Ukraine War, November 14, 2022: The paradox of supporting Ukraine while entering down the path of appeasement

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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.

To understand the broad context within which current developments in Ukraine should be considered,see

“Ukraine War, October 26, 2022: The context for analysis of current developments; The “dirty bomb” as a Russian propaganda distraction from current war crimes,” The Trenchant Observer, October 26, 2022.


1) María R. Sahuquillo, “Jersón o cómo la mayor victoria de Putin va camino de ser su máxima derrota; Rusia disfraza la retirada de la ciudad portuaria bajo la intención de “preservar la vida” de sus tropas, pero esta humillación puede derivar en una oleada de críticas, sobre todo de los ultranacionalistas y de los afectados por la movilización,” El País, el 9 de noviembre 2022 (23:40: actualizado el 10 de

2) Gordon Lubold, Nancy A. Youssef, Laurence Norman,and Drew Hinshaw, “As Ukraine Retakes Kherson, U.S. Looks to Diplomacy Before Winter Slows Momentum; American arms are flowing, but officials in Washington question how much territory either side can win; Ukrainian cities including Kyiv have turned off streetlights to conserve energy after Russian attacks on power plants,” Wall Street Journal, November 13, 2022 (updated at 1:31 p.m. ET);


3) Seth Cropsey, “Mark Milley and the Coming Civil-Military Crisis; His recent comments about the Ukraine war reveal the risks of elevating general officers to positions of political prominence,” Wall Street Journal, November 16, 2022 (7:03 pm ET);


There is something admirable but also something repulsive about U.S. policy toward Ukraine and Russia since the nuclear superpower invaded its much smaller neighbor on February 24, 2022.

What is admirable is the extraordinary amount of military and economic aid the U.S.has given Ukraine.

What is repulsive is the way the U.S. seems willing to fight the war of self-defense against Russia down to the last Ukrainian soldier and the last Ukrainian civilian.

As the article in the Wall Street Journal makes clear, a key goal  of the U.S. has been to not get directly involved militarily in the conflict, and ta avoid a nuclear war. An accompanying goal has been to avoid a Ukrainian defeat. The U.S. has never clearly articulated the goal of securing a Ukrainian victory.

European countries and others, including the Observer, view the war differently, as a war to uphold the U.N.  Charter and  international law, particularly the principle prohibiting the international use of force and the principle prohibiting the acquision of territory by military conquest.  Ukraine has explicitly tied its war aims to these principles.

Now comes the U.S. to pressure Ukraine to enter negotiations with Russia.

Even General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Sraff, has weighed in favoring negotiations. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and apparent Ukraine policy czar, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, have pushed Ukraine to show a willingness to enter negotiations with Russia. Sullivan, in a highly unusual move for a National Security Asviser, recently traveled to Kyiv to deliver the message to President Wolodymyr Zelenski in person.

General Milley, for his part, seems to have learned nothing about civil-military relations from his walk in full uniform across Lafayette Square with President Donald Trump to make a highly political point, holding a bible upside down.

Either Milley should be replaced for insubordination by making political statements far out of his lane, or he was the conscious tool of a Biden Administration willing to violate bedrock principles of civil-military relations to advance its political objectives.

Both should take a remedial course in civil-military relarions.

The position of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is not a political position. Milley should either shut up or resign.

Milley’s statement that both Russia and Ukraine have suffered about  100,000 casualties each is not consistent with other reporting, and even if true represents the release of highly classified information–which Ukraine clearly doesn’t want released–for highly tendentious political purposes.

The picture that emerges is one of a highly disorganized and undisciplined national security team, which has anomalies such as Jake Sullivan engaging in secret back-channel discussions with Vladimir Putin ‘s aides.

The bad policies and decisions that have emerged from this process have not been inconsequential. They have cost and are costing Ukrainian lives.

The U.S. policy of pressuring Ukraine to enter negotiations with Russia at this point in time reveals either that the U.S. is clueless about the mandatory principles of international law that preclude the making by Ukraine of “territorial concessions”, or that the Biden administration does not view them as being of overarching importance.

That was the posture of Neville Chamberlain of Britain and Ėdouard Daladier of France when they signed the Munich Pact in October, 1938. The “territorial concession” by Czechoslovakia then was the Sudetenland.

Appeasement in 1938 didn’t work out so well. It’s not going to work out well in 2022 or 2023, or in 2025.

The consequences of the U.S. and allied countries treating the war as Ukraine’s war and not their own war have been fateful. They now argue as one reason to seek negotiations between Ukraine and Russia the fact that their stocks of munitions are being depleted.

It is their fault. They had ample warning that if they wanted to uphold the U.N. Charter and defend international law, and indeed our entire civilization, they needed to ramp ip war production-in a manner similar to what was done in the U.S. in WW II.

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.