Ukraine War, April 29, 2022: Peggy Noonan on the real risks of nuclear war; Putin plans to go to G-20 in Jakarta–great arrest opportunity; First-hand report from the battle in the Donbas

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To see a list of previous articles, enter “Ukraine” in the Search Box on the upper right, on The Trenchant Observer web site, and you will see a list in chronological order.

Dispatches

1) Peggy Noonan, “Putin Really May Break the Nuclear Taboo in Ukraine; It seems unthinkable, but American leaders’ failure to think about it heightens the risk it will happen,” Wall Street Journal, April 28, 2022 (6:26 pm ET).

2) RFE/RL, “Indonesia Invites Zelenskiy To G20 Summit In November That Putin Plans To Attend,” RFE/RL (Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty), April 29, 2022:

3) María R. Sahuquillo (Prelesne, Ucrania) “Sangrienta, agotadora y prolongada: así avanza la batalla clave de Donbás; Las fuerzas rusas buscan embolsar a las tropas ucranias en el este en una contienda que se prevé larga,” El País, el 28 de abril 2022 (23:40, actualizade el 29 de abril a las 02:40 EDT);

ENGLISH
4) María R. Sahuquillo, “Bloody, exhausting and drawn-out: How the key battle in Donbas will play out; Russian forces are seeking to encircle Ukrainian troops in the east in a fight that is expected to become a determining phase in the war,” El País English Edition, April 29, 2022 (05:42 am EDT);

UPDATE

5) Le Monde avec AFP, “Le président d’Interpol visé par une information judiciaire pour ‘complicité de torture’; Le général Ahmed Naser Al-Raisi fait déjà l’objet d’une enquête préliminaire du Parquet national antiterroriste pour d’autres accusations de torture,” Le Monde, le 11 Mai 2022 (10h33, mis à jour à 13h46).

Commentary

Peggy Noonan on Putin and the real risks of nuclear war

Why would Vladimir Putin use tactical nuclear weapons? Why would he make such a madman move?

To change the story. To shock and destabilize his adversaries. To scare the people of North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries so they’ll force their leaders to back away. To remind the world—and Russians—that he does have military power. To avoid a massive and public military defeat. To win.

On the sharper tone in U.S. rhetoric, Noonan writes,

The U.S. at the same time has become rhetorically bolder. This month President Biden referred to Mr. Putin as a war criminal. In March Mr. Biden called for regime change; the White House walked it back. This week Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters the U.S. aim in Ukraine: “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree it can’t do the kinds of things it’s done in Ukraine.” The original American aim was to protect Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence. Has the U.S. strategy changed, or has its officials’ talk simply become looser? What larger strategic vision is the administration acting on?

Noonan sees changes in Putin’s personality:

So let me make an argument for my anxieties: For this man, Russia can’t lose to the West. Ukraine isn’t the Mideast, a side show; it is the main event. I read him as someone who will do anything not to lose.

In October he will turn 70, and whatever his physical and mental health his life is in its fourth act. I am dubious that he will accept the idea that the signal fact of its end will be his defeat by the West. He can’t, his psychology will not allow it.

It seems to me he has become more careless, operating with a different historical consciousness. He launched a world-historic military invasion that, whatever his geostrategic aims, was shambolic—fully aggressive and confident, yet not realistically thought through. His army wasn’t up to the task. It seemed thrown together, almost haphazard, certainly not professional.

No one since 1945, Noonan observes, has used nuclear weapons. “We are in the habit, no matter what we acknowledge as a hypothetical possibility, of thinking: It still won’t happen, history will proceed as it has in the past.”

“But maybe not,” she warns. “History is full of swerves, of impossibilities that become inevitabilities.”

Given these possibilities,

For the administration’s leaders this should be front of mind every day. They should return to the admirable terseness of the early days of the invasion. They should wake up every day thinking: What can we do to lower the odds?

As for the Aministration’s rhetoric, she advises, “Think more, talk less. And when you think, think dark.”

Putin to attend G-20 in Jakarta, Indonesian leader says

While at first glance the news that Vladimir Putin plans to attend the G-20 meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia is disconcerting, reflecting the utter failure of American diplomacy in the developing countries and its failure to push for Russia’s exclusion from the group, there may be a silver lining.

Putin’s travel to Jakarta could provide a magnificent chance to arrest him for the crime of aggression, crimes against humanity, and other war crimes.

The International Criminal Court, Ukraine, or another country could request a red-notice arrest warrant for Putin through INTERPOL. The U.S. would need to use all its muscle to ensure no one at INTERPOL blocks the issuance of the red-notice international arrest warrant.

This could pose challenges, as the current president of INTERPOL, United Arab Emirates’ major general Ahmed Naser al-Raisi, has himself been accused of torturing detainees, and the UAE notably has abstained on several U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

Nonetheless, the request for a “red notice” INTERPOL international arrest warrant for Putin should be made, and vigorously pursued.

Assuming the arrest warrant is issued, the U.S. would have to pull out all the stops, in conjunction withs its allies, to pressure the Indonesian government of Joko Widodo to execute the arrest warrant while Putin is in Indonesia.

The CIA and other intelligence agencies from the “Big 5”, preferably with Widodo’s consent, might be able to choreograph the capture of Putin and his removal to a secure location for holding, pending his transfer to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, or to Ukraine for trial there once the situation has stabilized.

Putin could also be tried in any country with universal jurisdiction under its laws to try someone for “international crimes”, such as the crime of aggression, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of genocide.

Consequently, once arrested, there are a number of countries in which Putin might be tried.

At trial, would Putin have a valid defense that he is immune from prosecution because he is a head of state?

While earlier customary international law recognized head of state immunity, the situation has changed since the creation of the International Criminal Court. The Court’s Appeals Chamber held in 2019 that no such immunity exists.

See Dapo Akande, “ICC Appeals Chamber Holds that Heads of State Have No Immunity Under Customary International Law Before International Tribunals,” EJIL Talk!, May 6, 2019.

While from the point of view of international law, the kidnapping by Israeli agents of Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires and his removal to Israel in 1960, and his subsequent trial in Israel in 1961, is rather dubious, it does represent a certain kind of precedent.

Countries reacting to such a breach of international law would have to determine whether it was somehow justified in the extraordinary case of a war criminal who was trying to overthrow the U.N. Charter, international law itself, and the entire international legal order, through the illegal use of force and the crimes for which he would be tried.

In any event, American diplomats should begin the necessary work to ensure the successful arrest of Putin as soon as possible,

If they run unto obstacles, they should at least exercise strong pressure–using the economic and other tools at the disposition of the United States–to secure the expulsion of Russia from the Group of 20.

Outstanding reports from the front lines

After a month’s absence, María R. Sahuquillo returns to the front lines and reports from the Donbas, in eastern Ukraine where Russia is now concentrating its war effort.

Sahuquillo is one of the best journalists reporting on the war from inside Ukraine. She combines personal stories and details about what it is like to be caught up in the war with a keen sense of the larger picture and what is going on strategically.

Her reports combine the human with the strategic in a compelling narrative.

The Trenchant Observer

***

See also,

Only force can stop Putin

“Ukraine War, April 5, 2022 (II): Force must be used to stop Putin,” The Trenchant Observer,

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.

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