President Putin says he’s not bluffing: He will use nuclear weapons. Indeed, his recklessness was already fully established. Activists who foresaw his response to Russia’s war failures have prevailed on Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping (perhaps the only people with sufficient power) to deter Putin. Both of them did try to moderate him at the recent meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
But Putin was undeterred. On September 21 (the “International Day of Peace”) he proclaimed willingness to annex four Ukrainian provinces to Russia and launched the “partial mobilization” of 300,000 citizens to defend the “territorial integrity” of Russia, including with nuclear weapons.
Now, dear peace worker, what response should we promote? Too long the world delayed adopting stronger measures to enforce international law, hoping or assuming that no ruler would be crazy enough to launch nuclear war. Now we have three feeble options:
a) Ask Ukraine and Russia to resume negotiations. (They won’t.)
b) Encourage internal Russian opposition to the war. Offer international support to soldiers who defect and new conscripts who escape. Alexey Navalny has named 6,000 Russian officials who are essential to the effective continuation of the war. Put international sanctions on them all until they replace Putin as leader with someone who will end the war.
c) Call upon the International Criminal Court to indict Putin as a war criminal for rejecting the ICJ’s order to stop the invasion. Then invoke the “Uniting for Peace” resolution of 1950 whereby whenever “the Security Council, because of a lack of unanimity among its five permanent members (P5), fails to act as required to maintain international security and peace, the General Assembly shall consider the matter immediately and may issue appropriate recommendations to UN members for collective measures, including the use of armed force when necessary, in order to maintain or restore international security and peace.”
An appropriate measure in this case would be to notify Russia that no indicted war criminal may head a member State and so Russia must remove Putin from office and install a leader who will obey international law.
“Option A” is not compatible with “Options B or C” but both B and C could be adopted. Which is more promising? Actually, neither — but probably “Option B” is more achievable now. But let’s make the UN Charter authorize Option C.