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)

Draft – Developing

This is a draft of an article on fast-breaking events related to Ukraine. Please check back for updates and additions,

“We are all Ukrainians now.”

Well, we should all be Ukrainians now.

Biden’s pacifism, and defeatism

But unfortunately, our pacifist U.S. president, Joe Biden, is a defeatist and, it is sad to say, a liar.

The Observer believes that it is important to call it as you see it, even if that means criticizing the foreign policy leadership of the president in the middle of a crisis. If mistakes are being made, they can only be corrected if they are called out. The goal is to encourage course corrections which might lead to a stronger foreign policy team and approach, and better foreign policy decisions.

Biden’s comment in a press conference yesterday, to the effect that we would see how yesterday’s tranche of economic sanctions are working “in a month”, betrayed the defeatism he has manifested throughout the current Ukraine crisis, and in foreign policy indeed throughout his presidency.

His defeatism with respect to Ukraine has been repeatedly manifested, in the following ways:

1) As far back as December, his military planners were considering how to assist an “insurgency”in Ukraine, after Russia had occupied the country;

2) By framing the U.S. approach to dealing with Russian aggression as one in which the U.S. (and through its influence, NATO) was taking force off the table, ruling out the use of force in opposing potential Russian aggression, he shaped the battlefield in a way which put the U.S., NATO countries, and Ukraine at a huge disadvantage in trying to deter the Russian military machine.

Moreover, he repeatedly reiterated this policy publicly, in effect telling Putin he didn’t have to even consider possible military responses from NATO countries as he planned his invasion of Ukraine;

3) He and his officials have constantly repeated Russian talking points to the effect that the use of force to confront Russian aggression would lead to World War III.

This confirmed Putin’s probable belief that Biden would not oppose him in a nuclear showdown, and further contributed to Biden’s decision to take force off the table. Putin had prior experience with Barack Obama and Biden in 2014 when he invaded the Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. He made nuclear threats then, and Obama blinked.

Yesterday, Putin repeated a hardly-veiled nuclear threat, saying anyone who tried to interfere with Russia would suffer consequences they had never experienced in their history.

4) Biden’s “rational actor” approach to using the threat of sanctions to deter a Russian invasion was used to justify not imposing sanctions before the invasion. Once the invasion took place, it was used to justify not imposing the heaviest of sanctions. Then, in a press conference, he stated that sanctions were never intended to deter a Russian invasion. As for the sanctions imposed on Thursday, Biden stated in a news conference that “in a month” we can take a look and see how they are working.

This was defeatism, pure and simple, telegraphed to the Kremlin.

Biden lies, and should stop lying

And, as we saw in his pathetic self-justifications for his disastrous decision to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan, he is a liar. About Afghanistan, he said none of his military and other advisers had argued against the withdrawal decision. This was a blatant lie, as numerous newspaper reports have confirmed.

On Thursday, February 24, the president stated at his press conference that he and his administration had never believed the threat of economic sanctions would actually deter Putin from invading Ukraine.

That was either a gigantic lie, or an admission that he and his administration had been telling the American people and its allies giant lies all along, about the rationale for the threats of grave sanctions, the reasons for not imposing them before the Russian invasion, and the rationale for withholding the heaviest sanctions–such as expulsion from SWIFT–even now, after the invasion–with ongoing military efforts to conquer Ukraine unfolding before our own eyes, in real time.

In any event, the mantle of leadership of the free world and the anti-Putin coalition has passed from the hands of Joe Biden to those of the leaders of the European Union, which first imposed sanctions on Putin himself and on foreign minister Sergey Lavroff, with the United States only following suit later today.

U.N. Security Council meeting and vote on draft resolution

The U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting (8979th meeting) this afternoon, February 25, 2022, to discuss the Ukraine situation and to vote on a U.S. draft resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of and war against Ukraine.

The U.N. Web TV video recording is found here.

The text of the original U.S.-Albania draft resolution is found here

The text of the draft resolution which was voted on, after it had been watered down by amendments, has been hard to find. When it is, a link will be posted here.

Check for updates here The press release, when available, may contain a link to the actual draft resolution voted on.

The U.S. has not presented a powerful legal critique of Putin’s actions in the Security Council. When Secretary of State Anthony Blinken appeared before the Council last Friday, on February 18, he didn’t even make the case. It has been the other members of the Security Council who have most strongly articulated the legal case against Russia and the fundamental norms of the U.N. Charter and international law which Russia is violating.

Germany, not the U.S., is the country which forcefully criticized Russia–before the invasion–for violating the prohibition in Article 2 paragraph 4 of the Charter not only of the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, but also and most importantly against threatening the use of such force.

The draft resolution, which had many co-sponsors (a result of last-minute diplomacy) received 11 affirmative votes, one negative vote (a veto by Russia), and three abstentions (China, India, and the United Arab Emirates).

The abstention by the UAE was a real surprise, as the country had been a strong critic of Russian aggression and defender of the U.N Charter in previous sessions. There must be an interesting story here.

The numbers and in particular the abstention by China appeared to be a diplomatic success. However, the resolution was watered down considerably in ts operative language. This revealed the non-legal approach of the U.S., and some ineptness on the part of Biden’s foreign policy team. Blinken’s lack of interest in international law has been noted by the Observer before.

The whole point of the draft Security Council resolution, and now the resolution which will be taken up in the General Assembly, was to make members of the Security Council take a clear stand on fundamental principles of the U.N. Charter and international law, and their flagrant violation br Russia first by threatening to invade and then then by invading Ukraine.

The point was not to tally up votes for numbers’ sake, but rather to get the broadest support for a clear condemnation of Russia.

In the end, however, the watering down of the resolution probably didn’t make much difference, in the eyes of the Biden administration. What people will remember, they must have thought, is the vote tally and not the wording of the resolution (e.g., “deplores” instead of “condemns”).

Still, in response to a frontal assault on the United Nations and the international legal order and the gravest violation of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence of a European country since Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland in September, 1939, the United States presented a resolution to the Security Council for a vote which history will judge as shameful in the weakness of its wording.

If you can’t “condemn” the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but only “deplore” it, there is something seriously wrong in your foreign office, and in your government. The U.S. should have gone to the mat on this point, and others.

The wording is a disappointing development, but then really should not come as a surprise from Biden’s incompetent foreign policy team. This is, after all, the team that gave us the decision for the total withdrawal from Afghanistan, probably the greatest catastrophe in Western foreign policy since the Munich Pact with Adolf Hitler in 1938.

See,

Edith M. Lederer and Jennifer Peltz (AP), “Russia vetoes UN Security Council resolution demanding halt of invasion in Ukraine,” CBC News,July 25, 2022 (9:02 PM ET, updated 8:00 p.m. ET).

India’s vote on the draft Security Council resolution was disappointing. Of what use is India’s participation in “the Quad” if it cannot condemn Russia’s aggression? This is a moment when India’s traditional “neutrality” should have been overcome in the defense of civilization. Putin represents evil, just as Adolf Hitler did when he led Germany to invade Poland on September 1, 1939.

Neville Chamberlain, Joe Biden, Volodymyr Zelensky, and Winston Churchill

Thinking today about Hitler, Munich, and the German invasion of Poland, and the heroic resistance of the Ukrainian people and the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelenski, the following comparisons came to mind:

Joe Biden – Neville Chamberlain

Volodymyr Zelensky – Winston Churchill

Recent examples of flawed thinking

1. The false analogy between Ukraine and Zelensky, on the one hand, and Ashraf Ghani and Afghanistan, on the other.

Many commentators, including even Gen. David Petraeus on Fox News this morning, have pointed to the fact that Zelensky and his government are remaining in Kviv, in contrast to the flight by Afghan president Ashraf Ghani from Kabul as his army was collapsing.

This flawed comparison is based on a simplistic misunderstanding of Ghani’s departure, and the totally different history and circumstances in Afghanistan in August, 2021, on the one hand, and the history and current circumstances existing in Ukraine today, on the other.

Perhaps Ghani abandoned ship, but if he did so it was after the ship was sinking and there was absolutely no prospect of keeping it afloat, or of refloating it in the future.

Today, in Ukraine, the situation is entirely different. Zelensky, with his extraordinary cool-headedness, has become a worthy national hero who embodies the courage of the Ukrainian people and their desire to be free.

He is valiant to stay in Kviv, but he should not stay too,long.

No purpose would be served if he and his cabinet were captured or killed by the Russians.

The proper analogy is to Charles de Gaulle, who left France in the face of the advancing German army. He never surrendered. but rather went on to rally the French people in their struggle against Hitler and Germany, leading the Free French and the French government-in-exile.

The important thing here is for Zelensky and his cabinet to take every precaution to avoid falling into the hands of the Russians. Ukraine does not need dead heroes, but rather leaders who can inspire the Ukrainian people to triumph in their struggle to be a free and independent country, with a real democracy.

If at some point in this terrible and developing war it becomes prudent for Zelensk and his team to leave Kviv, and even Ukraine, he should keep the example of Charles de Gaulle firmly in mind.

De Gaulle led the Free French from London, from where he made his rousing speech on the BBC on June 18; 1940, and from where he returned to Paris in 1944 to lead the Allies’ triumphant entry into a liberated Paris.

See,

“L’appel du Général de Gaulle du 18 juin 1940, le president Obama, et le droit international,” The Trenchant Observer, June 18, 2010.

A final word on Biden’s foreign policy leadership

With the fate of Kviv, Ukraine, and thousands of Ukrainian and Russian lives hanging in the balance–depending on a cessation of hostilities–Biden is going to talk a look at how sanctions are working “in a a month”, and according to a White House announcement will be going home to Wilmington, Delaware for the weekend.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.

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