Posts Tagged ‘warcrimes’

What Chance Russia & US Going To War Over Syria

October 10, 2016

christopher_lee180-11

Christopher Lee

New York

8 October 2016

Think about the scenario: Putin needs Assad to win his civil war otherwise Russia will be chased out of Syria. So Putin supports bombing easiest and most telling targets – Aleppo hospitals.

US with help from the UK and France says this Russian tactic amounts to war crimes.  Putin gets mad at that and calls off nuclear warhead agreements.

The next stage? America within the NATO system reinforces that area supporting the Baltic States.  Moscow says that amounts to provocation.  NATO says it amounts to a sensible precaution and shows its Baltic allies as well as Russia that it will not abandon its obligations in the region. In other words: come closer Russia and we will push you back.

The next stage (reached this week)? Russia moves an Iskander ballistic missile battery  with a kilotonage level nuclear warhead capability into Kaliningrad – that is, next to NATO allies Lithuania and Poland.  This, as it is supposed to, raises tensions among NATO states in the region who do not know what next to do and mostly want to do nothing.

Here in New York, to use the diplomatic jargon, Russians and Americans are not nibbling the same canapés.  The negotiations over Syrian peace possibilities are abandoned. Even the never ending margin meetings of low level diplomats are nothing more than individuals reporting back to the Lavrov and Kerry front offices on who is saying what in private.

There was a rare weekend meeting at the UN over the weekend.  The French (one of the five permanent members of the Security Council) tabled a motion to stop the Aleppo bombing and open a humanitarian aid corridor.  It would have gone through if it had not been for Russia.  The Russian delegation had instructions from Moscow to veto any cease fire resolution, whatever the motives. Russia vetoed.

The Syrian ambassador Bashar Jaafari got up to speak and in protest at the whole farrago the British permanent representative, Matthew Rycroft led a largely Western walk out.  Rycroft turned on the Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin and told him, thus Putin, that his veto was a death signature on Syrians in Aleppo.  Churkin did not even look uncomfortable.

Talk to diplomats who spend their lives at this level and they talk in whispers, not to be secretive but to reflect the seriousness facing governments seeking the wisdom for solutions rather than the distinctions of triumphalism.

They talk of miscalculation, not in the UN chamber, but on what could become a battlefield.  A Russian or American aircraft shot down when both aircrews fly with instruction not to back off. An artillery commander unsure of his own rules of engagement and so a calamity occurs, such as the shooting down of the MH-17 airliner.

There are two truths whispered in the UN corridors: the Russo-Syrian offensive will succeed without hindrance from the US because no President is likely to commit a military action just as the nation goes to vote and anyway, no Congress would support it.

Secondly, Putin’s shifting of the Iskander launchers into Kaliningrad will frighten most European members of NATO into taking no action.

They say here that Putin can no longer be stopped in his Tsarist ambitions to have the fear driven respect of all the so-called world leaders.

There is a third truth: tsarism, historically, was so very vulnerable to miscalculation. Putin on the edge could turn miscalculation into determination and yes that is when the extra step that Lavrov, Kerry and the Security Council try to avoid will lead to confrontation.  The weaponry of war is this week in place.  The diplomacy appears very fallible.

 

 

 

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Is Putin Committing War Crimes?

February 15, 2016

 

 

christopher_lee180-11

15th February 2016

London

You cannot fix Syria by military means.  That’s what we’ve heard from Western diplomats and politicians for five years. The last year President Putin sent in his bombers. President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron repeated the mantra.  You cannot do it with bombs.

“Just watch me,” said Putin.

He was reminding the Obama-Cameron axis that they had done more hand-ringing than a new widow but had fixed nothing with their tactics – backing useless rebels and thanks to pressure from $contract rich Saudi Arabia failing to back the two states that could take on ISIS, Iran and Syria.

Putin went in firstly because he could see that Syria needed nothing more than back up to beat up on the rebels.  True, or so the corridor Russians agree, he knew he was about to bomb places like Aleppo back to the stone age, but so what?  That is the Russian way.  The Soviet Union and capitalist driven Russia have always done it this way.

Diplomacy?  Fine.  Go along with it. Even suggest 1 March cease fire. In the meantime bomb anyone who thinks Russia is going soft.  When there is an agreement to move in aid Russia is not tactically stupid.  If you move in aid, rebel groups get a breather and move in more weapons.  So just keep bombing.

Putin wants the old days of flotillas Kashins and Krivaks in command of the Eastern Mediterranean.  He would like a submarine loitering anchorage off Hammamet. He wants his bit of the Mediterranean back. It is not an East Ukraine-like  power grab. He simply says he is hand enough of being the guy they are condescending about or shot at when he arrives at G-something phot0-shoots.  Look at his body language when has to get on the end of conference picture.  He is not urbane.  He is Putin, ex-KGB thug in a suit that does not fit his gym-built frame.

All that is understandable and the West has never grasped it and couldn’t do much about it anyway. The West has no power other than to set up yet another Geneva-Vienna meeting to which the main players do not go.

But there is anther question to be asked: has Putin’s bombing operation been so murderous that it is more than a conventional raiding.  Putin is fighting on invitation of the legitimately elected leader of a country threatened by rebellion.  That may get right up the frocks of a lot of anti-Assadists but most international constitutional lawyers would albeit reluctant have to nod that through.

The question mark is the tactic of terror bombing.  Putin’s air force has the hell-fire signature of the Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu written all over it. Civilian communities, hospitals including emergency war surgeries are being bombed repeatedly.

One UN report says the Russians are using un-guiding weapons. They are dropped, they kill and that is the purpose. Death top rebels armed to the teeth by the Western led coalition? Yes.  But also women and children.  UN figures show that more than 50 recorded dead from these raids were under 18.

So maybe the UN should start labelling statistics like this with War Crimes tags.  A waste of time.  That could be the case.  But so far Putin has justified every raid.  Western Intelligence has squadron names and commanders. Maybe, just maybe they do not want the War Crimes indictment.  Putin? Just maybe.  But just watch him.