Ukraine War, March 4, 2023: Kaiser Olaf meets with Kaiser Joe to discuss war strategy

See Chris Megerian and Frank Jordans (Washington, AP), “Biden and Scholz: US, Germany in ‘lockstep’ on Ukraine war,” Yahoo News (AP), March 3, 2023 (12:10 am EST).

Kaiser Olaf has now consulted with President Joe about their war strategy in the Ukraine war.

Joe Biden is the President of the United States. With his protegés being key top advisers (Jake Sullivan and Antony Blinken), he is unconstrained in following his gut, as we learned in following his Afghanistan withdrawal decision. In that sense, he is like a Kaiser with a limited term.

Kaiser Olaf, on the other hand, is merely the Chancellor (Kanzler) of a coalition, the so-called “traffic-light coalition” or “Ampel Koalition” comprised of the Green Party and the Free Democratic Party (FDP), and Scholz’s Social Democratic Party (SDP).

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbach of the Green Party has been unceremoniously left at home as Kaiser Olaf takes it upon himself to discuss the preeminent foreign policy issue of our times–the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine–without the expert advice of his foreign minister and the foreign ministry.

It will be interesting to learn who on the American side was present in the room when the Kaiser Olaf and President Joe Biden met.

Biden can be good when he is carefully guided by his team and exercises message discipline. The idea of Biden and Scholz sitting down for an unstructured heart-to-heart talk about Ukraine is terrifying, particularly to anyone who has heard Biden talk off-script, e.g., at a Town Hall meeting, and who has followed the positions of both leaders regarding the delivery of weapons to Ukraine.

Scholz is responsible for dragging out the decision to authorize the delivery of German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks for some six months, and just blackmailed Joe Biden into promising to deliver Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine before he would authorize the delivery of the Leopard 2 battle tanks.

So they were meeting Friday, March 3, to discuss their war strategy in Ukraine. Not the strategy of Ukraine, or of Ukraine and NATO, but the strategy of the U.S. and Germany.

Both leaders are concerned about how the war will end. So they undoubtedly discussed this question. As if either of them could know.

They could be discussing what kind of pressures they will apply to Ukraine to force it to enter negotiations with Russia, and to reach some “reasonable” compromise. If foreign minister Baerbach were present, she would probably stress the significance of the U.N. General Assembly Resolution on February 23.

Baerbach has been a much stronger supporter of weapons deliveries to Ukraine than Scholz, who has hesitated and dragged his feet for months. Maybe that is why Kaiser Olaf decided to leave her in Berlin.

“How might the war end?”

The very question presupposes that the war will end.

There is no guarantee that the war will end, without morphing into a much wider war or escalating to a nuclear war.

One way it could end would be if the U.S. and Western countries don’t supply the Ukrainian military with adequate weapons and ammunition to defend the country.

A variation on this possibility would be if Donald Trump or some like-minded Republican won the U.S. presidency in 2024, and stopped leading the coalition effort to supply Ukraine with the arms it needs.

The war–or at least active hostilities–could end, for now at anybrate, if the U.S. and Germany forced Ukraine to accept a ceasefire that would freeze the conflict, or even a peace settlement that would make “territorial concessions” to Russia. The latter is possible, though it would be ugly, and in the end Ukraine might not go along.

Even the advocacy of such a solution by the U.S. and Germany could have a devastating impact on morale in Ukraine, and potentially lead to a collapse of their war effort.

Another option would be to achieve a settlement consistent with the U.N. Charter, as called for in the General Assembly Resolution on February 23, 2023.

What would be required to achieve that goal?

The problem with Kaiser Olaf’s and President Joe’s meeting is that it raises numerous possibilities for bad decisions and bad policies.

These could lead to another way the war could end or morph into something else. If Russia makes gains on the battlefield that could lead to Ukraine’s defeat, the U.S. and NATO countries could be constrained to intervene more directly in the war in order to avoid a Russian victory. This could potentially even include the deployment of NATO armed forces in or over Ukraine.

War strategy is complicated. It is hard to see what Kaiser Scholz and President Biden could contribute to that strategy without the presence and participation of their principal advisers.

Maybe Kaiser Olaf just came to ensure prompt delivery of some Abrams tanks, in order to cover himself politically back home and among the pacifists and pro-Russian elements of his own party.

We need to get a very good readout, made public, of what was discussed and decided at this Scholz-Biden summit in Washington.

In the meantime, the Biden administration continues to blunder. The latest example is Blinken’s 10-minute meeting with
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov at the G-20 summit in India. This appears to have been orchestrated by Blinken for the sole purpose of making a news headline and showing the world how tough the U.S. is with Russia.

Conducting foreign policy as if it were a Washington media event does not seem to be a promising approach.

Kaiser Olaf flew across the Atlantic for a one-hour meeting behind closed doors, without aides, with President Biden. He got what he wanted: newspaper headlines saying that Germany and the U.S. were moving “in lockstep” in their policies and arms deliveries to Ukraine.

He undoubtedly also sought to ease ruffled feathers with Biden after blackmailing him into promising Abrams tanks for Ukraine in exchange for his authorizing the transfer of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

Biden needs to strengthen his foreign policy team. And to avoid casual meetings with key foreign leaders.

The Trenchant Observer

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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