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Holding Putin accountable … or not


WORLD Radio - Holding Putin accountable … or not

The ICC issues an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin while Xi Jinping visits Moscow

Minister of Justice of Ukraine, Denys Maliuska, left, speaks, during the Justice Ministers' conference, at Lancaster House, in London, Monday, March 20, 2023, in support of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the investigation into the situation in Ukraine. AP Photo/Alastair Grant

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Thursday, the 23rd of March, 2023.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. First up, holding Russia accountable, or not.

One year ago in February, Russian President Vladimir Putin mobilized an invasion of Ukraine that he apparently believed would be over within weeks. As it dragged on into months, Putin’s military committed inhumane attacks…from bombing civilian areas to mass executions. In other words, Putin’s military now has quite the rap sheet. But one action in particular has drawn international condemnation.

KARIM KHAN: The judges found that we had established reasonable grounds to believe that President Putin and Madame Laveau verbal over the commissioner for Children had committed war crimes regarding the deportation and unlawful transfer of children out of Ukraine and into Russian Federation.

REICHARD: The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Kahn, heard there on CNN yesterday. Last Friday, the ICC issued warrants for the arrest of the Russian Commissioner for Children’s Rights, and Vladimir Putin himself.

BROWN: Meanwhile, one of Russia’s allies appears to be coming off the sidelines. On Monday, President Xi Jingping of China arrived in Moscow for talks with Vladimir Putin, and Xi has indicated that he’ll also meet with Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy to work out negotiations for a cease-fire. What does all of this mean for the future of the war and China’s role on the world stage?

REICHARD: Well, joining us now is Jill Nelson. She’s a correspondent for WORLD who covers foreign affairs.

Jill, thanks for joining us.

NELSON: Thanks, Mary. Good to be with you.

REICHARD: Well Jill, what does the arrest warrant actually accomplish? Does the ICC have teeth to enforce its indictment of Putin?

NELSON: While the ICC has no military or police of its own, so it does rely on local governments to arrest suspects and bring them to trial in The Hague. And that doesn't really happen that often. And if it does, it's typically a long process. So short of the collapse of Putin's regime, which is possible, but not likely anytime soon, you know, there's a pretty small chance that he would be hauled off to the Hague. But nonetheless, this is still bad press. I mean, it's essentially an official excommunication from the global community. So going forward, any global leader who's willing to host Putin will be putting their country in the position of an outcast as well.

REICHARD: How does Xi's current posture towards the Russia/Ukraine conflict compare with his stance toward the US?

NELSON: Well, it's, it's dramatically different. I mean, if you even just look at some of the language Xi has called Putin, his dear friend—Biden in the past has called Putin a war criminal since this war started, and he’s labelled the atrocities genocide. And Xi, of course, has not called for a withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory, whereas the US has. And then if you look at this 12-point peace plan, it essentially blames the US and NATO for the war, not Russia, and mimics the rhetoric of the Kremlin. It does not condemn the invasion. I mean, it does call for a ceasefire, but that would only give Moscow time to resupply. And then if you look at economically the difference between the two postures, China's created an economic partnership with Russia and has essentially helped the Kremlin get around Western backed sanctions by exporting military goods that Russia needs to kind of resupply troops.

REICHARD: What do China and Russia hope to accomplish with this summit?

NELSON: You know, I think essentially, China wants Russia on its side geopolitically, on issues like Taiwan, on its growing anti-American and anti-Western stance. I mean, Russia in the past has been somewhat non-committal. It's done whatever was advantageous to the country in the moment. For example, Moscow sold weapons to China, but also China's adversary India. And now the tables have turned dramatically, and Putin needs China, and Russia has become significantly weaker economically due to sanctions militarily due to the cost of this war. And it needs the backing of a global power, and Xi, and Xi Jinping has stepped in at exactly the right time, and seems to be attempting to cement this relationship.

REICHARD: If Xi Jinping were to negotiate a cease-fire in Ukraine, what would that do to China's global influence? How would it impact the US's global influence?

NELSON: Well, of course, it's China's aim to present itself as the new regional and global power broker. And if China is successful, that could significantly impact which direction some countries go in the geopolitical landscape. So those countries kind of riding the fence. I mean, I'm thinking of like Erdogan’s Turkey that has welcomed, you know, wealthy oligarchs into its country, Russian oligarchs, but at the same time, has sent weapons to Ukraine, that could be more inclined to drift into China's orbit and away from the United States and the West. But I mean, that is a big IF. I mean, Ukraine has reiterated that any peace plan must start with a Russian exit from its sovereign territory. And you know that the peace plan also has talked about respect for the sovereignty of all nations. So the question is, what is China's definition of sovereignty? I don't know that it has respected the sovereignty of its own neighbors.

REICHARD: What could the US be doing to offset Chinese influence?

NELSON: Well, I mean, it's, again, it’s a question of kind of the geopolitical landscape. And I think, you know, looking at those countries that kind of hang in the balance, like Turkey, beginning to reach out to them, and, you know, create relationships with countries like Turkey would probably be a good start. And I think, you know, continuing to supply Ukraine with what it needs with this military aid so that it can continue to fight this war. I think one thing that we forget is that, you know, this is the largest This is the first time war has hit the European continent since World War Two. So it is definitely in our strategic interest to see to keep in mind the security factor of Europe.

REICHARD: Is there anything else the listener should know about what’s at stake in the outcome of Xi’s meeting with Putin?

NELSON: Well, I think one thing that China, of course, always has in the back of its mind is the conflict with Taiwan. And this has been something that the United States has been keeping an eye on for quite some time, is China's influence in the South China Sea, and its attempt to exert its power over its neighbors. So the outcome of what happens here in Ukraine can significantly impact how China moves forward in relations with Taiwan. And, you know, I think that's something that the United States can needs to continue to send a strong message about. And our support of Ukraine and our ability to continue to send military aid to Ukraine will also be sending a strong message to China.

REICHARD: Jill Nelson is a WORLD Correspondent on the foreign affairs beat. Jill, thanks so much.

NELSON: Thank you, Mary.

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