The main event of yesterday was the decision of the Pre-trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court on a warrant for the arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Without exaggeration, this is an unprecedented decision. This is not just a decision to arrest the current head of state. There have been decisions like this before. We are talking about a nuclear state with a special UN status. There was nothing like it before.
It is clear that this is not a court verdict and not a physical arrest, but it is a legal and moral stigma that sharply narrows the space for political maneuver not only for the Russian dictator, but also for the leaders of the democratic world. I have a strong suspicion that Biden, and even more so Macron and Scholz, not to mention the various Orbans, are not enthusiastic about this decision, rather it creates a bunch of additional restrictions and problems, including potential plans to end the war in Ukraine. And in this sense, the decision to issue a warrant for Putin’s arrest is a vivid illustration of the fact that in the Western world the principles of the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary (in this case international) can operate contrary to the rules and traditions of real politik (real classical politics).
It seems to me that the judges and investigators of the International Criminal Court were so shocked and outraged by the massive and systematic actions of the Russian authorities in the abduction and deportation of Ukrainian children that they had no doubts about the need for such an unprecedented step as an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin. In this decision, legal and moral logic worked, not political.
I am convinced that almost everyone is shocked now – from Moscow to Washington. I don’t think we expected this either. At least not now. But I pay tribute, I express words of respect and gratitude to everyone who documented the crimes of the Russians in the abduction and deportation of Ukrainian children and assisted the investigators and judges of the International Criminal Court in their work on this case. I respect the courage and determination of the judges of the Pre-trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court, who decided to issue a warrant for Putin’s arrest. Ukraine can perceive this decision as its intermediate victory in the war against the aggressor country and its bloodthirsty leader.
What’s next? Of course, an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin does not mean that he will be arrested tomorrow. Even not all countries that have signed and ratified the Rome Charter (and there are 123 of them) will decide on such actions. But Putin won’t risk it either. Legal toxicity is added to political toxicity. The isolation of the Russian dictator is growing significantly.
Even if we consider this decision (on an arrest warrant) outside the legal framework, it is perceived as a “black mark”, as a stigma of Putin’s toxicity and non-handshake (at least for politicians who adhere to democratic values and standards). This is a signal to the Western elites, and to everyone else, that Putin is now receiving (so far provisionally) the status of a criminal dictator, something like Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein. By the way, this is also a signal to the Russian elites that if they want to get out of the mess in which they found themselves thanks to the decision of the Kremlin dictator to go to war against Ukraine, they must get rid of Putin. Otherwise, they will also be waiting for the same orders. By the way, many will be expected, and inevitably. Now I no longer have any doubts about it. But always “performers” can throw all the blame on the “main person” who made key decisions. And therefore, the mood of fear and uncertainty in the Russian elite will only intensify.
I do not think that the judges of the International Criminal Court, who decided to issue a warrant for the arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin, planned any political consequences of their decision or acted on anyone’s instructions. Let me emphasize once again that this decision rather creates additional problems for the leaders of Western countries. We are talking about the objective political consequences of this decision.
Apart from increasing the political isolation of the Russian dictator, I see two main political implications of Putin’s arrest warrant.
First, the room for maneuver in relation to political agreements to end the war in Ukraine is sharply narrowing. And to conduct negotiations (at least public and official), and even more so, will have to negotiate not with Putin. Negotiating with a state leader who the International Criminal Court wants to arrest would be unacceptable both legally and morally. Critics may say that the US does not recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court either. Yes, when it comes to US citizens. But when it comes to Putin, you will have to reckon with a warrant for his arrest.
This does not mean that any opportunity for negotiations to end Russia’s current war against Ukraine disappears. Negotiations will be possible and even necessary on the end of hostilities, and then on the settlement of various conflict issues. But these will be negotiations and agreements without Putin’s participation. And most importantly, there can be no question of any fundamental concessions to the Kremlin dictator. There can be no compromises with him.
Secondly, Putin finds himself (at least in the legal sense) in the situation of a rat being driven into a dead end. And this is precisely the most problematic situation that Western leaders have tried to avoid.
The question that worries everyone is: how will Putin react to such a decision? Apparently, in the Russian Federation they said this right away, they will not recognize him. But you will have to reckon with the limitations as a result of this decision. Will this decision lead to increased aggression on the part of Russia, the disappearance of all red lines for Putin? So Putin has already violated the vast majority of red lines. There is only one weighty red line that remains – the use of nuclear weapons. However, this is the path to self-destruction of Russia itself. And the “senior comrade” in the face of China will be against the use of nuclear weapons. The Chinese leader will certainly support Putin politically in the current situation, but nothing more. The most likely scenario is the transition of the Putin regime to a deaf and aggressive defense.
To summarize, the spring of the military-political conflict not only between Ukraine and Russia, but also between the West and Putin’s Russia, is even more twisted, a significant legal component is added to this confrontation. Figuratively speaking, Putin is driven into an international legal and political reservation. From this reservation, Putin can fight against Ukraine, can spit poison (literally and figuratively), make various aggressive actions, and threaten with nuclear weapons, but he will not be able to get out.
It’s starting to annoy me that from every corner I hear about the “counteroffensive”
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