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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

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


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


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


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.


J’accuse

On January 13, 1898, French novelist Émile Zola published his famous letter entitled, “J’accuse” (I accuse), addressed to the President of the Republic, in which he denounced the government and its military command and their antisemitic leaders for prosecuting Alfred Dreyfus, a Captain of Jewish descent, on trumped up charges of treason. Dreyfus had been convicted in 1894, and at a subsequent retrial. Zola’s letter had a decisive impact on democracy and the rule of law in France.

In the United States, we now face a similar if not even graver moment in which the rule of law is at stake. It is a moment in which antisemitic and racist militants actively participate in a fascist conspiracy to overthrow the Constitution and the rule of law.

In these circumstances, the following letter is addressed to “Democrats “and political leaders in the United States, calling on them to act, vigorously and effectively, to defend American democracy.


Afghanistan today, October 28, 2021

Stroobants and Follorou report on divisions within the EU regarding the reestablishment of an EU presence in Kabul. Josep Borrell, the EU High Commisioner for Foreign Affairs, has announced the UE is sending a small group of technical experts to discuss humanitarian aid, stressing that its action in no way implies any kind of recognition of the Taliban government.

Borrell favors opening a diplomatic office to facilitate the flow of humanitarian aid and the departure Afghans who are in danger. Germany and the Netherlands support this approach. The Germans are even considering reopening their embassy in Kabul.

France and Denmark are critical of this approach, arguing that even humanitarian assistance will help the Taliban stabilize the situation in the country without acceding to the EU’s conditions that they respect human rights in order to receive such assistance.