Everyone is shocked, from Washington to Moscow. Two main consequences of the arrest warrant for Putin
International Criminal Court issues arrest warrant against Russian dictator Putin on March 17 (Photo:Thibault Camus / Pool via REUTERS)
Political consequences of the International Criminal Court’s decision on the warrant for the arrest of the President of Russia Vladimir Putin
The main sensation of the week is the decision of the Pretrial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court on the arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Without any exaggeration, this is an unprecedented decision. This is not just a decision to arrest a serving head of state. Such decisions were made before. This, however, is a nuclear state with a special status in the UN. There was nothing like this before. It is clear that this is not a court sentence or physical arrest, but a legal and moral brand that sharply narrows the space for political maneuvering – not only for the Russian dictator, but also for the leaders of the democratic world.
I have a strong suspicion that for Biden, and even for Macron and Scholz, without mention of the various Orbáns, this decision does not cause excitement, but rather, a lot of additional restrictions and problems – in particular with regard to potential plans to end the war in Ukraine. And in this sense, the decision on the warrant for Putin's arrest is a vivid illustration of the fact that in the Western world, the principles of the rule of law and the independence of the judicial system (in this case, the international one) can act contrary to the rules and traditions of realpolitik (real classical politics). It seems to me that the judges and investigators of the International Criminal Court were so shocked and outraged by the mass and systematic actions of the Russian authorities, which abducted and deported Ukrainian children, the point that they had no doubts about the necessity of taking such an unprecedented step as issuing warrant for the arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Legal and moral logic worked in this decision, not political.
I am sure that almost everyone from Moscow to Washington is shocked now. I think that we hardly expected this either. Not now, anyway. But I give credit, express my words of respect and thanks to all those who documented the crimes of the Russians regarding the abduction and deportation of Ukrainian children, and assisted the investigators and judges of the International Criminal Court in their work in this case. I respect the courage and determination of the judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court, who decided on the warrant for Putin's arrest. Ukraine can perceive this decision as an interim victory in the war against the aggressor country and its bloodthirsty leader.
The isolation of the Russian dictator is increasing significantly.
What's next? Of course, an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin does not mean that he will be arrested tomorrow. Not even all the countries that have signed and ratified the Rome Statute (of which there are 123) will dare to take such actions. But Putin will not risk it either. The legal toxicity is added to political toxicity. The isolation of the Russian dictator is increasing significantly.
Even if this decision (on the arrest warrant) is considered outside the legal framework, it will be perceived as a "black mark", as a sign of Putin's toxicity and untouchability (at least for politicians who share democratic values and standards). This is a signal to the Western elites and to everyone else that Putin is now receiving (for the time being) the status of a criminal dictator, something like Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein. By the way, this is also a signal to the Russian elites - if they want to get out of the mess they found themselves thanks to the Kremlin dictator's decision to go to war against Ukraine, they should get rid of Putin. Otherwise, they will also face the same warrants.
By the way, many will be waiting for that, and it is inevitable. Now I have no doubts about it. But e the “decision-makers” can always throw blame onto the “key individual" who made the key decisions. And therefore, this mood of the fear and uncertainty in the Russian leadership will only intensify.
I do not think that the judges of the International Criminal Court, who decided on the warrant for the arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin, planned any political consequences for their decision, or acted on someone's instructions. I will emphasize once again that this decision instead creates additional problems for the leaders of Western countries. It is about the objective political consequences of this decision.
Apart from increasing the political isolation of the Russian dictator, I see two main political consequences of Putin's arrest warrant.
First of all, the room for maneuver regarding political agreements on ending the war in Ukraine is sharply narrowing. And negotiations (in any case, public and official ones), won’t be provided with Putin. Negotiating with a state leader who is under warrant to be arrested by the International Criminal Court will be unacceptable both from a legal and a moral point of view. Critics may say that the U.S. also does not recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. Yes, when it concerns U.S. citizens. But when it concerns Putin, they will have to reckon with a warrant for his arrest.
This does not mean that any possibility of negotiating an end of Russia's current war against Ukraine has disappeared. Negotiations on the end of hostilities, and then on the settlement of various conflict issues, will be possible and even necessary. But these will be negotiations and agreements without Putin's participation. And most importantly, we will not be talking about any principled 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, driven into a dead end. And this is 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? Obviously, the Russian Federation also said immediately that they will not recognize it. But you will have to reckon with the limitations raised due to this decision. Will this decision lead to increased aggression on the part of Russia, the disappearance of all red lines for Putin? After all, Putin has already violated the absolute majority of red lines. There is only one significant red line that remains - the use of nuclear weapons. However, this is a path to the self-destruction of Russia itself. And the "senior comrade”, in the form of China, will be against the use of nuclear weapons. Chinese leaders will probably support Putin a little politically in the current situation, but not much more. The most likely scenario is the transition of the Putin regime to a passive and aggressive defense.
To sum up, the spring of the military-political conflict not only between Ukraine and Russia, but also between the West and Putin's Russia, is twisting even more, and a significant legal component has been added to this confrontation. Figuratively speaking, Putin has been driven into an international legal and political reservation. From this reservation, Putin can fight against Ukraine, he can spit poison (literally and figuratively), take various aggressive actions, and threaten us with nuclear weapons, but he will no longer be able to leave.
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