U.N. Security Council

Ukraine War, July 3, 2022: Speak to Putin in a language he understands: the language of force

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, May 8, 2022: In emotionally powerful symbolic move, First Lady Jill Biden meets with First Lady Olena Zelenska in Ukraine on Mother’s Day and VE Day; The moral responsibility of journalists for disclosures of sensitive military information (“Loose lips sink ships.”)


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, 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 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


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


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


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.


European and international security after the Ukraine Crisis

We may be in the gravest military crisis since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962… How will it all end? It could all end in…


Ukraine Crisis, February 6, 2022: Facts on the ground indicate Russian invasion imminent, i.e., “could happen at any time”

Developing See, 1) Luke Harding and Richard Luscombe, “Russia has enough troops ready to take Kyiv, says former Ukraine defence chief White House believes Moscow…


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.


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?


U.S. should call for “Emergency Meeting” of U.N. Security Council, invoking Article 39 of the U.N. Charter, to urgently consider the Russian military buildup on Ukraine’s frontiers, Russia’s demand for NATO commitments, and associated threats

There is no sign that the Biden administration has decided to launch a serious international legal critique of Russia’s mobilization of troops near the Ukranian…


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.