Ukraine War, June 20, 2020: “It’s our war, too”; Letter to fence-sitters

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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.


1) Max Boot, “This isn’t just Ukraine’s war. It’s our war, too. Act accordingly,” Washington Post, June 20, 2022 (7:00 a.m. EDT);


2) Ricard González, “La calle árabe no simpatiza con Ucrania; La mayoría de gobiernos de países musulmanes, incluidos algunos aliados tradicionales de Washington, mantienen una posición ambigua sobre el conflicto,” El apaís, el 17 de agosto 2022 (23:40 EDT);

3) Ricard González, “The Arab street does not sympathize with Ukraine; Most governments of Muslim countries, including some traditional Washington allies, maintain an ambiguous position on the conflict, El País, el 17 de agosto 2022 (11:40 PM EDT);


We have a civilization to defend, and it must be fiercely defended also against those who countenance the triumph of evil by looking the other way.

Turkey is a NATO member which is trying to osit on the fence in the conflict between Russia, Ukraine and the West. Currently they are blocking rapid Swedish and Finnish membership in NATO.

Two can play at this game.

If Turkey can’t see its way to welcoming Sweden and Finland into a strengthened NATO alliance, as Russia is invading Ukraine, it’s time for the U.S. and other NATO countries to start playing hardball with Erdogan.

If for Turkey NATO is purely a transactional affair, it’s time for NATO countries to start charging for those transactions.

Maybe the U.S. could start moving some of its air base activities in Turkey to Greece or Bulgaria.

Turkey needs to know that if it blocks Sweden and Finland from NATO accession, it is going to have huge problems with the U.S. and other NATO countries.

A good place to start would be with visas.


Letter to Fence-Sitters

It is time for the U.S., NATO and EU countries, and other allies and supporters of Ukraine, to start playing hardball with all the other countries which pretend to look the other way as Russia invades and seeks to conquer parts (all?) of Ukraine by sheer military force.  This assault includes the systematic  commission of barbaric war crimes not seen on this scale since World War II.

We have a civilization to defend, and it must be fiercely defended also against those who countenance the triumph of evil by looking the other way.

All civilized countries should condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its wanton and systematic atrocities against civilians and civilian targets.

The Russian assault on Ukraine amounts to a frontal assault on both the U.N. Charter and international humanitarian law (the law of war).

Countries must now be forced to choose: either you support our civilizational project, our United Nations Charter and international humanitarian law, or you can side with the aggressor, Russia, and the barbarism of its attacks on civilian targets.

You must either condemn Russia for these actions, and join the international sanctions against Russia, or we will make you pay the price.

We will increase tariffs and limit your access to our markets, and restrict your access to key technological inputs to your manufacturing processes.

If you think your acquiescence in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and atrocities against its people is cost-free, think again.

We will impose costs on you for your cowardice, for your indifference to our civilization and the United Nations Charter and international law which represent its crowning achievements.

We will impose heavy costs on you for siding, in effect, with evil.

If you take the side of the barbarians, we will over time treat you also as barbarians.

This treatment will take the form of emergency tariffs imposed under the GATT national security exception to most-favored-nation treatment. It will take the form of visa restrictions that make it impossible for your sons and daughters to study at universities in the West, or for you and your families to visit places like New York, Paris, London, and Rome. It will take the form of sharp limitations on your access to western technology and capital.

These changes will not come all at once. It will be necessary to build political support for these policies in Western countries.

But over time you will attain something of the pariah status the barbarian countries which you support, by not condemning their actions and not opposing them with sanctions, have already attained.

If you try to remain on the fence and in doing so actually support those attempting to overthrow our civilization, you will be thrown off that fence.

You will either join us, or be left to forge your future with the barbarians who would overthrow the international legal order, and our civilization.

Our civilization embodies the achievements of a thousand years of European progress which, before the latest Russian assault, were widely shared and supported by the vast majority of  nations in the world.

The United Nations and international law have been the products of centuries of efforts to regulate human affairs by reason, embodied in law, instead of by brute murderous force.

You must get off the fence:  you and your people must now choose your path and your future.

You must choose between civilization and reason and law, or a world of brute murderous force.

If you choose the latter, we will oppose you with all our power, with all our intelligence, and with all our moral force.

The Trenchant Observer


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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.