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Ukraine War, August 21, 2022: Should European nations ban visas for Russians?Remembering the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia on August 20, 1968

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Ukraine War, July 3, 2022: Speak to Putin in a language he understands: the language of force



Ukraine War, June 28, 2022: Why we are losing the war in Ukraine



Ukraine War, June 19, 2022: Biden is lost in a fog on Ukraine; Only strong fresh winds from younger leaders can clear the air



Ukraine War, May 31, 2022: Biden’s Op-ed, and his abject fear of Putin

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Ukraine War, May 10, 2022 (II): The hard work ahead in the non-allied countries, to get them to joint the anti-Russian coalition

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Ukraine War, April 21, 2022 (I): Biden cancels tactical nuclear weapons program; Yellen worries about impact on global economy of European energy embargo; Biden finally closes American ports to Russian shipping

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Ukraine War, April 10, 2022 (II): In France, Macron wins with 27.60% of vote v. 23.41% for Marine Le Pen in first round presidential election (official results with 97% of vote counted); both head for second-round run-off on April 24

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…


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

Joe Biden is facing “a Munich moment”. Will he impose tough sanctions on Putin for crowning his ongoing invasion of the Eastern Ukraine with the recognition of the puppet regimes he installed in 2014 and has maintained in power since, as independent countries, who will now invite Russian troops in to “protect” the population?
It is clear from the reports above that Biden is temporizing, drawing fine intellectual distinctions just like his mentor, Barack Obama, who helped create the present Ukraine crisis by not reacting strongly to Putin’s invasions of the Crimea and the Eastern Ukraine in 2014.
In 2014 Obama objected to the characterization of the Russian invasion of the Donbas as an “invasion”, preferring to term it an “incursion”. An “incursion did not require as strong a response with sanctions as an “invasion”, as Biden eerily communicated to Putin in a press conference some weeks ago.
Biden has made two colossal strategic misjudgments, and appears to be making a third at this very minute.
The first was the irrevocable decision to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan. Once that decision was made, all that followed was a future foretold.
The second strategic blunder was to tell the world publicly, including Putin, that he was taking force off the table as a possible response to potential Russian aggression against Ukraine.
By that decision, Biden shaped the battlefield in ways which were sharply detrimental to Ukraine, and to the U.S. and its allies.
Now, having set the stage with the first two colossal blunders, Biden is making his third, by not applying the threatened severe sanctions against Putin for merely having engaged in an “incursion” in the Donbas.
The initial sanctions announced today, to ban business with entities in the “separatist” republics and to sanction personally individuals involved in the decision is a bad joke, and repeats–almost in cut and paste fashion–the bad joke of Obama’s sanctions against Russia for invading the Crimea in 2014.
In 2014, it was a bad joke which emboldened Putin. In 2022, it is a bad joke which will not deter Putin from a larger war, and which very likely will increase his contempt for Biden–unless it is followed within a day or two by the heaviest of sanctions.
Biden’s third strategic blunder is underway, but it’s not too late for him to do some fresh thinking and adopt the heaviest possible sanctions.
Biden needs to lead the anti-Russian coalition, not merely sink to its lowest common denominator.

Putin will not stop until he hits a brick wall. Biden must either bring that brick wall into play, or choose the path of appeasement, as Western leaders did at Munich.
He faces what is likely to be greatest Munich moment in his presidency.


Ukraine Crisis, February 19, 2022: Putin’s advisers and advice; Russia’s pretexts for war reminiscent of Hitler in August, 1939; Munich Security Conference and Zelensky’s demands for NATO membership and sanctions now; NATO confirms it expects a full Russian attack on Ukraine

Yang Yi, who video-entered his speech, said, “Sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of every country should be protected and respected. This is one of the basic norms of international relations.” Ukraine is no exception here, he stressed.

This statement is not surprising in its content. It underlines the fact that China has traditionally supported basic norms of international law and the U.N. Charter in principle. It disputes it is in violation of international law despite the 2016 arbitration decision under the of the Sea Convention holding that its claims have no basis in international law, and make the argument that Taiwan is part of China/ It disputes the findings of humann rights violations in Xinjiang province. The important thing is that it supports the basic norms of the U.N> Charter, in principle, as this statement makes clear.

One of the regrettable things about Blinken’s intervention at the Security Council meeting on February 17 was that he failed to make the strong legal case against Russia that was available to be made, and which could be useful in persuading other countries, especially China, to support the basic principles of the U.N. Charter and international law which Putin is violating.

The United States and other law-abiding nations in the coalition opposing Russian aggression should be lobbying China very hard to state its position even more loudly, and to intervene with Putin to persuade him to de-escalate the Ukraine crisis and withdraw his troops from regions bordering Ukraine.

This may be one of the last things the allied coalition can do to dissuade Putin from launching an invasion of Ukraine. Other steps, which we have urged before, include announcing that Russia will be expelled from the SWIFT international payments system if it invades Ukraine, and announcements by NATO and other countries that if Putin invades Ukraine, they will view the situation as it evolves, and will take all appropriate measures in response, including the use of force if deemed necessary.

Finally, the U.S. and the EU should begin imposing graduated sanctions now, for Putin’s violation of the U.N. Charter prohibition against the threat of using force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, including Ukraine.


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?


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.


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.


Change Putin’s calculations: Put force back on the table, and begin active cyber-warfare measures to defend Ukraine

What can be done now to change Putin’s calculations, or to respond to an invasion?

The U.S. and NATO countries should begin active cyber-warfare countermeasures to help defend Ukraine from ongoing Russian attacks on its computer networks and infrastructure. In this realm, the  U.S. may have the most advanced capabilities, and should begin using them now. Above all, U.S. decision makers should avoid undue hesitance by  demanding absolute proof of attribution of the attacks. In a wartime setting, officials and nations may need to act in the absence of perfect information.

If Russia is not behind the attacks, who do U.S. analysts and policymakers think is? Nigeria? Lesotho? Fiji? It is immaterial whether the operators are Russian officials or others acting under their control.

Finally, in order to influence Putin’s calculations at this late stage in the game, NATO members should leave open the possibility of coming to Ukraine’s defense through the use of military force and active cyber-warfare measures, in exercise of the right of collective self-defense under Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, if Russia invades Ukraine and a major war develops.