The Brief — International pariah
The arrest warrant against Vladimir Putin issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) is a much bigger move than it may appear: It makes him a political outcast unlikely to play a role in a possible negotiated peace process.
Last Friday, Putin was indicted for war crimes, specifically for the unlawful deportation and transfer of Ukrainian children from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.
Issuing an indictment against a sitting head of state during an armed conflict is not a small thing. Putin has become only the third serving president to have been issued an ICC arrest warrant, after Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi. He is also the first indicted leader from one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
Charges for abducting children may be only the beginning.
The statement of Prosecutor Karim A. A. Khan KC reads that “Ukraine is a crime scene that encompasses a complex and broad range of alleged international crimes. We will not hesitate to submit further applications for arrest warrants when the evidence requires us to do so”.
Khan also mentioned the Bucha massacre, where investigations are continuing.
Russia is not among the countries that have signed on to the ICC (neither are China and the US, for that matter), which according to Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov makes such warrants “null and void” within its borders.
Russia is a large country and Putin may be happy staying there forever. But international diplomacy needs neutral ground. It has now become difficult, if not impossible, to imagine Putin sitting at the same table with Zelenskyy and international guarantors of a negotiated peace.
Since Friday, Putin runs the risk of being arrested in any of the 123 countries that signed the ICC Rome Statute, followed by extradition to the Hague to face trial as a war criminal. Moreover, in theory, his aeroplane could be intercepted over the airspace of any of these nations. There are not many places on Earth where Putin could travel safely.
It is, therefore, a weakened Putin that the Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet today, the two having already met 40 times.
Conversely, Xi, who has just been re-elected for an unprecedented third mandate, is stronger than ever.
As Xi wrote today, he is spearheading the “rejuvenation” of the Chinese nation on all fronts through the Chinese path to “modernisation”. What a contrast with the strain of the Russian economy reeling under Western sanctions…
China certainly nourishes hopes to play the role of a peace broker in Ukraine.
Even though Beijing is not a signatory of the ICC, Putin’s indictment comes as a bad surprise. For Xi, publicly demonstrating the special relation he enjoys with Putin in championing the building of a new type of international relations, based on “true multilateralism”, is now of dubious value.
As the frozen situation on the battlefield is not conducive to any of the sides seriously considering a diplomatic solution, Putin’s arrest warrant consolidates the scenario of the long-haul war, during which many things must happen.
And in any case, Ukraine’s position that peace could be negotiated only with Putin’s successor, while the current master of the Kremlin would receive punishment for his crimes, has been vindicated.
Putin may still be strong at home, but make no mistake – he is an international pariah.
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Look out for…
- Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas receives CEO of Mastercard, Michael Miebach.
- Commission Vice-President Dubravka Suica in NY: meets with UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
- Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni receives the Italian Minister of Labour and Social Policies Marina Elvira Calderone.
- General Affairs Council meeting on Tuesday.