Ukraine War, September 20, 2022: The air war; A fateful decision point for the U.S. and the West–step up military aid to enable Ukraine to win, or cut back aid and hand Russia a victory

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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) Michael R. Gordon, “In War for Ukraine, Neither Side Controls the Skies but Russia Has Lost 55 Planes; Ukraine’s air force lacks the capability to seize control, contributing to a prolonged struggle on the ground, U.S. Air Force Commander James Hecker says,” Wall Street Journal, September 19, 2022 (6:48 pm ET);

2) Eliot A. Cohen, “Putin Is Cornered; The West faces a simple choice: reduce aid to Ukraine and deliver Russia a victory, or else finish the job it has begun,” The Atlantic, September29, 2022 (11:45 a.m. ET);

3) Alfred Hackensberger, “That’s why Putin’s troops keep failing,” Die Welt (English Translation on website), September 20, 2922;


Michaebas R. Gordon provides an insightful overview of the air war over Ukraine, and its significance in the conduct of the war.

Alfred Hackensberger analyzes the internal weaknesses of the Russian forces fighting in the Kharkiv and Donbas regions.They are comprised of various independent elements.

He reports:

Since the withdrawal from Kiev, it has been known that replenishment and coordination are the great weaknesses of the Russians. To make matters worse, the troops in Ukraine are not a homogeneous unit, but a patchwork of different combat groups, between which there are even shootings.

Usually we speak of the Russian army in Ukraine. But that’s not quite right. In addition to the regular military units, five other actors are fighting: the National Guard (Rosgvardia), the troops of the two “People’s Republics” Donetsk and Luhansk, the mercenary company Wagner and the so-called Kadyrovites from Chechnya. Each of these groups has its own commanders, its own logistics. Their combat value varies drastically. Because not everyone is well trained, has heavy weapons, armored vehicles and air support.

Thus, the National Guard is considered one of the reasons for the Russian embarrassment in Kharkiv. Rosgvardia was supposed to defend Balakliia – the place that Ukraine was the first to attack in its surprise offensive. The National Guard and the two integrated police units Omon and SOBR had nothing to oppose the offensive.

No wonder, they are not trained for war and are insufficiently armed. For transport, they used their conventional emergency vehicles, which are unsuitable for a war zone. In addition, the National Guard was left alone. There was no support, which again revealed the insufficient chains of command, the communication and coordination gaps within the Russian armed forces.

Eliot A. Cohen, a leading military and diplomatic expert, offers a penetrating analysis in The Atlantic of the military aid which Ukraine is currently receiving and what it really needs. He notes that the system that has been set up for receipt and distribution of military aid is highly efficient, but is only being used at 60% of its capacity.

Colhen catalogues the restrictions and hesitancies of the U.S. and Western governments in providing Ukraine with all of the aid it urgently needs to defeat the Russian invaders.

In this connection, he also describes President Joe Biden’s fixation on avoiding “World War III” and how Putin and the Russians are playing on it to their advantage.

The U.S. and Ukraine’s allies are at a decisive decision point, Cohen argues:

They must either step up their aid–and their war production–to enable Ukraine to win, or reduce their aid and hand Russia a victory in the form of a stalemate and a frozen conflict, which would only be a prelude to renewed Russian aggression in a couple of years.

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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.