Staunton, March 9 – Vladimir Putin’s acknowledgement that he personally decided upon and conducted a special operation to seize Crimea “opens a unique and limited-time window of opportunities” for the West to bring real pressure on him, divide his regime and force Moscow to change course, according to Slava Rabinovich.
The Russian economist and blogger says that Putin’s admission of responsibility along with his efforts to hide the role of his regime in the murder of Boris Nemtsov should lead the West to recognize and declare that Putin is “an international criminal and political terrorist.”
If Western governments did so, Rabinovich argues, then Putin would be find himself on the list of those subject to arrest and dispatch to the international court, something that would not only limit his travel options but would also have a serious impact on the political pyramid in Moscow.
As the commentator says, this step would lead to “a legally and politically interesting collision” given that it is far from clear to anyone how anyone should act in a situation “where one is talking about a dictator who has established his unconstitutional dictatorship over one eighth of the earth’s surface and has in his possession nuclear arms.”
But Putin has opened the way for just such charges by his admission that the Annexation of Crimea was a special operation he ordered rather than a free expression of the will of the residents of that Ukrainian peninsula as he and his minions have insisted on a regular basis over the last year. Indeed, he has “called down fire on himself” by his latest statement.
Were Western governments to take this step, Rabinovich continues, the upper reaches of the Putin regime would divide ever more clearly “into two camps: those who cannot avoid responsibility” for what Putin ordered “under any circumstances and those who have a chance to deny their involvement” up to and including by organizing “a palace coup.”
These two groups, he suggests, could be called “the twin towers of the Kremlin,” and they would seem to be completely unequal in strength. Putin might appear to have the military in his corner, but it is a principle of international law that “military personnel are not required to obey the criminal orders of their commanders.”
Consequently, were Putin charged with war crimes, Rabinovich continues, “the two towers of the Kremlin” would come into serious conflict because both would be interested “in the literal sense of the word” in protecting their own skins.
He concludes with the following observation:
In the near term, though perhaps not in the long term, this could lead to a positive set of consequences because “one of the towers knows better than the other that politically and economically precisely now there is a window of opportunities” that may soon close if Putin moves Russia in the direction of “complete geopolitical and domestic economic chaos.”