Ukraine War, July 3, 2022: Speak to Putin in a language he understands: the language of force

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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) Lluís Bassets, “El lenguaje que Putin entiende; Hasta la cumbre de Madrid, los europeos no habían conseguido hablarle al líder ruso con una sola voz y sin vacilaciones en el idioma de la fuerza,” El País, el 01 de julio 2022 (23:40 EDT);

2) Lluís Bassets, “The language that Putin understands; Until the Madrid summit, Europeans had not been able to speak to the Russian leader with one voice and without hesitation in the language of force,” (English translation from website), El País, el 01 de julio 2022 (11:40 pm);

3) “Ukraine War, March 31, 2022 (II): The war strategy of the West in perspective,” The Trenchant Observer, March 31, 2022;


There have been calls for NATO warships to escort ships transporting Ukrainian grain from Odessa, in order to break the Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports and reduce the risk of famine in African and other countries.

The idea seems promising until you take international law considerations into account.

Turkey will not authorize the transit of warships into the Black Sea under the 1936 Montreux Convention, which is helping Ukraine by blocking passage of additional Russian warships into the Black Sea. If Turkey dropped the ban for NATO warships, it could weaken the ban on the passage of Russian warships.

The only solution to the blockade I see as possible would be a U.N. sponsored convoy authorized by a Security Council resolution under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter.

The Russians might be prevailed upon by countries from Africa and the Middle East to abstain.

Such a resolution could in theory, under Chapter VII, override the Montreux Convention and allow for some kind of military escort to avoid the mines and prevent any attacks. A slender possibility perhaps, but I see no other. I’m afraid rail shipment won’t get the grain out in time.

The sanctions are not producing the crippling effects on the Russian economy that had been anticipated, largely due to Russia’s increased revenues from the sale of oil and Europe’s continuing purchases of Russian gas.

German politicians, for example, seem more worried about having to ration energy for home heating than they are about the defeats being suffered by the Ukrainian forces in the Donbas, and the loss of 100-200 soldiers being killed every day.

One solution to strengthening the sanctions would entail a faster weaning of European countries off Russian gas, and the imposition of an Iran-type oil embargo, including secondary sanctions.

It was disappointing to see Germany piggyback on Hungary’s claim for an exception to the EU’s recent oil embargo so they could keep receiving oil through a pipeline from Russia. The sanction might have been tailored more narrowly to meet Hungary’s particular needs.

The whole idea of price caps for Russian oil strikes me as utterly unrealistic, however appealing it may be to a first-year Harvard Business School student as a theoretical matter.

The next decision point I see, if Ukraine over time is losing the war, would be for NATO countries to modify their restrictions on Ukrainian use of the weapons they supply.

The U.S. and NATO countries should simply take the position that Ukraine can only use the weapons it receives in accordance with the U.N. Charter and international law.

Such a change would allow Ukraine to defend itself against Russian rocket attacks launched from bases within Russia.

To be sure, such a change could lead to attacks that would cross Putin’s red line of not allowing attacks on Russian territory. Still, the policy would be totally legitimate under the U.N. Charter and international law.

The U.S. and NATO countries could simply state that they are furnishing weapons to Ukraine to be used in exercise of the inherent right of self-defense guaranteed by Article 51 of the U.N. Charter.

Such a change in policy would undoubtedly “provoke” Putin. But if I am correct about the stakes in this war, the confrontation with Russia may come down to such a change in policy.

War and even supporting one side in a war of self-defense, and here of defense of the U.N. Charter and our civilization, is not without risks.

Nor is defeat.

The Trenchant Observer


See also,

Only force can stop Putin

“Ukraine War, April 5, 2022 (II): Force must be used to stop Putin,” The Trenchant Observer, April 5, 2922 .


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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.