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Ukraine War, November 15, 2022: Russian missiles hit Polish town; Putin tests NATO mutual defense obligation under Article 5 of NATO Treaty (Updated November 19, 2022)

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”…

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Ukraine War, November 6, 2022 (II): International Law and the structural impediments to a ceasefire or peace settlement in Ukraine





Ukraine War, May 1, 2022: Conditions for negotiation and settlement; Russia running out of precision-guided weapons; Warning against war aim of humiliating Russia


Ukraine War, April 13, 2022 (I): U.S. still hung up on “offensive” v. “defensive” weapons distinction; U.S. won’t provide Ukraine with intelligence or weapons that would enable it to strike targets in Crimea or Russia, for fear of provoking Russia


Ukraine War, March 29, 2022 (I): New Ukrainian position in Istanbul negotiations; Reparations–Russia must pay for this war for generations


Ukraine Crisis, February 21, 2022 (Part II): Weighing options–Biden’s Munich moment


Ukraine Crisis, February 10, 2022: Putin compares Ukraine’s role in Minsk II negotiations to that of rape victim; Lavrov treats British foreign secretary Liz Truss with disdain

On some days there is no single striking development in the Ukraine Crisis, but rather just different stories that illuminate this or that aspect of…


Cyber attacks on European oil terminals: A taste of Putin’s next hybrid war?

If we learned anything from Vladimir Putin’s invasion of the Crimea and the Eastern Ukraine in 2014, it is that he is a tricky old KBG spymaster, who places a premium on feints and deceit–and deniability.
Deceit and distraction, and delight at fooling the West,, were at the heart of Putin’s strategy in 2014, and they may be now.
Another key dimension of Putin’s strategy and tactics is desensitization. By playing with the West in 2014, , e.g., “Are the white trucks in the “humanitarian aid” convoy carrying military supplies or food and water?”, or “Are they going to cross the Ukrainian border without inspection or authorization?”, for example, Putin desensitized his opponents to his norm violations.

Well, they crossed the border. Later, the realization that regular Russian forces crossed the border doesn’t seem like such a big deal. His earlier desensitization tactics seem to drain the emption from the reactions to later grave violations of international law.

He has played with the West to such an extent in the present crisis, threatening a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, that this desensitization tactic may lead to a milder reaction if e.g., he only seizes a strip of land linking the Donbas to the Crimea.
Another key dimension of Putin’s strategy and tactics is desensitization. By playing with the West, e.g., “Are the white trucks in the “humanitarian aid” convoy carrying military supplies or food and water?”, or “Are they going to cross the Ukrainian border without inspection or authorization?”, for example, Putin desensitized his opponents to his norm violations.

Well, they crossed the border. Later, the realization that regular Russian forces crossed the border doesn’t seem like such a big deal. His earlier desensitization tactics seem to drain the emption from the reactions to later grave violations of international law.

He has played with the West to such an extent in the present crisis, threatening a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, that this desensitization tactic may lead to a milder reaction if e.g., he only seizes a strip of land linking the Donbas to the Crimea.
Recent cyber attacks on oil shipping terminals and facilities in Northwest Europe could well foreshadow a move in the kind of hybrid warfare Putin could use in the present confrontation between Russia, on the one hand, and NATO, Ukraine, and other democracies, on the other.
An op-ed in the New York Times, by an expert in Vienna, points to the possibility that Putin may have something much bigger in mind than an attack on Ukraine with conventional forces.
We may soon be looking at a conflict bween Russia and NATO which involves a significant cyber component for the first time.

If this occurs, a key question will be how nimble the U.S. and its allies will be in responding to attacks of probable but less than certain origin.


Ukraine Crisis, February 2, 2022: U.S. and NATO Replies to Putins demands (with links to leaked documents)

Developing Because so much is being written about the Ukraine Crisis, we are providing links to the most important news dispatches and analyses, in particular…


Ukraine Crisis, February 1, 2022: Security Council meeting on January 31 a welcome success; tripartite security pact between Ukraine, Poland, and Britain reportedly in preparation

Stefanie Bolzen reports on what could be a dramatic development, “At the same time, it was reported in Kiev (‘verlautete aus Kiew’) that Great Britain, Poland, and Ukraine are preparing a tripartite security pact.
A triparite security pact, depending on its provisions, could lead Poland to come to the defense of Ukraine if Russia invades the country. Should that then lead further to a Russian attack on Poland, the mutual defense obligation in Article 5 of the NATO Treaty could come into play, requiring all NATO members to come to the defense of Poland in repelling the Russian attack.

At that point, the world would be facing a direct nuclear confrontation between Russia, on the one hand, and the U.S., Great Britain, anf France, on the other.
The new U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, did an outstanding job in presenting the case against Russia and in defending fundamental principles of the U.N. Charter and international law. 10 members of the Council supported the holding of a public meeting, and implicitly the position of the U.S. NATO, and EU countries. Only Russia and China voted on a procedual motion not to hold the meeting. India, Kenya, and Gabon abstained.


The Ukraine Crisis: Current Developments (and the risks of nuclear war)–January 29, 2022

What is most striking about discussions about sanctions is the way officials talk about what the negative effects of really serious sanction would be on their economies or the international financial system, as if the alternative were a simple continuation of the status quo.

The real comparison they should be making is between the effects of the sanctions, if they are adopted, and the effects on their economies of a major ground war in Europe with the attendant risks of escalation to nuclear war, if they are not.

A nuclear war could have a really negative impact on their economies.

Moreover, everyone should bear in mind that once a war begins, all the assumptions of the “rational actor” paradigm no longer hold, if they ever did even to a limited extent. The rational calculation of costs and benefits would be out the window, as would be the ability of any leader, even Putin, to control the course of events. We should recall the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, and how dicey that was.

We should also recall how, in the run-up to World War I, the mobilization of Russian military units set in motion forces that could not be controlled, leading to the outbreak of hostilities in August, 1914.

Three critical questions have received little attention:

1) First, if Russia invades Ukraine and a war ensues, how will the war be stopped?

2) Second, if Russia invades Ukraine, how will the risks of accidental or intentional escalation be moderated? If such escalation occurs, in the fog of war, how will the risks of further escalation to nuclear war be controlled? Could the Security Council play a useful role, now, by debating a draft resolution which takes those risks into account?

Assuming Russia would veto any such resolution, should members be preparing, now, to take that Resolution to the General Assembly and bring it to a vote?

3) The third question is whether countries should think, now, about forming a “great coalition” to bring military force and other power to bear in forcing Russian troops out of Ukraine? This is precisely what members of the United Nations did in 1990, when they joined a military coalition to use force, in exercise of the right of collective self-defense, and repelled Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces following their invasion and occupation of Kuwait.

Kuwait was not a member if NATO. Yet the countries of the world felt it was important to defend the territorial integrity of Kuwait and the bedrock prohibition against the international use of force enshrined in article 2 (4) of the Charter.

Repelling aggression by a nuclear power which is a Permanent Member of the Security Council would represent an unprecedented challenge. How would that work out?


U.S. should call for “Emergency Meeting” of U.N. Security Council, invoking Article 39 of the U.N. Charter, to urgently consider the Russian military buildup on Ukraine’s frontiers, Russia’s demand for NATO commitments, and associated threats

There is no sign that the Biden administration has decided to launch a serious international legal critique of Russia’s mobilization of troops near the Ukranian…


Invasion may be several weeks away, the Guardian reports; Germany sends 5,000 helmets; deterrence must succeed; time to take matter to U.N. Security Council

Obama’s non-lethal aid to Ukraine in 2014:

The White House says it is still reviewing other items on Kiev’s wish-list, including medical kits, uniforms, boots and military socks.

‘You want to calibrate your chest-thumps,” a senior military official said of the step-by-step American response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military moves. “He does something else in Ukraine, we release the socks.'”

One has to wonder what universe the Germans are living in with their non-lethal aid of 5,000 helmets. The world of Obama’s socks? We all saw how that worked out, with Russia invading the Eastern Ukraine in August, 2014.

The biggest questions are whether Germany is going to close ranks by declaring now it will block authorization of the Nordstream II pipeline if Putin invades Ukraine, and whether Germany and other countries will commit now to expelling Russia from the SWIFT international payments system if Russia intervenes in Ukraine.

Anything short of current commitments, made public, any agreements to merely consider or talk about these measures, will not deter Putin from invading Ukraine.

Deterrence must succeed. It is time to take Putin’s threatened invasion to the U.N. Security Council and the General Assembly

In the battle for freedom against tyranny, in the war between advocates of upholding the U.N. Charter and international law, on the one hand, and the advocates of “might makes right”, on the other, a “good try” in seeking to deter Russia is not good enough.

Putin and Russia must be successfully deterred from military intervention in Ukraine.

It is time to go to the U.N. Security Council and to lay out the legal case against Putin for all the countries in the world to see, and to force them to take a position by voting in the Security Council and the General Assembly.


Use international law: Take Putin’s threatened invasion of Ukraine to the U.N. Security Council and the General Assembly; use SWIFT and Nordstream II to move beyond an illusory deterrent and really deter Putin; sanction Belarus for complicity in any invasion

U.S.,NATO, and EU heavy “costs” that will be imposed on Russia if it invades Ukraine are a deterrent, built on illusions, which will not deter Putin.

The West needs to strengthen its deterrent threats and to start imposing sanctions now.

Russia should be sanctioned for threatening the use of force in violation of Article 2 paragraph 4 of the U.N. Charter, and bringing the world dangerously close to a major war in Europe which has the potential of escalating to a nuclear conflict.

The West has been playing defense, reacting slowly to Russia’s threat of a war of aggression against Ukraine.

German war criminals were tried at Nuremberg for committing “crimes against peace”. Putin is committing crimes against peace as we speak.

NATO and the West need to stop responding to Putin’s unlawful demands and to start making their own demands on Putin and Russia.

The best defense is a good offense, it is often said.

It is now time for the civilized nations if the world to move from defensive maneuvering to going on the offense against Putin and Russia.

They should demand the following steps from Putin, and impose escalating sanctions on Russia if he does not comply, and until he does.
These demands include the following:

The U.S., the EU, and NATO member countries should begin imposing severe economic sanctions on Russia for its ongoing threat to further invade Ukraine, for its continuing occupation of the Crimea, and for its continuing occupation, both directly and through agents under its control, of Donetsk and Luhansk provinces (together “the Donbas’j in the Eastern Ukraine.

The goal should be to really deter Putin from invading Ukraine, not just putting on a good show that NATO, the U.S. and the EU tried. A secondary goal should be to deter Belarus from allowing Russian troops to launch an invasion from its territory.

To really deter Putin, all countries should pressure Germany to go along with the expulsion of Russia from the SWIFT international payments system, if it invades Ukraine, and to commit now to cancellation of the Nordstream II pipeline project if that occurs.

As the civilized nations of the world move to offensive operations in defense of Ukraine, the imposition of heavy economic and other sanctions, perhaps on a partial and escalating basis, should begin at once.

Both Fiona Hill, above, and former Defense Secretary William Cohen, have called for the question of the threatened Russian invasion of Ukraine to be taken to the U.N. Security Council and the U.N. General Assembly.

These steps should be undertaken at once.


The nuclear deterrent; Sanctions threats not credible–SWIFT and Nordstream II sanctions off the table; Germany’s debt to the world, and the appeasers in the SPD

Germany should state clearly, immediately, and unequivocally, that it will support expulsion of Russia from the SWIFT international payments system if Russia invades Ukraine. Germany’s ambivalence on this point has greatly diluted the deterrent force of threats to adopt this measure.

Germany should also state unequivocally, and immediately, that if Putin invades Ukraine, it will kill the Nordstream II gas pipeline project and will never authorize it to operate in its territory.

Germany, which was responsible for the collapse of the international legal order beginning in 1938, owes the world at least these two measures.

Politically and financially, these steps will not be easy to take. Germany now stands at the center of the world stage, with a potentially decisive voice in Putin’s calculations.

International law and international order require sacrifices. These, however, are minimal when compared to the sacrifices of war.
It is time for leaders in many countries to wake up to what is going on and to what the stakes are, and to take Russia’s threat of launching a major European war to the United Nation Security Council. They need not wait further on the foreign policy leadership of the U.S. Great Britain, or France, Ukraine, or any member of Security Council, or the Secretary General of the U.N., can call for an Emergency Meeting. This they can do at any time, but the right time is now.

Such action would complement diplomatic efforts currently being led by the U.S. Britain, in particular, and also Germany, seem to have a better understanding of the U.N. Charter and international law than do current leaders in the United States.


Vladimir Putin, like Adolf Hitler, challenges the world (Updated)

In 1938, Adolf Hitler, with German troops massed to invade Czechoslovakia, challenged the world.

The capitulation at Munich turned out to be the first step in the final collapse of the international legal order….

Putin’s threat may be parochially perceived by some in Europe as a threat to the “European Security Order”, but in fact it is much more than that. It is a frontal attack on the international legal norms and institutions which safeguard the security from military attack of every country in the world, and every territory with an established international demarcation line, such as Taiwan.

The U.S., NATO members, and other countries in the region have not risen to effectively meet the threat, or are only belatedly beginning to do so.

If the threat is as great as that outlined above, how could it be sufficient to simply threaten economic sanctions and other non-military measures in the event Russia invades Ukraine?

If these deterrent threats do not appear to be working, as preparations for a Russian invasion continue while diplomatic negotiations show no promise, is not more required?

Once the evil of war is loosed upon the world, no one can predict what course it may take. One should recall the rosy predictions in August, 1914 of those who launched WWI, expecting six weeks of hostilities. It didn’t work out as that way.

Germany should state clearly, immediately, and unequivocally, that it will support expulsion of Russia from the SWIFT international payments system if Russia invades Ukraine. Germany’s ambivalence on this point has greatly diluted the deterrent force of threats to adopt this measure.

Germany should also state unequivocally, and immediately, that if Putin invades Ukraine, it will kill the Nordstream II gas pipeline project and will never authorize it to operate in its territory.

Germany, which was responsible for the collapse of the international legal order beginning in 1938, owes the world at least these two measures.

Politically and financially, these steps will not be easy to take. Germany now stands at the center of the world stage, with a potentially decisive voice in Putin’s calculations. International law and international order require sacrifices. These, however, are minimal when compared to the sacrifices of war.

Politically and financially, these steps will not be easy to take. Germany now stands at the center of the world stage, with a potentially decisive voice in Putin’s calculations. International law and international order require sacrifices. These, however, are minimal when compared to the sacrifices of war.


Putin seeks legally binding commitments from NATO that would be void under international law, threatens aggression against Ukraine if NATO doesn’t quickly accept his demands

See, Anton Troianovski, “Putin’s Next Move on Ukraine Is a Mystery. Just the Way He Likes It; The contradictory, sometimes menacing messages from the Kremlin…