United Nations

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.”)

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 14, 2022 (I): U.S. diplomacy fails to generate support in developing world to condemn and defeat Russia in Ukraine war


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 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: 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 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…


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 15: 2022 (I): Why 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 the U.N. Charter in 1945 by all of the nations of the world, and to proceed as if international law did not exist.
It’s not going to happen.

He may invade Ukraine and start a war that could cost tens of thousands of lives, but he cannot win.

In his mad megalomania, he cannot prevail.

His aggression can only succeed if the rest of the world agrees that international relations will no longer be governed by the U.N. Charter, that treaties are no longer to be viewed as binding, and in general that international law will no longer govern relations between states.

That is not going to happen, no matter what Putin does.

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 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 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.


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…


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.