ICC Warrant Makes Putin’s World Smaller


President Vladimir Putin always relishes his global travels to underscore his image as one of the world’s helmsmen.

While the Kremlin is refuting the ICC’s war crimes charges against him, inside the Kremlin’s walls, another reality will emerge. Putin’s world is getting smaller and smaller.

At the G20 summit in Hamburg in 2017, he spent hours talking alone with former President Donald Trump, then the most powerful man in the world.

A year later, at the next G20 leaders’ summit in Buenos Aires, Putin gave Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman a high-five less than two months after Saudi Arabia accused journalist Jah Jamal Khashoggi is under suspicion for his brutal murder.

Steeped in international attention, he can pooh-pooh the world, or personally manipulate its leaders, if you will, or his stubborn, decades-long grip on power.

His love of the global limelight and his exploitation helped him at home, too, cementing his image as a tough, shirtless, bear-hunting protector of the Russians, thwarting an allegedly malicious NATO plot to pillage the country’s borders .

But that’s all over. Both Germany and Argentina are signatories to the Rome Statute, two of the 123 countries that would be obliged to extradite Putin to The Hague to stand trial as a war criminal if he shows up on their doorstep again.

The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin on Friday.

Putin now faces a dilemma should he show up in Delhi for this September’s G20 summit. India, like the US, has not joined the ICC, but what will Prime Minister Narendra Modi do?

Shortly after the ICC’s announcement, U.S. President Joe Biden was asked by reporters if “Putin should stand trial for war crimes” by replying that “he clearly committed war crimes,” suggesting Putin would not be in the U.S. It’s no surprise that it’s popular.

That leaves ambiguity about the type of legal snare that Putin will inadvertently find himself in in the future. Without careful planning, Putin could land in a country apparently not aligned with the ICC and not bound by the requirements of international law, he would be handed over to The Hague, but due to unseen international political pressure, or their own newfound The international desire for justice sparked legal proceedings to send him to The Hague.

Putin is unlikely to throw the dice over his fate to a foreign tribunal, so his world is even smaller than the countries supported by the ICC. So, no matter how the Kremlin spins, Putin’s ego takes a hit.

Of course, many ICC defendants are at large, and admittedly, none are as legendary as Putin. The only other president among the 15 ICC fugitives is Sudan’s former president, Omar al Bashir, who managed to evade justice both in and out of office for more than 13 years.

But international justice has far-reaching implications. Former Serbian president Slobodan Milosovic, who instigated the breakup of the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, eventually faced war crimes charges in The Hague in 2001 on a range of issues and died in prison a few years later Exhaustion.

He was removed from office under the constitution, never fled Belgrade, and never thought that the Belgrade judiciary would hand him over for international trial.

Some of his war crimes accomplices, the Bosnian Serb military commander General Ratko Mladic and his Serbian nationalist leader Radovan Karadzic, have both tried to evade justice.

Mladic was eventually found hiding out on a cousin’s farm near Belgrade; Karadzic was found in Belgrade, albeit shaved and disheveled, hiding under his new identity as a mysterious faith healer.

Both eventually faced international justice in The Hague, were convicted of war crimes and remain in prison.

The lesson for Putin is that you can run, but you cannot hide. Perhaps even more commendable, the lesson to be learned from Milosovich’s case is that unless you remain in power, today’s underling may become your jailer tomorrow.

Not only is Putin’s world smaller, but his back is against the wall. His picks, especially through the prism of his sometimes paranoid, are far uglier than they were last week.

He does have some friends he can lean on, though, at least for now. Chinese President Xi Jinping will offer Putin the perfect image in Moscow on Monday to restore his weakened status.

Others in Putin’s inner orbit will worry about the repercussions for them.

Whether they will face similar charges, whether they will be able to safely visit children scattered across Europe’s top schools and universities without fear of arrest, access their offshore assets, or even sunbathe safely in the UAE, Moscow’s elite have new Bolthole, or book a table at one of Istanbul’s fine dining restaurants by the Bosporus?

ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan seems clear that no one is off limits and “absolutely no one should feel that they can act and commit genocide or crimes against humanity or war crimes with impunity.”

The more potential defendants there are from the Kremlin and its protective embrace, the greater the potential fallout.

The court’s chief judge, Pitor Hofmanski, said he hoped Putin’s allegations would have a “deterrent effect” because the current mood in Russia appeared to be deliberately combative.

Putin’s reality and the limitations of his shrinking world are only just beginning. There is no turning back.

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