Ukraine War, May 4, 2023: Putin’s propaganda and red herrings, such as the drone “attack” on the Kremlin

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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) Javier G. Cuesta (Moscú), “El círculo de Putin pide matar a Zelenski tras el supuesto ataque al Kremlin; Rusia y Ucrania se enzarzan en un cruce de acusaciones sobre la autoría de la agresión al edificio gubernamental en pleno centro de Moscú,” El País, el 4 de mayo 2023 (11:17 EDT);

2) Javier G. Cuesta (Moscow), “Putin’s circle asks to kill Zelenski after the alleged attack on the Kremlin: Russia and Ukraine get involved in a crossroads of accusations about the authorship of the aggression against the government building in the heart of Moscow,” El País, May 4, 2023 (11:17 am EDT);


One never ceases to be amazed at the propaganda Vladimir Putin and Russia put out, and the irrepressible naiveté and gullibility of the Western press corps, which runs after each new shiny object and each new dog bone to report what they deem to be a “news story”, which they dutifully report in evenhanded fashion. Russia says this. Ukraine and the U.S. deny Russian allegations. Give me a break!  Why even quote Russian propaganda?

When will these Western journalists ever learn that the Kremlin is not to be believed, and to run after any of their allegations is to confuse readers and to take time away from serious reporting on the progress of the war.

Well, as it turns out, there is not one scintilla of evidence that Ukraine sent a drone to explode a big firecracker over the Kremlin, much less any evidence that it was intended to kill Putin.

It was probably just a red herring thrown out by the Kremlin masters of deceit and propaganda to distract attention from the real news of the last few days. That news, which might have been and should have been covered, was about the individual human beings whose lives were snuffed out by Russia’s missile and drone attacks, and the lives of those innocent soldiers who were in effect murdered by Russian troops. It is murder because there is no moral justification for the taking of another human life, even a soldier’s life, in an illegal war of aggression.

Those were the real news stories from the Ukraine war in the last few days. Who were the victims, and how did their murders by Putin and his soldiers affect their families, their children, their friends, their co-workers, and their communities?

Those are the real stories of the war, not Putin’s red herring distractions.

The other real stories are about how Joe Biden’s fear of Putin and his nuclear threats have led the U.S in particular to respect Putin’s red lines, which Biden even seems to enforce himself.

Red line #1: Ukraine cannot use U.S.-supplied weapons to attack targets in Russia.

Why not?

International law and the U.N. Charter provide for Ukraine’s exercise of the “inherent” right of self-defense against an armed attack, and for other countries to assist it in exercise of their own right of collective self-defense. These rights absolutely include the right to attack targets in Russia from which missiles and drones are being launched at targets in Ukraine and supply lines which are continuing Russia’s armed attack against Ukraine.

It’s like someone is shooting at you from another house, and your friends give you weapons to defend yourself, provided you don’t use them to fire at targets on the lot of the house from which shots are being fired at you.

This is crazy!

Why won’t Biden let Ukraine fully exercise its right of self-defense against targets in Russia?

The answer is FEAR, Joe Biden’s fear of Putin.

The Allies would never have won World War II if their actions had been limited by a hypothetical fear on Winston Churchill’s part of Adolf Hitler and what he might do.

Of course, Churchill was in fact absolutely fearless.

Red line #2:  America cannot transfer to Ukraine weapons that have the capability of striking targets in Russia.

So why shouldn’t the U.S. and other countries transfer to Ukraine the F-16 fighters which they have requested and which they so desperately need if they are to conduct successful “combined arms operations”?

Or the long-range ATACMS artillery rockets for the HIMARS artillery units?

The answer is that such actions would cross Red line #2.

Why is that important?

FEAR, Buden’s fear of Putin, and what could be worse, a possible tacit agreement with Putin not to cross his “red lines”.

The point here is that journalists should not run after each shiny object, each new red herring, that Putin and his propaganda-Meisters throw out to divert them from covering, in depth, the really important stories about the war, about the West’s strategy for winning it, and about the victims of Russia’s aggression and of its atrocities against populations under Russian occupation.

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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