Ukraine War, March 2, 2022: Biden strikes triumphalist tone in State of the Union speech, as Russian forces close in on Kviv: Biden says it is “too early” to say Russia is committing war crimes; Pacifist president unable to get NATO to deliver 28 Polish fighter jets to Ukraine

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 written. Please check back for updates and additions.

“We have become the front line of the free world,”
–Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov

Dispatches

See,

1) Yaroslav Trofimov and James Marson, “Ukraine’s Kharkiv Front Line Holds Despite Russian Bombardment; Police headquarters, university building in second-largest city are hit as Ukrainian officials say the invasion’s civilian death toll has reached 2,000,” Wall Street Journal, March 2, 2022 (10:40 am ET).

Trofimov and Marson report that civilian deaths now exceed 2,000, while Ukraine continues to receive military weapons and equipment.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said that in recent days Ukraine had received and deployed a new batch of the Bayraktars, and was receiving other critical weaponry from Europe.

“We have become the front line of the free world,” Mr. Reznikov said.

2) María Sahuquillo y Javier G. Cuesta, “Putin ataca el corazón de las grandes ciudades de Ucrania y avanza en el flanco sur; El Ejército ruso irrumpe en Jersón, en el mar Negro, y continúa el duro asedio a Mariupol, en el Donbás. Ya hay más de 874.000 refugiados y al menos 2.000 civiles han muerto en la guerra, según el servicio de emergencias del país,” El País, el 1 de marzo 2022 (02:22 EST: Actualizado: 02 MAR 2022 – 15:40 EST).

Sahuquillo and Cuesta have provided some of the best reporting on Ukraine, bringing to bear great perspective and an understanding of what is truly significant. The article can be easily translated at Google Translate (translate.google.com).

3) Maximilian Popp (Kommentar), “Es gibt nur ein Völkerrecht. Verteidigen wir es! Wenn die EU »wehrhaft« sein will, bedeutet das nicht nur, mehr Geld in Verteidigung zu stecken. Es heißt auch, Normen zu achten – überall auf der Welt. Und die eigenen blinden Flecken zu erkennen,” Der Spiegel, den 2, Mārz 2022 (20.39 Uhr);

4) Marc Pitzke, “Die Welt rückt zusammen; Globaler Schulterschluss: Mit überwältigender Mehrheit hat die Uno Russland wegen der Invasion der Ukraine angeprangert und einen sofortigen Rückzug gefordert. Das Votum ist historisch – auch wenn es wirkungslos bleibt,” Der Spiegel, den 2. Mārz 2022 (22.07 Uhr);

5) Bryan Bender, “Wie die Supermächte den versehentlichen Atomkrieg verhindern wollen,” Die Welt, March 2, 2022;

This is a very detailed and important report on current U.S.-Russian military communications capabilities and practices.

Analysis and Commentary

Joe Biden remains a president focused on domestic politics, with an incompetent foreign policy team. That is the hard truth. Even though he has come around to heavy  sanctions on Russia, it has repeatedly been too little, too late.

Biden’s foreign policy team do deserve credit for coordinating with NATO, EU, and other countries in a successful effort to contribute to Western unity.

But on the military front, beyond his rational-actor paradigm focusing on costs and benefits over the long term, Biden has remained a steadfast pacifist in terms of the U.S. or NATO using force to defend Ukraine against Russian aggression.

His State of the Union speech on March 1 revealed, above all, that with respect to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its impact on the world, he doesn’t get it.

Biden remains focused on his domestic agenda, and appears to view this new Russian aggression as just a major nuisance which he does not want to distract from his domestic policy agenda.

European leaders, not Biden, are leading the ideological struggle to defend civilization and the free world. He does not seem to grasp what is at stake, or the kinds of actions that are likely to be necessary to win that struggle.

Regarding the failure of Biden and NATO to be able to figure out how yo deliver 28 older NATO Polish fighter jets to Ukraine, see,

“Ukraine War, March 1, 2022 (III): “Bureaucratic time” versus “war time”–NATO stumbles in delivering fighter jets to Ukraine,” The Trenchant Observer, March 1, 2022.

We are now entering a phase of the Ukraine war in which we are going to be able to witness on our TV’s the equivalent of the Russian war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria and in particular the destruction of Aleppo.

These will be horrific scenes that are extremely difficult for an American audience to stomach.

The tendency on the cable news channels, which are ever-attentive to what their viewers want to see, will be to focus on human-interest stories, and to look away from the strategic military situation and the horrific killing and destruction wreaked by the Russian war machine.

Aleppo. Grozny. That is what we can expect to take place. But, at least initially, public opinion will be tempted to avert its glance from the horror.

Afghanistan offers an illustrative example. After months of intense television coverage, attention shifted, reporters were withdrawn from the country, and Afghans were keft to cope with the consequences of Biden’s catastrophic withdrawal decision on their own.

Still, the Russian challenge to civilization and international peace and security will not go away, just as Adolf Hitler’s and Germany’s similar challenge did not go away after the Munich Pact in 1938 and the German and Russian invasions of Poland in September 1939.

America waited two years to enter that struggle to defend civilization against Nazi barbarism, and did so only when it was attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

How long will it be before America enters the current civilizational struggle with Russia?

How long will it take until America finally abandons its pacifist approach and  accepts the fact that it must use every tool in its arsenal, including the use of force, to repel Russian aggression?

Will it take 5,000 killed in Ukraine? With 2,000 civilians plus large numbers of military already dead, we will approach that threshold very soon.

What will it take to goad us into action?

10,000 dead?

20,000 dead?

50,000 dead?

Or, as in Syria, hundreds of thousands dead?

Biden, and his successor, must grasp that the civilized countries of the world are and will remain at war with Russia.

Just as happened in World War II,  the world as we have known it will change.

In fact, it has already changed.

Will the West* defend its civilization by the use of force?

* “The West” as used here includes all civilized countries, which live in a world largely shaped by two millennia of Western Civilization.

Biden’s triumphalism is grotesquely premature.

While the unity achieved by the civilized countries of the world is impressive, it must now be translated into success on the battlefield.

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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