Ukraine War, April 24, 2022: The big picture on the war with Russia; Macron reelected as French President

We are publishing this article as it is being written. Please check back for updates.

To see a list of previous articles, enter “Ukraine” in the Search Box on the upper right, on The Trenchant Observer web site, and you will see a list in chronological order.

Dispatches

1) Charles Moore, “If Putin wins this war, he will have beaten the West – and everything that it stands for; The result will be a massive shift in global power towards autocrats and dictators, led by Russia and China,” The Telegraph, April 22, 2022 (9:30 pm);

2) Sammy Westfall, “Ukraine war’s toll two months in,” Washington Post, April 24, 2022 (3:23 pm);

3) Hannah Beech, Abdi Latif Dahir and Oscar Lopez, “With Us or With Them? In a New Cold War, How About Neither,” New York Times, April 24, 2024 (1:07 p.m.ET);

Commentary

The Big Picture

Charles Moore, who since the begging has provided clear-eyed analyses of the significance of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, summarizes in his latest opinion column in The Telegraph the challenges it poses for the world and the way the world is reacting.

(Putin’s) leading sidekick, Dmitry Medvedev, wrote earlier this month that “Ukraine has mentally become a second Third Reich and will suffer the same fate”. Words like that are too big for the suppression of a mere nationalist revolt. They hark back to what the Russians call the Great Patriotic War. They describe total victory in a global struggle.

If Putin wins this war, he will have defeated the West. The consequence will be a massive shift of global power towards autocrats and dictators, led by Russia and China, with a new international economic and political order (or disorder) shaped accordingly.

Even if Putin manages no more than the conquest of the Donbas region, he will present any advance on his pre-invasion position as a victory and use any deal or ceasefire as his means for further advances. The fight will continue, on terms less favourable to us than before. The West will have failed.

Ukrainians have been clear about this from the beginning, which is why they are so strong. They were tortured, starved, shot or deported in their millions by Stalin, first in the enforced famine and then in the Great Terror of the 1930s. Later, Hitler did much the same to them.

Does the West have the same clarity about the threat it faces? The good news is that Nato responded unitedly to the invasion, though with uneven vigour….

The less good news is that many in the West still do not grasp how much is at stake. For sure, most people detest Putin and love the Ukrainian fightback. In villages like mine, the spring-like blue and yellow flag flutters on greens and private houses. But does the West fully accept the point first formulated by Mr Johnson at the Munich security conference back in February: “Russia must be defeated and must be seen to be defeated”?

In a new essay, well entitled “The Fear of Victory”, the security expert, James Sherr, sees most Western allies as “locked inside a crisis management paradigm” rather than prosecuting a war. They have slogans like “Stop the fighting” or “support for Ukraine”, but no collective war aims, no “definition of success”. Even atrocities like Bucha, or the unfolding horror of Mariupol, tend to be seen not so much as examples of the evil we must defeat as “humanitarian” situations where both sides must stand aside for settlements which, in effect, favour the aggressor.

Theirs is also a mentality too subject to fear, as if the meaning of deterrence – such a powerful concept in the Cold War – has been forgotten. Putin has only to hint at nuclear threat for the West to tremble. As Sherr puts it: “If escalation, the risk of which resides in war itself, becomes a phobia, the adversary will set the rules of the conflict. It is he who will deter us.”

If the wrong mentality persists, the West will be merely reactive. Only a little Russian success will be needed for there to be renewed talk of peace plans, giving gains which Putin will pocket. Countries such as Germany, already laggard for fear of losing oil and gas, will feel encouraged to delay turning off the taps.

So far, this week, Russian advances in its two main areas of attack, central Donbas and along the Black Sea coast, have been unimpressive, but still, they are moves in the wrong direction for their victims. How long before the Russian jaws start to tighten on the Ukrainian forces they outnumber? The West has it in its power to avert such a disaster, but will it?

One of the joys of living in freedom is that you do not forever live in fear. The disadvantage is that you lose your instinct for danger and resent those who point out perils. As a result, public debate in free countries tends to avoid the big subjects and throw its energy into second-order ones.

Germans have an expressive word Schwerpunkt, often applied in military affairs. It means the centre of gravity, the main thrust of what you decide to do. The Schwerpunkt of Vladimir Putin is conquest by aggressive war. Our Schwerpunkt must surely be to beat him.

Vast underreporting of civilian deaths in Ukraine by U.zn. Human Rights Office must be stopped

Ince the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the U.N. Human Rights Office has been vastly underreporting the number of civilian deaths in Ukraine.

News organizations continue to report these numbers despite their total lack of credibility, when they know from other sources that the real figures ate much, much higher. For example, Ukrainian officials have reported over 20,000 civilians have been killed in Mariupol alone.

What is going on?

What is going on is that the Russians have been very successful in manipulating these death figures to give the world a wholly inaccurate picture of the death and destruction being causes by the massive commission of crimes against humanity by Russian forces in Ukraine.

This undercounting of civilian deaths is not new. It was a persisten phenomenon throughout the Syrian civil war, when Russia was seeking to minimize the number of civilians killed by both the government forces of Bashar al-Assad
and after tge Russia intervention in 2015 by Russian forces themselves. Both the government of
The Russians or Russian sympathizers obviously have control of the machinery in the U.N. Human Rights Office that produces and publicizes tgese misleading figures.

U.N. member states, led by the U.S., should act immediately to bring the publication of these misleading figures to a halt. U.N. Secretary General antunio Guterres should, acting on his own initiate, immediately move to stop this outrageous misuse of the U.N.’s credibility and reputation.

See “U.N. Security Council meets on Ukraine; U.N. Web TV provides no English interpretation in video recording for Russia, China, UAE, France, Mexico, and Gabon interventions (with links to video and Press Release),” The Trenchant Observer, January 31, 2022.

Excerpts from this article:

I once knew an American international lawyer who had worked at the International Postal Union (a U.N. Specialized Agency), at the height of the Cold War, when the U.N. and its specialized agencies were battlefields, and where influence could be gained by controlling the machinery and key appointments of the corresponding organization.

He explained that while Soviets didn’t necessarily have controlling majorities in the voting bodies, they were very adept at gaining control of key machinery within the secretariat of the organization. At the IPO, he recounted, they did have something of immense value: control of the minutes and documentation of the meetings, and of the printing presses.

This story came to mind today as I was watching the public meeting of the U.N. Security Counsel on the the Ukraine on U.N. Web TV. I realized, when I was viewing the video recording of the meeting, which is now what is available on the website, that the English language version of the interventions of the representatives of Russia, China, France, United Arab Emirates, Mexico, and Gabon were not available on the recording.

It had been available in the live transmission of their remarks. I had listened to the Russian, Chinese, and United Arab Emirates representatives, speaking in the original Russian, Chinese and Arabic, on the English channel, in the English interpretation. I had listened to the French and the Mexican interventions in the original French and Spanish.language, on the French and the Spanish channels. When I went back to review these interventions, I found that in the recording the English versions of the Russian, Chinese, Arabic, and French language remarks were not available, on the English channel or anywhere else.

Instead of the English interpretation, the original language was playing on the “English” channel.

This was a highly significant “mistake” by U.N. Web TV, because it meant that the Russian representative’s outrageous comments were not available for review by English-speaking journalists.

Nor could the Russian’s abrupt departure just before the Ukrainian representative spoke be appreciated by listening to the English interpretation of his remarks. The Russian ambassador, suddenly and without previous warning, ended his intervention and left the meeting on the pretext that he had a meeting with the Secretary General.

It was a remarkable moment. He just got up and left, immediately before the Ukrainian representative proceeded to detail the facts of the Russian mobilization and military threat which were the reason the meeting had been called. Obviously, the Russian ambassador had no response to offer to any of the charges.

This is not a “New Cold War”. It is a “hot war”, unlike anything we have seen since 1945

Officials and the news media have taken to calling the future, with strained relations with Russia, “a new Cold War”.

This is a false and extremely dangerous forulation.

It is reassuring, on the one hand, as we all survived tge last “Cold War” Yet there is no assurance we will all survive this new “hot war”.

It is misleading, on the other, for it implies that we have already seen the challenges that lie ahead, and we can anticipate what might be coming. This is not true.

This war is a “hot” war, and not just another crisis that can be managed and then things will go back to the way they were before.

This is a critically important point stressed by Charles Moore in his description of how government officials are now thinking about the war.

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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