public diplomacy


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


Ukraine War, April 19, 2022: Planes and parts have been transferred to Ukraine; NATO on sidelines, as analysts express premature sense of victory; No viable strategy for ending war


Ukraine War, April 15, 2022 (II): Let us not praise Ukrainians’ courage, at least not until we have looked within and found our own; Explaining to citizens what is at stake and why it is important



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 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 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…


WARNING TO RUSSIAN SOLDIERS ENTERING UKRAINE: Russian soldiers who commit war crimes or crimes against humanity in Ukraine may be subject to trial before the International Criminal Court, and in countries exercising universal jurisdiction; they may never in their lifetimes be able to travel to European and other countries that have ratified the Rome Statute of the ICC, or which exercise universal jurisdiction over such crimes

Russian soldiers who take part in an invasion and commit war crimes, crimes against humanity, or other crimes within the Court’s jurisdiction, within Ukraine, could be subject to trial before the ICC, and in any event before the courts of any countries which prosecute such crimes on the basis of universal jurisdiction.

As a result, Russian soldiers who commit such crimes in Ukraine may never be able to travel to European or other countries which have ratified the Rome Statute, or which exercise universal jurisdiction, without running the risk of being arrested and tried for such enumerated crimes as they may have committed in Ukraine.

This would be be true for the rest of their lives.


Ukraine Crisis, February 2, 2022: U.S. and NATO Replies to Putins demands (with links to leaked documents)

Developing Because so much is being written about the Ukraine Crisis, we are providing links to the most important news dispatches and analyses, in particular…


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?