Ukraine War, May 30, 2022: No cure for addled thinking–Biden’s fear of Putin and refusal to give Ukraine weapons that can strike Russian territory; Trust and policy coordination with Ukraine v. mistrust and denial of needed weapons; SDP and Scholz out of sync with German public; New coalition of Greens and CDU possible if not likely

Developing. We are publishing this article as it is being written. Please check back for updates.

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) Daniel Johnson, “The Germans are turning on their failing leaders; The country’s reputation has collapsed, and it is not inconceivable that its government could now fall, The Telegrapg, May 30, 2022 (4:32 pm);

2) “Ukraine War, May 27, 2022 (II): Foot-dragging by Germany and France on sanctions, military aid to Ukraine; New Statesman interview with Christopher Steele; Secret White House planning before Russian invasion,” The Trenchant Observer, May 27, 2022;

3) Siobhán O’Grady, Paul Sonne, Max Bearak,and Anastacia Galouchka, “Ukraine suffers on battlefield while pleading for U.S. arms; ‘They’re just raining down metal on us,’ said a soldier fresh from the front line where Russia is advancing,” The Wasington Post, May 29, 2022 (3:04 p.m. EDT);

4) Editorial, “Biden’s Ukraine Ambivalence; The President is withholding rocket launchers and won’t help with food exports, Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2022 (6:00 pm ET);

5) Jens Reupert, “GENERAL A.D. ROLAND KATHER (Interview): ‘Die Russen haben lokal eine drückende Überlegenheit erzielt,’l Die Welt, den 30. Mai 2022;

6) Oliver Imhof, “Kampf ums Schwarze Meer; Russlands Blockade der ukrainischen Häfen bedroht die globale Nahrungsmittelsicherheit. Verhandlungen scheinen wenig aussichtsreich, lediglich eine militärische Lösung könnte wohl Abhilfe schaffen,” Der Spiegel, den 30. Mai 2022;

7) Leo Klimm (Paris), “Er will Putin nicht erniedrigen; Nicht nur der deutsche Kanzler schont Wladimir Putin: Auch Frankreich ist darauf bedacht, Russland eine »Demütigung« zu ersparen. Kritik im eigenen Land muss Präsident Macron dafür nicht fürchten,” Der Spiegel, den 30. Mai 2022 (20.28 Uhr);

8) “Live Update: US will not send Ukraine rocket systems that can reach Russia, says Biden,” The Telegraph, May 30, 2022 (3:17 p.m.).

Commentary

SPD Chancellor Scholz loses support in Germany

Johnson reports on the loss of support for Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his government in Germany.

The future of Germany’s “traffic light (Ampel) coalition” government–so named because of the colors of the SPD (red), the Green Party (Green), and the Free Democratic Party or FDP (yellow) which comprise its members, is increasingly in doubt, mainly because of SPD Chancellor Scholz’s lack of candor and failure to deliver military aid to Ukraine and robustly back further sanctions on Russia.

Together with Emmanuel Macron of France, Scholz recently has been a drag on EU and NATO unity in responding to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

While many gave Scholz the benefit of the doubt for the countless delays in delivering heavy weapons to Ukraine, his endless bureaucratic and other excuses have now worn thin, and he is widely seen as lacking candor and being under the influence of pacifists and pro-Russian “friends of Putin” (“Putin Versteher”) within his own Social Democratic Party. He has suffered a massive loss of credibility, both at home and among his NATO and EU partners.

Meanwhile, the Greens and the Christian Democrats (CDU) (color: black) have established or are establishing coalition governments in four states, including the most populous and important states in the country.

The formation of these Black-Green coalitions looms as an ominous warning to Scholz who, if he does not act boldly and soon, may be swept from power by a new coalition headed either by foreign minister Annalena Baerbock (Green Party) or Friedrich Merz of the CDU, both of whom favor much quicker and stronger military support for Ukraine.

Addled thinking: Biden denies Ukraine needed weapons out of fear of Putin

O’Grady, Sonne, Bearak,and Galouchka report from the front in the Donbas on the battles raging there. They also report on how the Biden administration is withholding heavy weapons from the Ukrainians which they desperately need to defend themselves against the Russians. They write,

“For weeks, Zelensky and other top Ukrainian officials have been asking the United States to provide multiple launch rocket systems, or MLRS, which would give Kyiv the ability to strike targets from much farther away and a better chance of resisting the assault in the east.

“U.S. officials and congressional staffers told The Post on Friday that the administration is preparing to send the waaponry and could announce the move as early as this week, but the White House must still make a final decision on the transfer.

Some White House officials had expressed concern that providing MLRS weaponry with a range of more than 180 miles would allow Ukrainian forces to hit targets far into Russian territory, potentially prompting an escalatory response from Moscow, but the White House is now comfortable managing that risk by withholding the longest-range ammunition for the system, a senior U.S. official told The Post.”

In a later dispatch, The Telegraph reports that Biden has blocked the transfer of the MLRS system to Ukraine.

“US will not send Ukraine rocket systems that can reach Russia, says Biden

“The United States will not send Ukraine rocket systems that can reach into Russia, President Joe Biden said on Monday.

“The comments followed reports that the Biden administration was preparing to send advanced long-range rocket systems to Kyiv for its fight against Russia.

“‘We’re not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems’ that can reach into Russia, Mr Biden told reporters after arriving back at the White House after a weekend in Delaware.

“Ukrainian officials have sought a longer-range system called the Multiple Launch Rocket System, or MLRS, that can fire a barrage of rockets hundreds of miles away.

“CNN and The Washington Post reported on Friday the Biden administration was leaning towards sending that and another system, the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, known as HIMARS, as part of a larger military aid package to Ukraine.”

The Washington Post reporters continue their dispatch, above, as follows, “Whether the weaponry will get to Ukrainian forces in time to stave off a significant defeat in the east is now unclear, as Russian forces unleash a wave of attacks with gruesome weaponry on Ukrainian positions, forcing an exodus of people from the country’s embattled easternmost regions.”

Biden doesn’t trust Ukraine enough to rely on policy coordination to secure his objective of these weapons not being used used to strike targets on Russian territory.

The lack of mental agility here could not be more evident. Biden could simply set as a condition for the transfer of such weapons the requirement that they not be used to attack Russian territory, unless the U.S. waives that condition in advance of any such attack.

Certainly, the implicit threat of cutting off weapons deliveries would be sufficient to prevent such attacks.

Unfortunately, Biden’s aides in the White House cannot think so imaginatively. They believe the only way to ensure that Putin’s “red line” is not crossed is to deny the Ukrainians the capability to launch such attacks.

Even the thinking behind withholding the longest-range ammunition, in order to allow the MLRS transfer to go forward, is appalling.

This is thinking on the eighth-grade level of analysis. It is pathetic.

It is pathetic to understand that Biden does not trust Zelensky and Ukraine to comply with any conditions he might establish on the transfer of arms.

Not trusting the Ukrainians and the U.S. capacity for policy coordination with the Ukrainians, the White House has determined that the best way not to provoke Vladimir Putin is to deny Ukraine weapons they need to prevail in the war with Russia.

That war, it should be noted, is one which they currently appear to be losing.

An even more fundamental flaw in Biden’s approach to opposing the Russian war in Ukraine is that he has ceded “escalation dominance” to Putin. It is Putin who sets the “red lines” that must not be crossed, not Biden. It is Biden who tells Putin what actions he will not take because he is afraid of provoking Putin.

This goes back to Biden’s fear of Putin’s threats to escalate to nuclear war, and Biden’s weakness in caving in to those threats, instead of challenging Putin to not cross the West’s “red lines”–and establishing red lines of his own that might have protected Ukrainians and Ukrainian cities from massive war crimes, systematic crimes against humanity, and genocide.

Biden should push up against and not be afraid of crossing Putin’s “red lines”. Putin is crossing the “red lines” of the U.N. Charter and international law, every day.

The U.S., Ukraine, and Ukraine’s allies have every right to supply Ukraine with whatever arms it needs to defend itself against Russia’s armed attack, in accordance with Article 51 of the U.N. Charter.

If Putin were to react to such actions by using force against a nation exercising its right of self-defense in this manner, that action would itself violate the prohibition of the use of force in Article 2 paragraph 4 of the U.N. Charter, and authorize all other states (including NATO countries) to come to the defense of that country in exercise of their right of collective self-defense.

Obviously, military realities must at all times be taken into account.

Still, it is important to keep clearly in mind which countries are violating the United Nations Charter and which are acting in lawful exercise of the right of collective self-defense.

The red lines of the West are backed by international law, and the legitimacy in the eyes of third states which that fact confers.

Russia is seeking to overthrow the U.N. Charter, international law, and the entire international legal order.

In standing up to Putin, Biden and other allied leaders should never forget these facts, and never tire in explaining to other countries how their actions are legitimate under the U.N. Charter and international law. This is a powerful argument. Unfortunately, it is not one that Biden and Secretary of Sate Anthony Blinken have been making effectively.

As for Biden’s decision making, it is time to insist that he reshuffle and strengthen his foreign policy team, as we have long recommended. Congressmen and Senators have an important role to play in this regard.

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.

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