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Merrick Garland’s tragic epitaph: The man who wouldn’t prosecute Donald Trump

The story of Merrick Garland is a tragic tale of failure crowning an illustrious career. The celebrated proecutor of Timothy McVeigh for the 1995 Oklahoma…

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


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


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 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


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 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 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 5, 2022: News reports ignore developments on the ground, with a few notable exceptions; Russian invasion not “imminent”, but could occur at any moment–UPDATED NOW WITH LINKS TO LATEST DISPATCHES

The bottom line

While a Russian invasion of Ukraine may not be “imminent”, and while Putin according to U.S. sources may not have made a decision to invade, Russian military forces are continuing their build-up along the Russian and Belarusian borders with Ukraine, in apparent preparation for an invasion which U,S, officials warn “could take place at any moment”.

Update
February 5, 2022
9:34 p.m. EST

The information in the latest dispatch from the Washington Post is truly alarming.

The problem with a deterrence strategy that does not work is that it fails to deter the catastrophe it was designed to prevent.

The current deterrence strategy of the U.S. and NATO is a weak strategy, a “maybe it will work” strategy. It doesn’t look like it’s going to work.

There are no precedents that come to mind where the use of force was deterred in the face of such a massive military build-up by the threat of economic sanctions.

What can be done?

The answer is far from clear, particularly when the wheels of war have been engaged to such an extent on the Russian side, and the machinery of decision-making among the coalition that opposes Putin is so cumbersome.

It is now evident that the U.S. and NATO countries made a grave error when they announced that the use of force to counter Russian aggression against Ukraine was “off the table”. This is an error which has made Putin’s calculations simple compared to what they would be if there were uncertainty about the potential response by NATO and other countries to a potential Russian invasion.

Putin is a megalomaniac, who wants to remake the world through the threat and use of military power.

He is probably convinced that he can beat Biden in a nuclear showdown. That, indeed, may be the source of his supreme boldness and self-confidence.

We may be in the gravest military crisis since the allies faced Adolf Hitler’s armies during World War II.

How will it all end? It could all end in a flash, and if it does it will be the last flash you will ever see.

The U.S., NATO, and the rest of the world need to pull out all the stops to ensure that we never see that flash.


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.


Biden’s failed approach to defending American democracy

See, Ross Douthat, “What Is Joe Biden Thinking?”, New York Times, January 15, 2022. Ross Douthat has done an excellent job in summing up the…


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.


The fatal flaws in U.S. thinking about responses to Russian aggression against Ukraine–UPDATED January 14, 2022

As far back as December 19, David Ignatius reported on a telltale fatal flaw in U.S. thinking about how it and NATO would respond to a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

He reported that American military advisors and policy makers were discussing how to provide assistance to Ukrainian “insurgents” or a Ukrainian “insurgency”. Ignatius on January 6 and David E. Sanger and Eric Schmittt on January 8 report that policymakers are still using the same terminology.

In doing so they have framed the question in a way which naively fails to take international law into account, much less to use it actively to achieve American deterrence goals, while employing a conceptual framework that assumes Ukrainian defeat. They are talking in terms of providing military assistance to “insurgents” after Russia has taken over Ukraine.

The conceptual framework assumes defeat, while completely ignoring international law and the U.N. Charter.

Story also availabe on Medium / James Rowles
See https://jamesrowles.medium.com/


Merrick Garland should indict Trump today. If he doesn’t, Democrats should impeach Garland tomorrow.

The Democrats and “little d” democrats in the House and the Senate are in the middle of an all-out war with the Republicans for the future of the Republic–even if they are unaware of this fact, as often appears to be the case.

Merrick Garland has demonstrated in his year in office–beyond a shadow of a doubt–that he is not the General America needs to lead a victorious army to conquer the anti-democratic forces seeking to overthrow the Constitution and the rule of law in the United States.

A year of impunity for Trump and his felonious co-conspirators is enough, enough already.

It is time to replace or remove Garland, and to end the state of impunity in the country that allows Trump to run around organizing his forces for the next Republican attempt to seize power by unconstitutional means.


Three urgent actions needed to save American democracy

Sometimes political situations and their implications are very clear to the objective observer, someone like the Observer who is far removed from the buzz of Washington, Twitter, and the latest “breaking news” on the Cable News networks. The Observer is a keen and unbiased commentator who reads many newspapers, both American and foreign, and who has been paying attention to political developments in the United States for a long time.

Drawing on this experience and his own original analysis, the Observer believes that there are three major problems that pose a challenge to American democracy, and that there are three active measures that the Democrats and “little d” democrats should take, now, in order to save the Republic.

Taking down Trump is the single most important action the Democrats can take to safeguard American democracy in 2022 and 2024. Together with passing legislation prohibiting the knowing transmission of lies and disinformation on television and radio, and enacting voting rights legislation, indicting Trump is an essential action in any program to protect American democracy against the anti-democratic and authoritarian threat Trump and his supporters represent.

These three problems represent the greatest challenges to American democracy today.

These three urgent actions represent our best hopes for beating back the anti-democratic challenge before it is too late.


American Politics: What if the faint voice of reason in a sea of Unreason is not enough?

See, Michael Gerson, “What if the eventual Jan. 6 report is rigorous, compelling — and doesn’t really matter?” Washington Post, December 16, 2021 (3:17 p.m….