I am grateful for the photos Oleg took for my readers earlier this morning in Kyiv. The sky was blissful, except for the anti-aircraft rocket trail. Because of these rockets, Oleg’s family stays in the improvised shelter, as shown in the picture below. HA
* * *
The simplest way is to dot the i’s and cross the t’s on what officially has been said already. Everyone agrees that by invading Ukraine, Russia, under the leadership of President Putin, broke international laws. With condemnations coming from everywhere, no one has used the right term to describe the situation so far. Putin is a war criminal. As such, he needs to end up in front of the judges at The International Court of Justice in the Hague. We need to say clearly and firmly that this is his only future. In the meantime, as long as he is still in power, we may need to negotiate with him, the same way as we negotiate with a criminal keeping innocent people hostage.
Declaring Putin a war criminal implies that the Russian military is an accomplice in executing the crimes he ordered. Russian marshals and generals need to realize that, ultimately, they will face justice for their roles in the invasion of Ukraine. The field officers, like those who killed Ukrainian soldiers on the Snake Island, need to know that sooner or later they will be found and punished.
Sanctions hurting Russia are not the right solution. It is in the best interest of the world and Russia to keep Russia fully integrated into the global economy. By declaring Putin a war criminal, the Russian political and military elite will have to choose to stay with him or abandon him; the sooner, the better for them. In the ideal scenario, they will arrest him tonight and deliver him to The Hague tomorrow morning.
Why kill the Ukrainian brothers?
Putin is wrong, claiming that Ukrainians and Russian are the same nation. They are brotherly nations, with similar languages and hundreds of years of common history. Even more, there are millions of mixed Ukrainian-Russian families living on both sides of the border. In this fratricidal war, they kill each other. Russian soldiers need to get that message.
There is no danger to Russia from Ukraine seeking its prosperity independently from Russia. Regardless of choices made by both nations, the best interest for both of them is to work in close economic cooperation.
For Putin, vassal Ukraine is the best for Russia. The opposite is true; Russia can benefit more from cooperating with an independent Ukraine as equal partners.
As Russian soldiers gradually comprehend the absurdity of this war, their willingness to fight it will be diminishing. Hopefully, starting now.
No American soldiers on the ground
It may take awhile for the suggested above options to work. In the meantime, Ukrainians are fighting. President Biden says that American soldiers will not put their feet on the Ukrainian ground.
What about the air? Ukraine is an independent country. What are the rights of Russia to declare the airspace there not accessible for anyone except the Russian military? It is critical for the war progress because Ukraine does not have an air force matching the Russian power. Formally speaking, everybody else has the same right as Russia to declare exclusivity in the Ukrainian airspace.
At the time of this writing, to the surprise of the experts, a few Ukrainian military aircraft were still flying. As soon as the last of them is grounded, NATO can claim the Ukrainian airspace the same as Russia. Then, without putting feet on the ground, it can send guided missiles to shoot down whatever is flying there because it would be only the Russian air force.
It may not be enough to stop the war, but it can help Ukrainians hold their ground a little longer. That extra few days could be all the Russian leaders and soldiers might need to come to their senses as discussed above.
There is no way of avoiding putting feet on the ground
We may expect a guerrilla-style resistance if Russians succeed in occupying Ukraine. As already committed, the West will assist with providing arms and training. A look at the map tells us that arms will need to be smuggled from neighboring Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, or Romania, all NATO members. Training of Ukrainian fighters would likely be provided there as well.
If Ukrainian resistance inflicts any pain to the Russian occupiers, it is not hard to guess that Russia will try to disable the source of that help. In short, it will not take long before the neighboring NATO countries get pulled into the conflict. That will trigger NATO’s Article 5, which requires all members to stand behind the one attacked.
Judging by Putin’s determination, if his compatriots do not deliver him to The Hague, NATO will need to go and get him.
The Kuwait option
In 1990 Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq, ordered the takeover of neighboring Kuwait. The reasons were similarly bogus like Putin’s today. There were no legal obligations for the United States to free Kuwait. We did it because it was the right thing to protect the world order. The only difference today is that Russia is more powerful and has nukes. If we refrain from giving Russia the same response that Iraq got, it would mean that our international law applies only to petty thugs, not the mafiosi.
The historical moment
We witness a historical moment when one of the world’s superpowers, entrusted with protecting the peace, became a rogue state, breaking the very rules it should safeguard. After World War II, there was an assumption that the winning powers would forever show wisdom and resolve to preserve peace. There were a few moments of doubt, such as the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, but reason prevailed.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine ended that era. We need to implement changes to accommodate the remote possibility that a nuclear superpower might endanger world peace, as Russia has done. Some worry that the imperial aspirations of Xi Jinping, the president of China, may one day threaten peace too. But we do not need to look that far; Donald Trump showed little respect for American laws, and some in his administration worried that he would start an unprovoked war with China.
Our response to Russia today will constitute the precedent for handling these kinds of situations. We need to have a process whereby every war criminal, regardless of how powerful, ends up in front of the judges at The International Court of Justice in the Hague.