Charge Putin With War Crimes



Ukrainian President Zelensky Credit: Associated Press


Russian shelling and bombing of civilians is a war crime. Its invasion constitutes the crime of aggression. Its bombardment has caused the forced displacement of over 2 million Ukrainians, a crime against humanity. Vladimir Putin, his generals, and the planners of this invasion should be put on trial for war crimes, aggression, and crimes against humanity.


Russian troops invaded Ukraine's Donbas and Luhansk provinces on February 23, 2022. They have now invaded Ukraine from all sides. The Russian army and airforce are relentlessly shelling and bombing civilian neighborhoods and even maternity hospitals in Ukraine.


NATO, the European Union, and the United States have sent anti-tank missiles and other weapons for Ukraine’s self-defense, but not enough to drive back Russian tanks and air power. Both US President Biden and the Secretary-General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, have announced that no US and NATO troops will be deployed to Ukraine to counter the Russian invasion. The US has rejected Poland's offer to donate its MIG warplanes to the US to transfer to Ukraine in return for their replacement with US F-16s.


The US and NATO have refused to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine out of fear that it would lead to air battles between Russian and NATO airplanes. Yet Ukraine has requested this assistance for its self-defense. Such aid would be legal and is desperately needed to stop Russian bombing. Fear should never be a basis for US and NATO foreign policy.


The US and NATO fear widening the war beyond Ukraine. They also fear Putin's veiled threat to use Russian nuclear weapons. Russia has over 2000 tactical nuclear weapons, the type most likely to be used in a limited war. The US and NATO have only 200 such weapons. Any use of nuclear weapons would be catastrophic.


The US and NATO have not effectively countered Putin's nuclear threat. The only strategic response is to make it clear to Putin that any use of nuclear weapons by Russia, tactical or intercontinental, would result in massive nuclear retaliation that would totally destroy Russia. To be credible, this response must accompany actual preparations. Massive Assured Destruction (MAD) has prevented the use of nuclear weapons since 1945. The US and NATO should remind Putin that MAD is still NATO doctrine.


President Biden has denounced the Russian aggression as a clear violation of international law, including the UN Charter. The International Criminal Court has begun an investigation of these crimes. Ukraine has also launched a case against Russia in the International Court of Justice.


The ICC should immediately increase its staff to collect evidence of these war crimes and to investigate and charge Putin, Russian generals, and other planners and perpetrators of these war crimes and crimes against humanity.


The US and NATO have imposed crippling economic sanctions against Russia. But there is little likelihood that such sanctions will deter Putin from conquering Ukraine, which he considers to be a part of Russia. Putin will not stop with Ukraine. Putin's ultimate objective is the restoration of the Soviet empire. Trump's US policy of appeasement of Putin increased the likelihood of a bloody Russian invasion of Ukraine.


The refusal of the US and NATO to directly join Ukraine in its military defense will likely result in a Russian conquest. But the heroic resistance of the Ukrainian people has shown that Russia will be unable to govern Ukraine. Ukraine will again be free.


Due to Putin’s Russian invasion of Ukraine, Genocide Watch considers Ukraine to be at Stage 5: Organization, Stage 6: Polarization, Stage 7: Preparation, Stage 8: Persecution, Stage 9: Extermination.


Genocide Watch Recommends:

  • The UN Security Council should vote on a Chapter 7 resolution calling on Russia to immediately withdraw its troops from Ukraine.

  • When the UNSC Resolution is vetoed by Russia, the Uniting for Peace Resolution should be invoked, and a Special Session should be called of the UN General Assembly. There a resolution should condemn Russia's invasion, authorize economic and political sanctions by all UN members, and authorize all other means necessary to counter the Russian invasion.

  • The United States, NATO, and the European Union should impose crippling economic sanctions against Russian and Belarus companies and elites and cut off Russia's financial ties with the West.

  • NATO should continue to provide massive military aid to Ukraine, Georgia, and the Baltic States to assist their self-defense against Russian invasion.

  • NATO should deploy over 300,000 NATO troops to Poland, Romania, and the Baltic States.

  • Ukraine's elected government should call on Ukrainian civilians to non-violently resist Russian rule in areas Russia seizes in its invasion.

  • The Ukrainian government should seek an immediate ceasefire and a peace agreement with Russia even if Ukraine must sign a written promise to never join NATO. Promises can be broken. Wars break human lives.


Notes: For a comprehensive synopsis of the political, economic, social, and historical aspects of the conflict in Ukraine please see the Council on Foreign Relations Backgrounder. See also Prof. Timothy Snyder’s “Putin’s Case for Invading Ukraine Rests on Phony Grievances and Ancient Myths” (Washington Post, January 26, 2022).


Ukraine has a long history of genocide. The Soviet Union, under Joseph Stalin, starved millions of Ukrainians in the 1932-1933 Holodomor. Stalin also deported the entire population of Crimean Tatars to Central Asia in 1944, costing many thousands of lives. Crimean Tatars continue to be discriminated against in their own homeland. The Jewish population of Ukraine was nearly annihilated by centuries of pogroms and anti-Semitism, climaxing in the Nazi Holocaust, which killed two million Jews in Ukraine. Ukrainian militias assisted the Nazis in their genocide. Leaders of independent Ukraine have denounced this cooperation with Nazis, and recognized the horror of the Holocaust.


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