Ukraine War, October 20, 2022: Nuclear confrontation–In response to Putin’s acts of escalation, Biden and NATO offer only words

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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) AFP, “Guerre en Ukraine: Poutine se retrouve dans une «situation incroyablement difficile», selon Biden; Joe Biden a été interrogé après que Vladimir Poutine a annoncé instaurer la loi martiale dans les territoires ukrainiens occupés par la Russie,” Le Soir (Bruxelles), le 19 Octobre 2022;;

2) AFP, “War in Ukraine: Putin finds himself in an ‘incredibly difficult situation’, according to Biden; Joe Biden was questioned after Vladimir Putin announced that he was introducing martial law in the Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia,” Le Soir (Brussels), October 19, 2022 (20:04 h);

3) Sabra Ayres, “Ukraine’s utilities threatened by Russia in war’s new phase,” AP, October 20, 2022;

4) Michael R. Gordon and Daniel Michaels, “NATO and Russia Run Nuclear-War Drills Amid Tensions Over Ukraine; Annual exercises proceed despite Putin’s nuclear threats as alliance stresses need for training to reinforce deterrent,” Wall Street Journal, October 20, 2022 (5:30 a.m. ET);


Vladimir Putin has engaged in a major military escalation in the ongoing nuclear confrontation beteen Russia, on the one hand, and the U.S., NATO, and the EU on the other.

Putin’s nuclear threats were aimed at deterring President Joe Biden and NATO from providing Ukraine with long-range artillery rockets (ATACMS) for the HIMARS artillery units, or fighter jets, or modern tanks and armored personnel carriers (from Germany).

So far those nuclear threats have achieved their objective, while NATO has made no military moves in response.

Seeing how successful his nuclear threats were, Vladimir Putin has now ratcheted the military escalation up a notch.

He has adopted a new policy of trying to destroy the electrical grid in Ukraine, and other civilian infrastructure such as that relating to water supplies.

Putin’s new strategy, openly avowed, is built on the systematic commission of war crimes targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure.

If Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is aimed at taking down the U.N. Charter, his strategy of attacking civilian targets and infrastructure is aimed at taking down the entire body of international humanitarian law (the law of war), including the 1949 Conventions on the Law of War.

The principal response of NATO countries to the latest escalation has been to offer and to speed up the delivery of modern air defense systems. Deliveries will take time, however, often more than a year.

NATO countries have simply not responded to Putin’s nuclear threats and other acts of escalation in any meaningful way, in real time, which will counter Putin’s new strategy of destroying civilian infrastructure.

On this Wednesday evening, October 19, 2022, the Ukraine war was strangely absent from the leading newspapers in the United States, except for this or that article on one or another recent development such as Russia’s establishment of martial law in the four recently “anneced” Ukrainian provinces: Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson. These provinces are at least partially occupied by Russian triops.

There is virtually no analysis in today’s papers of the big picture such as we consistently provide here.

So, today in the ongoing nuclear confrontation between the U.S. and NATO on the one hand and Russia on the other, the former have not reacted in any meaningful way to Putin’s nuclear threats and acts of escalation.

By the time Biden and NATO wake up and undertake actions yo deter Putin and restore credible deterrence, Ikraine’s infrastruvture may have been totally destroyed.

This is one reason, particularly in wartime, a country needs leaders who are agile and who can think on their feet.

It as if we were in the middle of World War II, in November 1939 or March 1940, and everyone was asleep. Or as if we were in  the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, and as if no one outside of government was taking note.

In these circumstances, President Biden responded with words, saying:

Revised Google translation from French

Russian President Vladimir Putin now finds himself in an “incredibly difficult situation”, said Joe Biden on Wednesday, when asked by journalists about the establishment of martial law in the Ukrainian territories recently annexed by Moscow.

“It would seem that the only tool left at his disposal is to persecute Ukrainian citizens” in order to “intimidate them into surrender, but that is not what they are going to do,” he said. declared from the White House.

Does Biden understand that it is Ukraine that is in an “incredibly difficult situation” as Russia destroys its infrastructure day by day?

Caving in to Putin’s nuclear threats, to the Observer he seems to be in a different world–a world of emotional blinders and of illusions.


1) ”

2) “Eight great illusions about the war in Ukraine: Where we stand now,” Trenchant Observations, October 4, 2022;

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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.