International Law

Ukraine War, August 2, 2022 (I): Pelosi’s reckless visit to Taiwan, and Biden’s failure of foreign policy leadership

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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.


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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 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.


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.


REPRISE: The fatal flaws in U.S. thinking about responses to Russian aggression against Ukraine–UPDATED January 20, 2022

(Ignatius) 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 Schmitt 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.



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