Obama’s Ukraine Sanctions Balancing Act

The trick in using sanctions against Russia is not causing economic harm to the people we have a duty to protect. Like it or not, much of NATO is doing business with Russia.  The EU has been struggling with a long recession and remains economically fragile.  The EU needs Russian energy sales and it needs Russian markets for the goods the members produce. If the economic sanctions coming on Monday result in rapid inflation combined with pressure against the Ruble, the costs of EU goods may become out of reach to most Russians.  Also, both Russia and the EU benefit from the sales of Russian gas and oil.  With resistance to any sales of liquefied gas from the U.S. fracking boon being felt from sectors of Mr. Obama’s own party, his options are limited. My guess is the sanctions will seem insignificant at first blush.  But, when judging a weapon in an economic war, it is important to look closely at the details.  The assault on the insider oligarchs can be quite effective if your goal is to influence policy.  Targeting the top echelon of a Kleptocracy is also great theater.  Dictators have to rule within the limits of their own power.  With President Obama likely to expand conflict within the small group of top Kremlin insiders, the Russian dictator may have to start sleeping with one eye open.

By kidnapping diplomats, Russia should be considered a rogue nation like Iran.

For centuries, nations have respected diplomatic immunity.  Russia has rejected this civilized norm and has started kidnapping diplomats. If the Vienna Document inspectors are not immediately released the U.S. should close its own embassy in Moscow plus its outlying consular offices and expel the the entire Russian delegation from U.S. soil.  The U.N. ambassador should be permitted to stay but subject to close supervision allowed only to travel to the U.N. from an apartment near the U.N.  But all Russian consulates and its Embassy in Washington should be closed.



The Russian backed mob in Slovyansk may have destroyed the Russian economy

The people that Russia’s agents in Slovyansk kidnapped weren’t just observers.  Under the Vienna Document, a treaty that provides for military inspections, 57 nations, including Russia, created a mechanism to address military related developments through the conduct of force inspections.  Here is a good article by the Brookings Institute describing the Vienna Documents and how it works.    http://goo.gl/slpcru

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (“OSCE”) announced today that the kidnapping victims were members of a Vienna Document inspection team conducting an inspection in the Ukraine. It was also reported by local media in the Ukraine, so fare unconfirmed, that many of the kidnapping victims were in military uniform, a fact that should not be a surprise when you consider their function is to inspect military bases and force concentrations.

Though it will no doubt deny its involvement, the Russian agents who committed the crime openly acknowledged that they must report to Moscow. The seizure of peacekeepers is considered a war crime under international and U.S. law. See 18 U.S.C. Sec. 2441(d)(I) (taking of hostages “with the intent of compelling any nation, person other than the hostage, or group of persons to act or refrain from acting as an explicit or implicit condition for the safety or release of such person or persons.”).  

So what happens now?  Because the nationality of the kidnapping victims has not been disclosed it is unclear which nations may have a direct act of war claim against Russia.  The victim nations know who their inspectors are and, it is unclear whether, under the U.N. Security Counsel Charter, such victim states would be justified to take immediate military action against Russia without warning.  I would presume a more measured approach will be applied that will simply unify the free world to crush the Russian economy and deal Russia one more well deserved humiliation.

We should know soon if the Russian Dons are all in with the Dictator’s war of aggression.  If not, I expect the Dons to announce the Dictator had an unfortunate accident over the weekend.  Otherwise, Ukraine will soon be at war and so too will Russia.

Perhaps why the Russians let the U.S. Journalist Go

Russia has many more journalists in the U.S. than the U.S. has in Russia.  The State Dept. took an active, out front position on the issue and its grave nature.  It might have resulted in both sides expelling their respective news people.

I’ve always believed that many, if not all, Russian overseas journalists are intelligence officers.  I remember my Mother telling stories about when my Dad was covering the Chinese Civil War, the Tass chief in Shanghai, named Rogoff, often played chess with his handler in my parents’ flat while he sobered up.  It was commonly known he was the KGB station chief in China and he liked to talk when he was drunk which was apparently often.

I also recall the stories regarding an the newly created C.I.A. trying to get my Dad to go back to China after Mao took over.  Left a rift in the family that outlived my Dad who was AP, and made no secret about the need for journalistic independence and the threat to all news people if even just a few use it for a cover.


Report from Dmitry Tymchuk: Regarding military exercises of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border

This was just received:

As for the 20 km [12 mile] border zone, the following has been observed within the past 24 hours:

Donetsk direction. Near the settlement of Gukovo (Rostov oblast [region], 2 km [1.2 miles] from the border) a movement of 50 APCs, two tanks, and up to 1,000 servicemen was detected on the road (the same procession was detected in Novoshahtinsk).

Slobozhansk direction. A convoy of five tanks pulled out from the settlement of Khomutovka (Kursk oblast, 15 km [9 miles] from the border) to the settlement of Kruglaya Polyana (Bryansk oblast, 1 km [.6 miles] from the border).

Here is the complete post. http://wp.me/p4bJDw-44d 

My Comments:

The forces in the Donetsk location are about 3km from Ukraine border. The northern force is only a few hundred meters from the border.

In my view the size of these forces are not sufficient to insure any operational success if intended to support a general invasion. I conclude if this force size remains unchanged this is likely just more Russian theater.

One interesting fact about these two locations is that they both are near salients in the Russian Ukrainian border. The one near Donetsk juts into Russia. The one in the Slobozhansk region juts into Ukraine.  The Russians may try a small incursion into these salients under some historical claim and see what happens.  The one in the south would be an invasion of Ukrainian territory.

What Russia may not have fully factored is that with the reports of actions being taken against ethnic Tatars in Crimea, this ill advised move could form the basis for Turkey to militarize the straights cutting Russia off from the Mediterranean.

If recent reports are correct the Russian Army will form up near Sambek. Video confirms this.   Last Russian town on the road West is Maksimov on route  M23.   If Russian armor is reported there, we will know Russia is going to invade Ukraine.   I also expect a break out from the Crimea at Armyans’k.

Another Russian force may attempt to move from Crimea, North East towards Melitopol on Route M18. Novooleksiivka will be first Ukrainian town attacked.

Two U.S. warships in the Black Sea Again. How long will U.S. ships remain on station? #Ukraine

On April 3, Russia lodged a complaint with Turkey for the presence of American warships in the Black Sea in violation of the Montreaux Convention.   In 1936, as the world moved towards war, the nations that bordered on the Black Sea entered into a diplomatic accord, the Montreaux Convention, that generally provides that non-Black Sea Power states may enter ships of a limited total tonnage and gun size but must give 15 rather than the 8 days notice for Black Sea states.

The Convention recognizes Turkey’s right to militarize or just stop the application of the Convention.  It also makes clear that no non-Black Sea Power war ship may stay in the Black Sea more than 21 days, in any event.  The Russians were upset and raised the issue with the Turkish government after two U.S. Naval warships sat 20 miles off the Russian coast while during the Sochi Olympics.  The announced purpose was to protect against terrorist attack.  While the USS Mount Whitney, a command and control vessel, and the USS Taylor,a soon-to-be decomissioned missile frigate were on station they both activated the ships’ transponder system that allows the ship to be tracked by GPS and pushed to the internet.  It was interesting to monitor the ships’ position on MarineTraffic.com while watching the Olympics.   I figured it would infuriate the Russian president at the time.

The well publicized grounding of the Taylor forced it to stay in the southern Black Sea Turkish port of Samsun.  The Russian Government complained that it stayed longer than the allowed 21 days. Turkish Government politely disagreed.

Today, news was released that the USS Taylor had apparently completed repairs on Crete and was again transiting the Turkish Straight heading back into the Black Sea.  The U.S. presently has the DDG-75 USS Donald Cook, a US Naval Aegis Guided Missile Destroyer, in the Black Sea.   Under the Montreaux Convention, the U.S. can generally have total warship tonnage not to exceed certain tonnage or certain gun size. The Convention was written in 1936, the Battleships Era.  The control mechanisms of the Convention were ultimately concerned with ship gun size and number.  Under the Convention, a ship the size of the Donald Cook with a single 5 inch deck gun would barely qualify as a capital ship but, its total fire power, in real terms,  exceeds the fire power of a fleet of WWII battleships, of any size.

It will be interesting to see if the Russian seizure of Crimea has brought a permanent U.S. force in the region.  With a number of smaller littoral warships of significant fire power like the Freedom Class Littoral Combat Ship of 3,000 tons and a variety of Special Operations vessels of small displacement the U.S. Navy may keep the Russians guessing for a long time.