History

Ukraine War, May 9, 2022: Putin has changed May 9 from Victory Over Fascism Day to Victory of Russian Fascism Day; Overview of Russian military failures; Warning on U.S. war aims, euphoria among Biden’s advisers

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 17, 2022: Easter reflections



Ukraine War, April 5, 2022 (I): After Bucha, Zelensky expresses the outrage of the world over Russian crimes against humanity; clarifications regarding Russia’s seat on Security Council, and “crimes against humanity” v. “genocide”


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


Ukraine War, March 12, 2022: Zelensky and Ukraine have a clear goal–Victory! And the U.S.? The West? Do they even understand the situation, or have a strategy? Correcting faulty thinking: Contemporary international law and the use of force



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 War, February 25, 2022: “We are all Ukrainians now”; U.N. Security Council resolution and vote (with links to video and text of resolution)

Draft – Developing This is a draft of an article on fast-breaking events related to Ukraine. Please check back for updates and additions, “We are…


Ukraine War, February 23, 2022: History–It all matters; blame enough to go around; cyber and collective self-defense of Ukraine against Russian aggression; conditions for a cease-fire; the long war with Russia (cold and maybe hot) that lies ahead: the failure of U.S. and NATO strategy; avoiding Armageddon

Avoiding Armageddon

Roger Cohen, a longtime and distinguished columnist of the New York Times and currently the paper’s Paris Bureau Chief, wrote in an interesting column today, “Nuclear Armageddon is not on the table.”

See,

Roger Cohen, “The Limits of a Europe Whole and Free; Vladimir Putin sets down a marker in Ukraine. Does the West have the means to stop him?” New York Times, February 22, 2022.

However, this is far from clear. Looking at Putin’s nuclear threats and both Obama’s and Biden’s responses to them, it would appear that Armageddon is still very much on the table.

If there were any doubt, Putin erased it in a speech today in which set out his justification for the war with Ukraine, and made a hardly-veiled nuclear threat.

See,

Al Jazeera Staff, “‘No other option’: Excerpts of Putin’s speech declaring war
Before launching the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War II, Putin addressed his nation,” Al Jazeera, February 24, 2022.

Excerpts from speech:

“As for the military sphere, today, modern Russia, even after the collapse of the USSR and the loss of a significant part of its capacity, is one of the most powerful nuclear powers in the world and possesses certain advantages in some of the newest types of weaponry. In this regard, no one should have any doubts that a direct attack on our country will lead to defeat and horrible consequences for any potential aggressor.”

“Now a few important, very important words for those who may be tempted to intervene in the ongoing events. Whoever tries to hinder us, or threaten our country or our people, should know that Russia’s response will be immediate and will lead you to consequences that you have never faced in your history. We are ready for any turn of events. All necessary decisions in this regard have been made. I hope that I will be heard.”

In this speech, Putin sets out his justification for launching a war against Ukraine. In a sense, this is the short version of his speech the previous evening. It provides interesting insights into his warped thinking.

What is our current nuclear deterrence doctrine, and how does it apply to a major ground war in Europe started by Russian aggression?  Is our doctrine up-to-date, taking the conditions of modern military and cyber warfare into account, or does it need to be reexamined and updated? We should discuss this publicly.


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 20, 2022: Deterrence has failed. Only China may be able to stop Putin’s invasion of Ukraine; now is no time to make concessions to an aggressor, in the Minsk negotiations or anywhere else

Negotiations within the Minsk process are not likely to make progress so long as Putin remains totally intransigent. His mobilization of an invading force of 190,000 troops suggests that that could be a long time.

The great risk in any meeting between Biden and Putin, or in negotiations to avoid an invasion, is that the U.S. and NATO, and/or Macron and Olaf Scholz, could pressure Zelensky to make concessions in the Minsk negotiations which in the end will amount to a surrender, or that a secret deal could be made behind his back that effectively blocks Ukraine from ever becoming a NATO member.

Such concessions would amount to rewarding Putin for his aggression.

As the Munich Pact in 1938 demonstrated, rewarding aggression through a policy of appeasement may bring “peace in our time”, but that time is likely to be short.

Following the Munich Pact on September 30/October 1, 1938, Hitler invaded “rump” Czechoslovakia in March, 1939, and Poland on September 1, 1939. Indeed, Hitler’s threats against Poland and Germany’s false-flag and propaganda operations in late August 1939, accompanied by frenetic diplomatic activity, greatly resemble Russia’s threats and false-flag operations against Ukraine today.

Final thoughts

As Radek Sikorski, a former foreign minister of Poland, said on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS program this morning, “Putin doesn’t want security guarantees. He wants Ukraine.”

Another quote from Sunday’s TV programs is worth bearing in mind. Retired. Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, former Vice-president Mike Pence’s National Security Adviser, reminded his audience on Fox News, “Putin doesn’t bluff.”


Ukraine Crisis, February 17, 2022: Cold War with Russia in progress, could last for decades; Russia confirms threat of use of force in writing; U.N. Security Council meets; U.S. and NATO must seize control of narrative, move to offense with sanctions, war footing

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates and additions. Moscow confirms threat of use of force in writing Today Russia replied in…


Ukraine Crisis, February 15, 2022 (II): Scholz is tough in Moscow; Putin hints at negotiation and withdrawals, but it could be a deception; Russian military moves to block any NATO intervention; Biden gives strong speech; Security Council meeting on February 17

Draft – Developing There were many important developments in the Ukraine Crisis today, and some revealing ones in the last few days, including the following:…


Ukraine Crisis, February 14, 2022: The military situation; Putin cannot win

We need to take a deep breath, step back, and ask ourselves, “How is the current Ukraine Crisis going to end?”

Upon reflection, it is clear that even if Vladimir Putin leaps into the abyss and launches an invasion of Ukraine he cannot achieve his crazy objectives, goals which only a madman or a dictator drunk on power could even imagine to be achievable.

He wants all of Europe and the Free World to agree to roll back the history of the last 77 years, since the end of World War II, the founding of the United Nations, and the adoption of of the U.N. Charter in 1945 by all of the nations in the world, and to proceed as if international law did not exist.

It’s not going to happen.

Two of the bedrock principles upon which the U.N. Charter and the post-World War II international legal order is based are the sovereign equality of all states (U.N. Charter, Article 2 paragraph 1), and the prohibition of “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state” (U.N. Charter, Article 2 paragraph 4).

Putin’s power structure and chain of command could become frayed and even fall apart. Putin is 69 years old. Certainly there are younger men who would seek to take advantage of Putin’s war and Putin’s folly.

Who knows how it will all end?

One thing is certain: Putin cannot win. He cannot achieve his delusional goals by leaping into the abyss of war.

Indeed, he cannot know even how, or if, he might land.

Of course, if Putin misses the last exit ramp before war, there may be further exit ramps further down the road.

Whether there will be a further exit ramp he can take and still retain his power, is unknown, and essentially unknowable–even by him.


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.