michael r. gordon

Ukraine War, April 21, 2022 (I): Biden cancels tactical nuclear weapons program; Yellen worries about impact on global economy of European energy embargo; Biden finally closes American ports to Russian shipping

Developing Due to rapidly-breaking developments and in order to facilitate readers’ access to the latest dispatches, we are publishing this article as it is being…


Ukraine War, April 13, 2022 (I): U.S. still hung up on “offensive” v. “defensive” weapons distinction; U.S. won’t provide Ukraine with intelligence or weapons that would enable it to strike targets in Crimea or Russia, for fear of provoking Russia

Developing Due to rapidly-breaking developments and in order to facilitate readers’ access to the latest dispatches, we are publishing this article as it is being…






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 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.


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…


Update (February 14, 2022): The “Children Editors” at the Washington Post and the New York Times

The “Children Editors” at the Washington Post digital edition did not see fit to publish any story on the current situation regarding Russia’s threatened invasion of Ukraine, and the U.N. Security Council meeting convened for tomorrow to take up the issue. The only Ukraine story is a background piece–like a front-lines TV dispatch–about the residents of Kharkiv and soldiers on the frontier not far away.

The Washington Post and the New York Times are newspapers on which decision makers rely for up-to-date information to assist them in making foreign policy decisions.

One cannot avoid the conclusion that the digital edition of the Washington Post has been left to the unchecked caprice of its “children editors”.

With the world entering a crisis comparable to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, there was not one op-ed opinion on Ukraine in the digital edition, as of 5:00 p.m ET on Sunday, January 30, 2022.

If the editors at the Washington Post cannot discern what is significant and important, how can we expect citizens or even government officials to do so?


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?




Obama-Putin meeting at UN: The resurgence of pacifism and appeasement toward Putin and Russia in Europe and the U.S.

See Julia Smirnova, “Die wundersame Rückkehr des Wladimir Putin In der New Yorker UN-Woche drängt Putin ins Zentrum der Weltbühne. Durch die aktive Rolle im…


Kerry and Obama’s strategy on Syria: Work through the Russians and thow a “Hail Mary” pass on negotiations

See MICHAEL R. GORDON and ERIC SCHMITT, “Russian Buildup in Syria Raises Questions on Role,” New York Times, September 19, 2015. Stefan Braun, Berlin, und…


Russia and the U.S. flying missions in Syrian airspace — Failed U.S. Policies lead to dangerous situation as Russia makes strategic military move into Syria

Developing See Louis Imbert (avec Reuters), “Etats-Unis et Russie évoquent la présence de leurs avions respectifs dans le ciel Syrien,” Le Monde le 19 Septembre…


REPRISE–Syria: Russia and Iran complicit under International Law in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity

Late News—- See MICHAEL R. GORDON and ERIC SCHMITT, “U.S. Moves to Block Russian Military Buildup in Syria,” New York Times, September 8, 2015. Vladimir…


The missing elements in the war against ISIS — Taking down their websites and engaging in robust public diplomacy

UPDATE June 23, 2015 Europe is setting up a special police unit to monitor jihadist sites and content, andd to remove it. See Richard Spencer,…