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

Developing. We are publishing this article as it is being written. Please check back for updates. UKRAINE: THE WAR TO SAVE THE U.N. CHARTER AND…

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Ukraine War, June 28, 2022: American diplomacy fails to win support against Russia among non-allied countries; G-7 leaders disappoint, are reminiscent of leaders in 1930’s facing Nazi threat





Ukraine War, May 11, 2022 (I): Spinning leaked revelations about intelligence sharing, U.S. officials evidence continued confusion about international law; Azovstal steelworks fighters plead for evacuation of wounded; France and Germany push back on American war aims; U.S. should limit war aims to requirements of U.N. Charter and international law




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


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 War, February 27, 2022: The spiritual dimension–Albert Camus, “Letters to a German friend” 1943-44; Dispatches and analyses

And you, who were already conquered in your greatest victories, what will you be in the approaching defeat?
–First Letter, December, 1943
***

For you Europe is an expanse encircled by seas and mountains, dotted with dams, gutted with mines, covered with harvests, where Germany is playing a game in which her own fate alone is at stake.

But for us, Europe is a home of the spirit where for the last twenty centuries the most amazing adventure of the human spirit has been going on.
–Third Letter, July 1943


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 21, 2022: Putin recognizes puppet “separatist” governments in Donetsk and Luhansk provinces; to deter a full invasion, U.S. and allies must impose heaviest sanctions now

By recognizing the”separatist” republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, Vladimir Putin has destroyed the last off-ramp from war, the last possibility for any kind of diplomacy and negotiations. The Minsk agreements are dead.
Putin’s action is characteristic of his pattern of probing, measuring the Western response, and then if the latter is weak pushing on to achieve a larger objective.
The key points to bear in mind about the recognition of the “People’s Republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk is that they were installed through the illegal use of force by Russia in 2014, that Russia has troops and equipment in the Donbas now as a result of its ongoing invasion, and that recognition of these puppet regimes is equivalent to the Russian recognition of the Crimea as part of Russia in March, 2014.
The ongoing invasion is a continuing violation of the U.N. Charter prohibition (Article 2 paragraph 4) against “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”.
Immediate action required to try to deter a full invasion of Ukraine
The U.S. and its allies must impose their heaviest sanctions on Russia, now. The argument that they should be held in reserve in order to deter a further invasion by Putin is fallacious. As president Volodymyr Zelensky argued at the Munich Security Conferene, if the U.S. is almost 100% sure Russia is going to invade, what are they waiting for? The sanctions cannot be useful as a deterrent in the future if they are not imposed now when deterrence fails.
There is no guarantee that even, if imposed, they will alter Putin’s behavior. Nonetheless, history will judge the U.S. and its allies harshly if they don’t even try.
If they don’t impose the threatened sanctions, they will have zero credibility the next time they try to deter Putin, e.g. from seizing the land corridor that connects Kaliningrad to mainland Russia.


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…


Ukraine Crisis, February 8, 2022: Urgent need for strongest possible deterrent steps; the Minsk II off-ramp for Putin

The current threats of economic sanctions against Russia if it invades Ukraine do not appear sufficient to deter Putin.

Putin’s disdainful remarks about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky yesterday in Moscow, following his five-hour meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, suggest a hardened attitude and a dug-in position.

Deterrence of a Russian invasion should not be considered merely as a desirable objective, but rather as an absolute necessity for the security of Europe, Taiwan, and other countries.

Moreover, the survival of the post-World War II U.N. Charter-based system for the maintenance if international oeace and security, and international relations based on international law, are at stake.

The alternative, in a nuclear age, is the “right-makes-right” system that led to two world wars in the twentieth century.

Maximum Assured Deterrence

To make sure the law-abiding nations of the world avoid the fate they suffered after 1938, they must adopt deterrent measures that provide “Maximum Assured Deterrence”, that is, not just deterrence that seems “politically feasible” but which may or may not work.In an age when Mutual Assured Destruction (what we can call MAD I) may deter a nuclear first -strike, but may not deter aggression with conventional weapons, “Maximum Assured Deterrence” (which we can call MAD II) may be required to deter aggression and invasions by conventional forces.

What steps can be taken, even now, to provide “Maximum Assured Deterrence” against a Russian invasion of Ukraine?

The preceding analysis strongly suggests that an optimal strategy for dealing with Putin and Russia, starting today, would include the following components:

1) Adoption of the Maximum Assured Deterrence steps outlined above; and

2) Development of fully-developed and coordinated negotiating positions on Minsk II implementation in order to help construct an off-ramp which Putin might be persuaded to take.

Time is of the essence. These steps should be taken as soon as possible, on an urgent basis.


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.


Biden’s defeatist approach to Ukraine: “If Putin invades Ukraine, we will sanction every clerk in his office.” In the meantime, U.S. clerks will go through the motions at the U.N. Significant risk of nuclear war exists.

The U.S. has called for an “open” meeting of the U.N. Security Council for Monday, January 31, the last possible day before Russia takes over the rotating Presidency of the Council for the month of February. It is not clear if this call was for an “Emergency Meeting” of the Security Council. If it wasn’t, it should have been.

The call for a meeting on Monday and not Friday reveals the total lack of urgency which seems to animate the Biden Administration’s actions.

Having not heard any serious international law arguments criticizing Russia’s actions and threats against Ukraine, one must assume that the call for a Security Council meeting is just a perfunctory gesture. Someone must have woken up and realized that the Russians were assuming the Presidency of the Council on Tuesday, which could make convening a meeting more difficult.

John F. Kennedy read The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman in 1962. We should all be reading it now. And another of her books which which is highly relevant, The March of Folly (1984).

The Guns of August, which was published only months before the Cuban Missile crisis, appears to have had a deep impact on John F. Kennedy and his approach to decision-making during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Given how dicey that U.S.-Soviet nuclear confrontation was, it could be that one reason we are all here is that he read that book.

If you see international lawyers and diplomats on television talking about international law, there may be some hope for diplomacy.

If you see generals talking about military capabilities and deployments, we may be headed toward a major ground war in Europe, and the attendant risks of escalation to a limited nuclear conflict or to an all-out nuclear 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.


How would a Russia-Ukraine war end? Beyond military alliances: The original United Nations Charter scheme of collective security.

In 1945, under the original scheme of the United Nations Charter, a country did not have to be a member of a collective self-defense or…


French President Macron breaks ranks, meets with MBS in Saudi Arabia

French President Emmanuel Macron is breaking ranks with Western leaders, including President Joe Biden, and planning to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) on December 4, on a trip to the Gulf countries of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.

Whatever France’s interests may be in dealing with Saudi Arabia, Macron is sacrificing any claim France might have to be a leader in the struggle for human rights and the rule of law, including international law, by meeting with the Crown Prince–who is widely known to be Kashoggi’s assassin.

The great threat to France and the West is that MBS may become the next King of Saudi Arabia, perpetuating an authoritarian system of government characterized by gross violations of human rights, the oppression of women, and a total absence of due process of law.

Instead of meeting with MBS, Macron and France, the U.S., and other democratic countries should be shunning MBS and doing everything they can to prevent him from becoming king.