Putin; Putin invokes International Humanitarian Law; Leaks on intelligence sharing–the delicate balance

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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.


1) “Scholz telefoniert „lange“ mit Putin und fordert Waffenstillstand, Die Welt, den 13. Mai 2022 (15:10 Uhr);

2) Geoffrey Smith, “Scholz Rebuffs Putin Lectures on Nazism, Warns of Responsibility for Food Markets, Yahoo! Finance, May 13, 2022 (2:24 AM);

3) Michael Fischer, Hannah Wagner, und Carsten Hoffman, “Nach langem Schweigen spricht Scholz wieder mit Putin – worum es dabei ging; Nach Bekanntwerden der Kriegsverbrechen in Butscha hat Kanzler Scholz lange keinen Sinn in Gesprächen mit Putin gesehen. Jetzt bricht er das Schweigen,” Hellweger Anzeiger, den 13. Mai 2022.

4) Jean-Paul Marthoz, “«Enjeux»: Ukraine: des secrets bien mal gardés; La tension monte entre la presse et la Maison-Blanche à propos de la diffusion par le « New York Times » et NBC News d’informations classées « secret défense » dans la guerre en Ukraine,” Le Soir, le 12 mai 2022 (09:28).


Putin invokes International Humanitarian Law

Smith reports on the Kremlin’s readout of the call, as follows

The Kremlin’s readout indicated that President Vladimir Putin had again pushed this argument on Scholz, saying “attention was turned to the continued and gross violations of international humanitarian law by soldiers professing Nazi ideology, and their use of inhuman terrorist methods.”

The good news here is that Putin is still aware of the fact that there is something called “international humanitarian law”, a category of international law that governs the conduct of hostilities during an international conflict. It consists of the laws of war contained in the 1948 Geneva Conventions and subsequent treaties and protocols.

The incredible aspect of this Kremlin readout of Putin’s statement is the sheer shamelessness of a leader who has been overseeing a war in Ukraine characterized by the utter barbarism of Russian soldiers, who have systematically targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure in committing war crimes and crimes against humanity on a massive scale.

Leaks of highly sensitive military information: Freedom of expression v. the secrecy of highly sensitive intelligence regarding ongoing military operations

Marthoz provides a thoughtful and balanced analysis of what is at stake with the release by the New York Times and other media of highly sensitive military information regarding intelligence sharing by U.S. and other agencies with Ukrainian officials.

He points out that at first many assumed the leaks had been orchestrated by the administration. Politico reported that President Biden was incensed at the leaks, and issued orders in no uncertain terms that they must stop. Marthoz writes,

Revised Google translaiton

Public reactions from the administration have been scathing. “Irresponsible, misleading,” thundered the official spokespersons, who, in a rather acrobatic exercise in casuistry, tried to underline the difference between the provision of intelligence and the strike decisions of the Ukrainian authorities.

The two hypotheses are not contradictory. It does appear that White House and foreign policy officials, at a level below President Biden, authorized or orchestrated the leaks, which were far too sensitive to have been made without at least tacit authorization. At the same time, it is quite plausible that Biden was outraged when he learned of the leaks and, more particularly, of the reactions they produced. The coordinated efforts to spin and walk back the revelations did indeed amount to “a rather acrobatic exercise in casuistry”.

Marthoz notes that leaks have become an intrinsic part of national security reporting in the United States following important Supreme Court deicisons (e.g., in the Pentagon Papers case), and that as the 2010 Wikileaks revelations of Julian Assange about the Iraq war and the revelations of Edward Snowden in 2013 regarding the surveillance operations of the National Security Agency demonstrated, such revelations often serve to help ensure that government agencies operate within the constitution and the law. Marthoz cites Thomas L Friedman’s argument that the recent revelations seem to show that U.S. policy is moving dangerously toward participating actively in the war to defend Ukraine, and a direct confrontation with Russia.

Still, there is a delicate balance that must be achieved.

By publishing these revelations widely, might not the New York Times and other media be running the risk of “stirring even more the evil cauldron in which Vladimir Putin, so easily ‘humiliated’ and ‘provoked’, concocts his acts of force?”

“More than ever,” Marthoz notes, “the tension between freedom of information and security is at the heart of the conflict and requires reasoned arbitration.” He quotes a 2017 study by John Lloyd that addresses the point: “If operational secrets are to be inviolable, the public has a right to know as much as possible.”

“But,” Marthoz concludes, “faced with an unpredictable and shameless adversary, any error in judgment risks triggering a fateful escalation to extremes.”

The Trenchant Observer


See also,

Only force can stop Putin

“Ukraine War, April 5, 2022 (II): Force must be used to stop Putin,” The Trenchant Observer, April 5, 2022.