Ukraine War, February 7, 2023: Suppressed Thought: Ukraine and the West could lose the war–What a Russian victory would mean

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To see a list of previous articles, enter “Ukraine” in the Search Box on the upper right, 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) Cristian Segura y Javier G. Cuesta (Kiev / Moscú), “Rusia ultima una triple ofensiva para ocupar todo Donbás y avanzar en el frente sur; Las autoridades ucranias, los servicios de inteligencia occidentales y medios independientes rusos dan por hecho que el ataque será en febrero,” el 7 de febrero 2023 (05:40 CET);

2) “Ukraine promises not to hit Russia with new long-range missiles,” The Telegraph, February 7, 2023 (10:91 am);

3) Tom Cotton, “The American Case for Supporting Ukraine; The U.S. can back its allies and send a message to the Chinese, without sparking a wider war in Europe,” Wall Street Journal, February 7, 2023 (1:43 pm ET);

4) “Ukraine erwartet Attacken an mehreren Fronten – und rechtfertigt Beschuss in Russland; Im Nordosten und Süden rechnet die Ukraine mit neuen Angriffswellen. Kiew will auch weiter Ziele in Russland angreifen. Und: USA loben deutsches Engagement. Die wichtigsten Entwicklungen,” Der Spiegel, den 8. Februar 2023 (03.46 Uhr):

5) “Ukraine expects attacks on several fronts – and justifies shelling in Russia; In the northeast and south, Ukraine expects new waves of attacks. Kiev also wants to continue to attack targets in Russia. And: USA praises German commitment. The most important developments,” Der Spiegel, February 8, 2023 03:46 am);


It appears that throughout the first year of the Russian war against Ukraine, leaders in NATO and other Western countries have not allowed themselves to seriously contemplate the possibikity of Ukraine losing the war and what a Russian victory would mean.

This failure to face hard facts is the product of two related phenomena:

First, Borja Lasheras in El País describes a subconscious process he labels “cognitive occlusion” which, as a camera shutter blocks all light when closed, blocks from view subjects which are blazingly clear but too terrifying to behold.


1) “Eight great illusions about the war in Ukraine;’Cognitive occlusion’; Part Two: Mental defenses against hard truths; Genocide in progress,” Trenchant Observations, July 14, 2022;

2) Borja Lasheras, “La guerra de Ucrania durará; El que Putin no pudiera tomar Kiev al inicio de la invasión no ha mitigado su obsesión por el territorio. Rusia quiere la destrucción del país. El conflicto puede prolongarse al menos uno o dos años más,” El País, el 10 de julio 2022 (23:00 EDT);

3) Borja Lasheras, “The war in Ukraine will last; The fact that Putin could not take Kiev at the beginning of the invasion has not mitigated his obsession with the territory. Russia wants the destruction of the country. The conflict can last at least one or two more years,” El País, July 10, 2022 (23:00 EDT);

Lasheras writes:

It is difficult for us to accept truths that involve extreme evil. Let’s call it cognitive occlusion: the mind is clotted like a camera, and the light does not pass, because it is a terrible light. It is easy to see horrible truths from the past (Holocaust), but not so much when similar events can happen today.

After the initial shock and indignation, this cognitive problem conditions the debate about the end of this war. This is joined by another attitude: faced with Dantesque images like Kremenchuk at the end of June, with people burned alive in a shopping center destroyed by Russian missiles, we want the horror to end. Or we disconnect.

Lasheras describes the genocidal intent of Putin and the acts of genocide of his soldiers, citing the 1948 U.N. Convention on Genocide. He asserts that the war is likely to last one or two more years, observing,

The war will probably continue, in one way or another, as long as Putin and his circle remain in power….(Putin) will go down in history as a textbook fascist and one of the worst war criminals of this century. But in the digital and satellite age, we can’t say that we didn’t know it. So much post-truth when perhaps the question is, in the words of Nietzsche, in Ecce Homo, “how much truth can man endure?”

It appears that “cognitive occlusion” has blocked the minds of Western leaders and populations from seeing and grasping what is really at stake in the war in Ukraine, and what the consequences of a Russian victory or even a stalemate would be.

This accounts in part for the slow, wavering, and ultimately timid responses of NATO countries and other military supporters of Ukraine to developments on the ground.

The other causes of these slow, wavering, and timid responses are related, and involve perhaps the impact of “cognitive occlusion” on U.S. President Joe Biden and top U.S, officials (as well as on German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and other leaders and officials), of the very real possibility of escalation to a nuclear conflict.

Biden and others could not look at the possibility of nuclear conflict, and basically checked out of analyzing the problem by internalizing the Russian refrain of “One, two, three, World War III”.

This resulted in a failure to take the initiative in challenging Putin by taking measures necessary for the defense of Ukraine, despite Putin’s use of nuclear threats.

Putin might have detonated a nuclear device, but Biden and NATO never tested him until they began to do so, ever so cautiously and gingerly, in the summer and fall of 2022. At each point where they tested him, by supplying weapons with greater capacity and range, Putin’s nuclear threats have proved–at least so far–to be empty.

Second, and closely related, has been “Western disbelief” in the grave implications of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the barbarism with which it has conducted the war.


1) Andrew A. Michta, “China, Russia and the West’s Crisis of Disbelief; Globalist dogma has weakened America’s ability to acknowledge and confront adversity,” The Wall Street Journal, August 7, 2022 (5:39 pm ET);

2) “Western “disbelief” and the absence of war production,” Trenchant Observations, August 11, 2022.

The following text is taken from Trenchant Observations, August 11, 2022 (article cited above)

Andrew A. Michta in an article in The Wall Street Journal1 describes the “disbelief” in the challenges posed by Russia and China in the countries of the West. One consequence of this “disbelief” has been the failure to ramp up war production of arms and ammunition2 to meet the needs of Ukraine, and maybe not just Ukraine, for a long war with Russia.

He writes:

It is because of our collective refusal to acknowledge the new reality Mr. Putin has created in Europe that Western leaders have yet to address their publics on the need to move our economies to wartime production. Instead, the military aid we send to Ukraine largely draws down our existing stocks, while our investment decisions don’t provide for manufacturing redundancies imperative in a war.

The “disbelief” in the West is a big disadvantage in the struggles with Russia and China:

Democracies are today at a disadvantage vis-à-vis the Russian-Chinese totalitarian axis, and it isn’t because the West lacks the money or material resources to confront them and prevail. Rather, much like in the late 1930s, the West doesn’t believe that the threat is real.

Michta concludes that,

Until the West’s disbelief is replaced by a determination to resist, the Russian and Chinese dictators will keep pressing on, planning their major assaults and dreaming of future victories.

The question of war production is critical to the success of Ukraine and the West in repelling Russian aggression. At least publicly, the U.S. and the West have not even begun to address it.

The lack of war production is only one of the pernicious effects of Western “disbelief”.

What a Russian victory or a stalemate would mean

The related phenomena of “cognitive occlusion” and “Western disbelief” have led to the present critical situation, where a major Russian offensive is aboutbto begin, probably around thevfirst annibpversary on February 24 of the Russian invasion in 2022.

The good news is that Germany has fibally come around and now supports the transfer of the German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine, and now apparently realizing the critical nature of the current situation on the battlefield, is now even pushing the deployment of Leopard 1 tanks in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, rhe U.S. has pledged delivery of a Patriot missile battery to Ukraine, and may authorize orher countries to transfer their Patriot systems to Ukraine.

The negative news is that all of tge delay caused by Olaf Scholz’s obstinate refusal to authorize the transfer of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, conditioning his authorization on U,S. transfer of Abrams tanks to Ukraine–in effect blackmailing Joe Biden and the United States for his own reasons of domestic political cover–means that the tanks will not be deployed and their crews and maintenance teams trained in time for them to playba major role in beating back the looming Russian offensive.

Further negative news is that Biden continues to block transfer of fighter aircraft to Ukraine, as he has done since March when Poland wanted to transfer its old Mig 29’s to Ukraine.

At the same time Biden insists that Ukraine not yse any weapons supplied by the U.S. to attack targets in Russian territory. This means that Biden continues to block the use of U.S.-supplied weapons to attack bases and platforms in Russia (including Russian airspace) from which missiles and drones are being launched against Ukrainian cities, civilians, and civilian infrastructure, including the electrical grid and water supply infrastructure.

In effect, Biden continues to insist that Ukraine fight with one hand tied behinds its back. This leaves Putin free to attack these Ukrainian targets “like shooting fish in a-barrel”.

Consequently, the situation on the ground isvextremely dangerous, as Russia floods the battlefield with new recruits anspd avery large numerical superiority.

In short, Ukraine could suffer major mi,itary defeats and loss of territory in the coming months. Such developments could energize proponents of a ceasefire, which would in effect freeze the conflict to Russia’s advantage.

What would the consequences be of a Russian victory or stalemate?

There are signs that in Europe, at least, leaders are beginning to overcome the effects of “cognitive occlusion”. BEGINNING.

“Western disbelief” may be giving way to a realization on the part of some leaders of the extraordinary stakes in the Ukraine war, and the horrendously negative consequences a Russian victory ir stalemate might have.

Plans for ramped-war productiin are beibg made. But nowhere donwe see the kind of actual war production that is likely to be required, more on the lines of World War Ii war production in the United States.

“Western disbelief” may be diminishing and “cognitive occlusion” weakening, but nowhere do we see the kind of national mobilizations that may be needed if Ukraine and tgecWest are to prevail in this war to save Ukraine, and also international law and the United Nations Charter.

We are in an existential struggle to defend our civilization and a world ruled by reason and law, not military aggression and barbarism.

This brute fact is only slowly sinking in.

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.

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