Perspectives: US Says Russia Committed War Crimes

Headline Roundup March 23rd, 2022

The U.S. has formally declared that Russia has committed war crimes during the invasion of Ukraine. Is the label justified?

President Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin a war criminal last week, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that the U.S. "assesses that members of Russia's forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine." Though Russia says its troops aren't attacking civilians, reports across the spectrum have highlighted apparent Russian strikes on civilian areas across Ukraine, including hospitals and places of shelter. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) rules on disputes between nations, and Ukraine has begun a case against Russia. But as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, which enforces ICJ cases, Russia could veto any proposal to sanction it.

The typical left-right divide wasn't as apparent in perspectives on Putin's "war criminal" status. Some on both sides agreed with the war criminal designation; others said the label should only be used after Putin is convicted, which many framed as unlikely since neither Russia nor Ukraine are parties to the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC). Others on both sides argued that regardless of Putin's crimes, the U.S. was hypocritical to use the label against him when it has a history of killing civilians in military operations in the Middle East and elsewhere. Some highlighted calls to establish a one-off tribunal to prosecute Putin, similar to the post-WWII Nuremburg Trials that prosecuted German leaders who supported the Nazi dictatorship.

From the Left

The branding of Vladimir Putin as a war criminal by Joe Biden, who lobbied for the Iraq war and staunchly supported the 20 years of carnage in the Middle East, is one more example of the hypocritical moral posturing sweeping across the United States. It is unclear how anyone would try Putin for war crimes since Russia, like the United States, does not recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. But justice is not the point. Politicians like Biden, who do not accept responsibility for our well-documented...

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From the Center

US President Joe Biden has called Vladimir Putin a "war criminal" - when discussing the conflict in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson have previously both accused Russia of carrying out war crimes.

What is a war crime?

It may not seem like it, but "even war has rules", as the International Committee of the Red Cross puts it.

These are contained in treaties called the Geneva Conventions and a string of other international laws and agreements.

Civilians cannot be deliberately attacked - nor can the infrastructure that...

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From the Right

“What we have seen already from Vladimir Putin’s regime in the use of the munitions that they have already been dropping on innocent civilians, in my view, already fully qualifies as a war crime,” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Wednesday.

A prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, said he was investigating possible war crimes, examining missile strikes on residential buildings in Kharkiv and other cities.

President Biden said “it’s clear” that Russian forces are targeting civilians. He stopped short of accusing Putin of war crimes, but there’s certainly a case...

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