Symbolic punishments usually leave me cold, but giving the survivors in Bucha and other Ukrainian towns a big stage on which to tell the world what they saw is a good idea. Putin can’t be shamed, especially in absentia, but reminding westerners how the Russians do business will be a shot in the arm to resolve in keeping economic pressure on Moscow.
Strong “I told you so” energy from the president here, by the way:
“You saw what happened in Bucha. He is a war criminal.”
Biden says Putin should be held accountable for alleged war crimes in Ukraine as photos appear to show civilians in mass graves pic.twitter.com/5n3LJQO2fy
— Bloomberg Quicktake (@Quicktake) April 4, 2022
Interestingly, he demurred when asked if Russia’s behavior rises to the level of genocide. It’s not like Joe to show rhetorical restraint, especially lately.
Either way, evidence is already being gathered:
I spoke with President @ZelenskyyUa about the atrocious murder of civilians in Bucha and elsewhere in Ukraine.
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) April 4, 2022
A war-crimes trial isn’t the only symbolic penalty under discussion. The U.S. is also moving towards a vote of the UN General Assembly on expelling Russia from the organization’s most embarrassing panel, the Human Rights Council. The HRC routinely includes gross human-rights abusers as members — China is one — and exists mainly as a platform for Israel’s enemies to formally condemn it for doing this or that. It’s an absurdity. But maybe that’s the point: You need to be truly depraved in your international conduct to be unfit for the Human Rights Council.
Speaking in Bucharest on Monday, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said: “Russia’s participation on the Human Rights Council is a farce.
“And it is wrong, which is why we believe it is time the UN General Assembly vote to remove them.”…
“My message to those 140 countries who have courageously stood together is: the images out of Bucha and devastation across Ukraine require us to now match our words with action,” Thomas-Greenfield, visiting Romania to see how it is coping with an influx of Ukraine refugees, told reporters.
Expulsion would require a two-thirds vote of the 193-nation body. Good luck to Thomas-Greenfield on having to explain in the aftermath why Russia’s behavior in Bucha is grounds for disqualification while China’s behavior in Xinjiang is not.
So much for the symbolic punishments. The meaningful punishment being discussed is what Biden mentions towards the end of the clip above, new sanctions. But U.S. sanctions aren’t the big ones in this case; the big ones would be EU countries agreeing to pull the plug on Russian energy imports. That would require massive sacrifice, as the EU currently gets nearly 40 percent of its natural gas from Russia. Still, many European countries are on board — possibly even the economic powerhouse among them, Germany. Maybe?
In a statement to reporters in Berlin on Sunday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany and its allies will agree “further measures” against Russia in coming days, without providing details.
“Putin and his supporters will feel the effects and we will continue to make weapons available to Ukraine so it can defend itself against the Russian invasion,” Scholz said. He didn’t mention the Russian imports of gas, oil and coal that Germany heavily relies on…
Pressed on whether Bucha will lead the government to drop its resistance to a full Russian energy embargo, Economy Minister Robert Habeck reiterated that Germany is trying to reduce its dependence as quickly as possible and said it’s making “surprisingly swift progress.”
Germany’s neighbors are unimpressed. “You can’t constantly support a great power like Russia with billions in payments from the purchase of energy,” said Poland’s deputy prime minister to a German publication. “This is inadmissible from a political and moral point of view. This must come to an end, and Germany should finally take a clear stance on this.”
There’s always nuclear. The Brits are headed that way, according to a new report. Berlin should have a rethink on closing down its remaining nuclear plants, a decision that was foolish before the war and seems insane now.
Here’s Zelensky speaking today in Bucha and using the evidence of atrocities there towards an interesting end. The more territory Ukraine regains from the Russian army, he says, the more evidence of war crimes will be exposed. And the more evidence of war crimes is exposed, the harder it’s going to be to negotiate with Russia and to convince Ukrainians to accept a peace deal. So if there’s going to be a deal, the Russians should act soon before the discovery of other massacres makes peace impossible. Although, judging by Russian media, that may be what Putin and the Kremlin have in mind.
"There is real genocide – what you have seen here today"
Visiting Bucha, where more evidence of civilian killings has emerged, Ukraine's President Zelensky says bodies have been found in cellars, as well as the streetshttps://t.co/VYQ0OGfYuk pic.twitter.com/c1cu9iisVa
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) April 4, 2022