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Remembering Nuremberg: Legal Obligations To Remove And Prosecute Vladimir Putin

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Nullum crimen sine poena, “No crime without a punishment”[1]

Though US President Joseph Biden was initially criticized for interfering in Russia’s “sovereign jurisdiction,”[2] no allegation of “intervention” could have been more sorely mistaken. In this matter, the Nuremberg Principles are binding,[3] and are founded upon the inviolable notion that crimes of war, crimes against peace and crimes against humanity[4] should never again be allowed to proceed without tangible opposition or punishment. More precisely, because the world legal order[5] remains fundamentally “Westphalian” or anarchic,[6] each and every individual state has commensurate enforcement obligations, especially the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

It is more than a little ironic that the brutalizing state in current aggressions against Ukraine is itself one such permanent member.[7]

For legal scholars and pertinent policy makers, there are various clarifying details. Prima facie, regarding current Russian crimes against Ukraine, authoritative international law has long  been incorporated into US law.[8] Though it is ordinarily correct under international law that one sovereign’s open call for the removal of another represents an impermissible intervention, that expectation must be reversed whenever the called-for departure is based on “crimes against humanity” and/or related Nuremberg-category crimes.[9] Significantly, such egregious crimes are punishable even in the absence of a specific treaty or relevant “positive law.”[10]

Even in our Realpolitik[11] system of international law – the corrosive global system of “balance” brought into being at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 – a core presumption of world community and solidarity trumps all normal prerogatives of national sovereignty. Now, especially after accepting strong reinforcements by the post-World War II Nuremberg Judgment and principles, states maintain not only the right but also the obligation to intervene in other states on behalf of basic (“peremptory”[12]) human rights. Among other obligations, and without any exception, all states are expected to categorically reject UN Charter claims to “domestic jurisdiction” in circumstances wherein major crimes are being committed during an unjust war.[13]

Correct legal language should stipulate that the harms Russia is inflicting upon Ukraine (crimes that include the establishment of “filtration camps” and mobile crematory units) warrant “international concern.” Here, every state member of the “global community” maintains both the right and obligation to stand against the Russian aggressor and with the Ukrainian victim. Scholars and policy-makers could find ample support for this imperative not merely in “common sense” jurisprudence, but in the classical legal writings of Cicero, Hugo Grotius, Samuel Pufendorf and Emmerich de Vattel. Though such names will appear arcane or esoteric to most readers and diplomats, they were substantially well known to Founding Fathers of the United States.

First transmitted into US law by William Blackstone’s eighteenth century Commentaries on the Laws of England[14] – learned observations that represent the recognizable beginnings of current United States law – these jurists were imbued with the philosophy of “natural law.”[15] It is a philosophy that continues to display variously practical and indispensable legal authority.

There is more. The natural law origins of the United States have never been seriously challenged or in any way abrogated. Such efforts would have been illogical ipso facto. These origins now call for the active removal of a Russian sovereign aggressor who is making a daily mockery of basic human rights in the victimized state. Scholars and policy makers need look no further than Book 2 of Emmerich de Vattel’s encyclopedic “The Law of Nations” (1758): Says Vattel: “If there should ever be found a restless and unprincipled nation, every ready to do harm to others, to thwart their purposes and to stir up civil strife among their citizens, there is no doubt that all other states would have the right to unite together to subdue such a nation, to discipline it, and even to disable it from doing further harm.”

Ironically, US President Joe Biden’s comments on 26 March 2022 concerning Vladimir Putin’s continuance in office actually fell short of his established rights under international and US law. If there should remain any sincere doubters of this shortfall, they need only recall the explicit language of the UN’s Statute of the International Court of Justice at Article 38, which describes as primary source of international law “the general principles of law accepted by civilized nations.”

               Incontestably, the Constitution of the United States is based upon variously core foundations of Natural Law, “self-evident” principles that are perpetually binding upon all persons and all sovereigns. While less explicit and harder to identify than codified or “positive” law, these principles are in no way inferior to statute or treaty. Accordingly, they ought never be wittingly minimized or disregarded.[16]

               There is more. The Reason-based principles of Natural Law represent more than quaint artifacts of America’s jurisprudential past. As the nation’s current political leaders consider and re-consider a broad variety of critical matters –  e.g., US foreign and domestic policy on human rights; US domestic policies on civil rights; issues of nuclear war avoidance; [17]etc. – there are times when the written law could once again be manipulated for politically self-serving purposes. An example of this not-unprecedented problem would be reactionary political arguments for selective infringements or curtailments of civil rights, arguments that often take unsupportable refuge in the Second Amendment. As even the US Constitution is subject to almost any variety of unreasonable interpretations, justice can never be served by this document ipso facto. In essence, no law-based US codifications, no matter how well intentioned or intelligently conceived, could ever claim self-evident meanings.

               Ultimately, the US Constitution, in the same fashion as any other authoritative codification of national or international law, must depend upon the method and human spirit by which it is consulted or invoked. In those plausibly foreseeable circumstances where adversarial interpretations would hinge less upon any peremptory expectations of order and justice than on variously antecedent preferences and prejudices (e.g., questions of gun control and public order), codified law could be suitably augmented by certain apt considerations of Natural Law. To be sure, per Blackstone, there would always be far-ranging differences on what actually constitutes “the eternal, immutable laws of good and evil,” but Natural Law should still remain a final template of correct legal judgment.

               There remains one final observation about relevant international law, a system of norms and procedures that is always a binding part of United States law. During the Trump years, American foreign policy routinely turned a selectively blind eye to massive human rights violations in other countries, including even genocide and genocide-like crimes. In these unhidden cases, codifications of US law, including specific provisions of the US Constitution, were cynically reinterpreted to support presumptive  geopolitical interests.[18]

               It was hardly “interventionary” or  even inappropriate for Joseph Biden to declare that Russian president Putin “cannot remain in power.”[19] Ultimately, pursuant to the authoritative Nuremberg Principles and various antecedent norms, even senior Russian military officers who carried out Putin’s illegal orders to target Ukrainian civilians and carry out multiple crimes of war, crimes against peace and crimes against humanity should be apprehended and prosecuted. As a practical matter, casting any wider net of criminal containment and punishment will prove exceedingly difficult to operationalize, but openly identifying some high-level examples should at least be attempted.

               With respect to the plea of superior orders,[20]  the classical writers on inter­national law rejected that plea as a proper defense against any charge of war crimes. Even the German Code of Military Law operative during World War II provided that a soldier must execute all orders undeterred by the fear of legal consequences, but added that this would not excuse him in such cases where he must have known with certainty that the order was illegal. This view was upheld in a landmark decision of the German Supreme Court in Leipzig in 1921.[21] According to the Court, a subordinate who obeyed the order of a superior officer was liable to punishment if it were known to him that such an order involved a contravention of international law.

               The defense of “superior orders” was also rejected at the Einsatzgruppen Trial undertaken by an American military tribunal. According to the tribunal: “The obedience of a soldier is not the obedience of an automaton. A soldier is a reasoning agent. It is a fallacy of widespread consumption that a soldier is required to do everything his superior officers order him to do. The subor­dinate is bound only to obey the lawful orders of his superior.”[22]

The overriding obligation to remove and prosecute Vladimir Putin is linked to another peremptory obligation under international law – the obligation of national self-defense, of “staying alive” as a state. The first stipulated obligation stems in part from the second. According to Emmerich de Vattel’s classic 1758 work on The Law of Nations, a text that influenced Blackstone, Jefferson and other conceptual founders of US law, “The right to punish injustice is derived from the right of self-protection.” The peremptory right of self-defense in international law is itself drawn from Natural Law,[23] which can never be subordinated to any “man-made” international agreements or any extra-legal considerations of power politics.

After the multiple crimes of state committed by Nazi Germany during World War II, international law made certain to create certain guiding principles to prevent and punish future crimes. Taking the lead in this heroic effort, the United States has since been closely associated with fashioning the derivative Nuremberg Principles, formal norms and procedures intended to thwart any repeat of Nazi-era crimes of war, crimes against peace and crimes against humanity. Today, faced once again with such state-inflicted barbarisms[24] – this time, Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine – American leaders should stand firmly by what was codified at Nuremberg. As a beginning, there must be a greater awareness that US President Joe Biden’s plea for removing Vladimir Putin from power represented not an intervention, but a preliminary act of global law-enforcement.


[1]Stemming from three separate passages of the Jewish Torah (in their sequence of probable antiquity, they are Exod. 21:22-25; Deut. 19: 19-21; and Lev. 24: 17-21), the Lex Talionis or “law of exact retaliation” was integral to the Nuremberg Trial and its more specialized successor tribunals. In 1946, when the Special International Military Tribunal justified a portion of its sentencing on long-standing arguments for retributive justice, it reaffirmed this binding principle. The IMT’s exact words were: “Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefore, and liable to punishment.”

[2] Said the US President on March 26, 2022: “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”

[3] See: https://nurembergprinciples.com/

[4] For definition of crimes against humanity, See AGREEMENT FOR THE PROSECUTION AND PUNISHMENT OF THE MAJOR WAR CRIMINALS OF THE EUROPEAN AXIS POWERS AND CHARTER OF THE INTERNATIONAL MILITARY TRIBUNAL.  Done at London, August 8, 1945.  Entered into force, August 8, 1945.  For the United States, Sept. 10, 1945.  59 Stat. 1544, 82 U.N.T.S. 279.  The principles of international law recognized by the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and the judgment of the Tribunal were affirmed by the U.N. General Assembly as AFFIRMATION OF THE PRINCIPLES OF INTERNATIONAL LAW RECOGNIZED BY THE CHARTER OF THE NUREMBERG TRIBUNAL.  Adopted by the U.N. General Assembly, Dec. 11, 1946.  U.N.G.A. Res. 95 (I), U.N. Doc. A/236 (1946), at 1144.  This AFFIRMATION OF THE PRINCIPLES OF INTERNATIONAL LAW RECOGNIZED BY THE CHARTER OF THE NUREMBERG TRIBUNAL (1946) was followed by General Assembly Resolution 177 (II), adopted November 21, 1947, directing the U.N. International Law Commission to “(a) Formulate the principles of international law recognized in the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and in the judgment of the Tribunal, and (b) Prepare a draft code of offenses against the peace and security of mankind….” (See U.N. Doc. A/519, p. 112).  The principles formulated are known as the PRINCIPLES OF INTERNATIONAL LAW RECOGNIZED IN THE CHARTER AND JUDGMENT OF THE NUREMBERG TRIBUNAL.  Report of the International Law Commission, 2nd session, 1950, U.N. G.A.O.R. 5th session, Supp. No. 12, A/1316, p. 11.

[5] This term has its modern origins in programs established at the Yale Law School and Princeton University Department of Politics back in the late 1960s. The present author, Louis Rene Beres, was an original member of the Princeton-based World Order Models Project, or “WOMP.”

[6] This anarchic system dates back specifically to the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. See: Treaty of Peace of Munster, Oct. 1648, 1 Consol. T.S. 271; and Treaty of Peace of Osnabruck, Oct. 1648, 1 Consol. T.S. 119, Together, these two treaties comprise the Peace of Westphalia.

[7] Similarly, ironic in an historic sense is that Germany is now calling for international tribunals to investigate and prosecute Russian war crimes against Ukraine. See: https://news.yahoo.com/german-president-calls-war-crimes-085919124.html?fr=sycsrp_catchall

[8] In words used by the U.S. Supreme Court in The Paquete Habana (1900), “International law is part of our law, and must be ascertained by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction, as often as questions of right depending upon it are duly presented for their determination.  For this purpose, where there is no treaty, and no controlling executive or legislative act or judicial decision, resort must be had to the customs and usages of civilized nations.”  See The Paquete Habana, 175 U.S. 677, 678-79 (1900).  See also:  The Lola, 175 U.S. 677 (1900); Tel-Oren v. Libyan Arab Republic, 726 F. 2d 774, 781, 788 (D.C. Cir. 1984) (per curiam) (Edwards, J. concurring) (dismissing the action, but making several references to domestic jurisdiction over extraterritorial offenses), cert. denied, 470 U.S. 1003 (1985) (“concept of extraordinary judicial jurisdiction over acts in violation of significant international standards…embodied in the principle of `universal violations of international law.'”).

[9] Unlike crimes against humanity, which must be committed “before or during a war” the crime of genocide can be committed “in time of war or time of peace.” Moreover, an obligation at The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948), a major international treaty to which the US is a party, obliges signatories not only to steer clear of committing genocide themselves, but also to oppose and prevent genocidal behavior by other states. At Article III of the Convention, this unequivocal obligation extends to grave acts involving “conspiracy to commit genocide,” “attempt to commit genocide,” and “complicity in genocide.” These immutably core expectations are known in law as “peremptory” or “jus cogens” rules –  that is, obligations that permit “no derogation.” They can be discovered as well in various corollary and complementary expressions of authoritative international law, both customary and codified. International law underscores the particular derogations involved when former US president Donald Trump stood openly with Vladimir Putin’s multiple crimes of war, crimes against peace (aggression) and crimes against humanity in Syria and Ukraine.

[10] In his opening statement to the International Military Tribunal, US Chief Prosecutor Justice Robert Jackson commented: “The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant and so devastating that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored because it cannot survive their being repeated.”

[11]Throughout history, Realpolitik has been associated with personal immortality. In his posthumously published lecture on Politics (1896), German historian Heinrich von Treitschke observed: “Individual man sees in his own country the realization of his earthly immortality.” Earlier, German philosopher Georg Friedrich Hegel opined, in his Philosophy of Right (1820), that the state represents “the march of God in the world.” The “deification” of Realpolitik, a transformation from mere principle of action to a sacred end in itself, drew its originating strength from the doctrine of sovereignty advanced in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Initially conceived as a principle of internal order, this doctrine underwent a specific metamorphosis, whence it became the formal or justifying rationale for international anarchy –  that is, for the global “state of nature.” First established by Jean Bodin as a juristic concept in De Republica (1576), sovereignty came to be regarded as a power absolute and above the law. Understood in terms of modern international relations, this doctrine encouraged the notion that states lie above and beyond any form of legal regulation in their interactions with each other.

[12] In the language of Article 53 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969: “A peremptory norm of general international law….is a norm accepted and recognized by the international community of States as a whole, as a norm from which no derogation is permitted, and which can be modified only by a subsequent norm of general international law having the same character.”

[13] Inter alia, the barbarous Russian war represents a crime of aggression. See: Resolution on the Definition of Aggression, adopted by the UN General Assembly, Dec. 14, 1974. U.N.G.A. Res. 3314 (XXIX), 29 UN GAOR, Supp. (No. 31), 142, UN Doc A/9631 (1975) reprinted in 13 I.L.M., 710 (1974).  The UN Charter is a treaty to which the United States and Russian Federation are both parties.  Under the US Constitution, Article VI (the “Supremacy Clause”) defines all properly ratified treaties as the “supreme law of the land.”

[14] The first volume of Blackstone’s Commentaries appeared in 1765, the fourth in 1769. An American edition of the full work was printed in Philadelphia in 1771-72

[15] See, by this writer, Louis René Beres: https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2021/12/louis-rene-beres-natural-law-us-constitution/

[16] The idea of Natural Law/Higher Law figured with great importance at the post-world War II Nuremberg Trials (less so at the later Tokyo Trial). In his opening statement to the International Military Tribunal, US Chief Prosecutor Justice Robert Jackson commented: “The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant and so devastating that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored because it cannot survive their being repeated.”

[17] For early accounts by this author of nuclear war risks and effects, see: Louis René Beres, Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Louis René Beres, Mimicking Sisyphus: America’s Countervailing Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1983); Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: U.S. Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1984); and Louis René Beres, Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1986). Most recently, by Professor Beres, see: Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (New York, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd ed. 2018). https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy

[18] A pertinent norm here is the anti-genocide obligation binding upon individual nation states, a universal obligation now incorporated into authoritative international law. The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948), a major international treaty to which the US is a party, obliges signatories not only to steer clear of committing genocide themselves, but also to oppose and prevent genocidal behavior by all other states. At Article III of the Convention, this unequivocal obligation extends to grave acts involving “conspiracy to commit genocide,” “attempt to commit genocide,” and “complicity in genocide.” These immutably core expectations are known in law as “peremptory” or “jus cogens” rules –  that is, obligations that permit “no derogation.” They can be discovered as well in various corollary and complementary expressions of authoritative international law, both customary and codified. International law underscores the particular derogations involved when a US president stood openly and silently with Vladimir Putin’s multiple crimes of war, crimes against peace (aggression) and crimes against humanity (in both Syria and Ukraine).

[19]Following Nuremberg, responsibility of leaders for pertinent crimes is never limited by official position or requirement of direct personal actions.  On the principle of command responsibility, or respondeat superior, see: In re Yamashita, 327 U.S. 1 (1945); The High Command Case (The Trial of Wilhelm von Leeb) 12 LAW REPORTS OF TRIALS OF WAR CRIMINALS 1, 71 (United Nations War Crimes Commission Comp. 1949); see: Parks, COMMAND RESPONSIBILITY FOR WAR CRIMES, 62 MIL.L.REV. 1 (1973); O’Brien, THE LAW OF WAR, COMMAND RESPONSIBILITY AND VIETNAM, 60 GEO.L.J. 605 (1972); U.S. DEPT OF THE ARMY, ARMY SUBJECT SCHEDULE No. 27 – 1 (Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Hague Convention No. IV of 1907) 10 (1970).  The direct individual responsibility of leaders for aggression, genocide and genocide-like crimes is unambiguous in view of the London Agreement, which denies defendants the protection of the Act of State defense.  See AGREEMENT FOR THE PROSECUTION AND PUNISHMENT OF THE MAJOR WAR CRIMINALS OF THE EUROPEAN AXIS, Aug. 8, 1945, 59 Strat.  1544, E.A.S.  No. 472, 82 U.N.T.S.  279, Art. 7.  Under traditional international law, violations were the responsibility of the state, as a corporate actor, and not of the individual human decision-makers in government and in the military.

[20] The principle has been well-established that orders pursuant to municipal law are no defense to violations of international law.  See: Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, Art. 27, U.N. Conference on Law of Treaties, Doc. A/CONF.  39/27, May 23, 1969, reprinted in 8 I.L.M.  679 (1969); Free Zones of Upper Savoy and the District of Gex (Fr. v. Switz.), 1932, P.C.I.J. (ser. A/B), No. 46, at 167; Treatment of Polish Nationals in Danzig (parties abbreviated), 1932 P.C.I.J. (ser. A/B), No. 46, at 24; see also:  RESTATEMENT (second) OF THE FOREIGN RELATIONS LAW OF THE UNITED STATES.  Secs. 3.2 (collected in Legal Advisor), U.S. Dept. of State, Memorandum on the Application of International Law to Iranian Exchange Regulations (Feb. 15, 1984), reprinted in 130 Cong. Rec. S. 1679, 1682 (1984).

 [21]See Llandovery Castle case, cited by T. Taylor, Nuremberg and Vietnam, An American Tragedy, 24 (1970).

 [22]Cited by T. Taylor, supra note 17, at 51.

[23] See by this writer, Louis René Beres: https://elibrary.law.psu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1297&context=psilr

[24] This brings to mind the closing query of Agamemnon in The Oresteia by Aeschylus: “Where will it end? When will it all be lulled back into sleep, and cease, the bloody hatreds, the destruction”?

LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Emeritus Professor of International Law at Purdue. His twelfth and most recent book is Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel's Nuclear Strategy (2016) (2nd ed., 2018) https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy Some of his principal strategic writings have appeared in Harvard National Security Journal (Harvard Law School); International Security (Harvard University); Yale Global Online (Yale University); Oxford University Press (Oxford University); Oxford Yearbook of International Law (Oxford University Press); Parameters: Journal of the US Army War College (Pentagon); Special Warfare (Pentagon); Modern War Institute (Pentagon); The War Room (Pentagon); World Politics (Princeton); INSS (The Institute for National Security Studies)(Tel Aviv); Israel Defense (Tel Aviv); BESA Perspectives (Israel); International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence; The Atlantic; The New York Times and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

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International Law

The Unabashed Irony of the UNSC Reforms

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The war in Ukraine has prompted multiple factors to breach the historical course. Oil prices have flickered near record highs, commodity valuations are through the roof, and global inflation is untenable. A robust western response to the Russian invasion is a rare display of western concord, not seen since the end of World War II. The waning neutrality of Finland and Sweden is the recent chapter in this NATO vs Russia saga. Nevertheless, conflicts as such are nothing new to global diplomacy. A recap of the yesteryears enlists multiple examples of Russian brutality – from Georgia to Chechnya to Ukraine to Syria. However, the dialled-up reaction to the invasion today is somewhat eccentric; divergent from the traditional path of diplomacy and instead focused on the economic (and political) derailment. Tough sanctions were already biting hard, pushing Russia on the verge of an international default – the first in decades. Adding weight to injury, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) convened earlier to reform the decades-old system of veto of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

The consensus vote now dictates a supplementary meeting to defend any vetos cast in the Council. Since its inception, five permanent members of the Security Council – the US, UK, France, Russia, and China – can cast a veto to block any resolution presented in the Council. Now, the General Assembly must meet within ten days of any veto cast in the Security Council to demand an explanation from the veto casting member. In theory, the reform is intended to ask for an explanation from the big five regarding their regular abuse of veto power. However, it hardly curbs the power of the big five when it comes to utter disregard for international law or advancing barbaric allies. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has kickstarted this odd trail towards accountability in the Security Council. Curiously, Russia would not be in the hot seat much longer. The United States, on the other hand, has a long-winded history of power abuse.

While the veto of the Russian envoy has incensed the western bloc, the US has consistently used its veto to guard allies from accountability for their inhuman conduct. In 1977, the US blocked sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa. An authoritarian government that programmed actual death squads to detain, torture, and murder the black community. Mr. Joe Biden recently casually tossed the word ‘genocide’ to describe the atrocities of Russia in Ukraine. However, he failed to mention the cruelties inflicted by his own nation. His convoy to the UN delivered an emotional spiel when the Russian envoy vetoed the resolution. “Russia cannot veto accountability,” she said. Well let us unravel the convoluted history of human rights abuse and the misuse of veto power by the United States.

Since 1989, the US has cast three vetos to defend its own illegal invasions. Exactly how destructive were these invasions? According to a Senior US Defence Intelligence Agency, the first 24 days of Russia’s bombing of Ukraine were less catastrophic than the first 24 hours of US bombing in Iraq in 2003. Since 2001, the US (and its allies) have dropped over 337,000 bombs and missiles – 46 per day – on nine countries. A UN assessment mission reported that the US-led campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was the heaviest bombing anywhere in decades. The report also counted 40,000 verified civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria. I haven’t even discussed Afghanistan, Vietnam, or Panama. I have even skipped past the US proxy wars in Angola and Zimbabwe. The brutality of the United States is the fact that makes this UNSC reform a joke in the guise of hypocrisy.

The United States cast 25 of the last 30 vetos to defend Israel from international condemnation. According to data published by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), about 5,600 Palestinians were murdered between 2008 and 2020, while nearly 115,000 were injured. Last year alone, the 11-day Israel-Palestine war killed 275 Palestinian civilians – including 61 children and 35 women. The war decimated about 94 buildings in Gaza and displaced over 72,000 Palestinians. How did the law-abiding US respond to such human rights abuse? The so-called ethical United States blatantly blocked the UNSC joint statement – three times in a single week. Imposing sanctions on Russia while supplying military aid to Israel, it doesn’t take a genius to grasp the duplicity of the United States at display.

In my opinion, the UNSC reform would not change anything for the better. Sure, this stipulation could guilt-trip Russia into embarrassment. But an explanation of a veto would unlikely deter seasoned diplomats, rendered blasé about the atrocities inflicted by their nation, from justifying their abuse of power. The US, for instance, would only resort to lexical gimmicks in its defense of Israel. “Right to defend itself” has been the general parlance of the US to describe the Israeli genocide in Palestine. I do not doubt that the US (and the rest of the big five) have skilled envoys to weave emotional speeches and complex jargon to justify vetos in the Security Council. It is only a matter of time before this explanatory bid would be nothing but a PR segment to further the agenda of mocking international law. Nonetheless, it is funny how once the tables are turned, the veto seems an inconvenience rather than the traditional hedge against the backlash. I am particularly enjoying how the US is finally feeling the folly of its ways.

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Russia-Ukraine War, China and World Peace

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image source: war.ukraine.ua photo: Vadim Ghirda

On May 3, when asked about the possible causes of the Ukrainian tragedy, His Holiness Pope Francis speculated about an “anger” probably “facilitated initially by NATO’s barking at Russia’s door. I cannot say whether this anger was provoked, but it was probably facilitated”.

What do the Pope’s words mean? In short, they mean that in international relations – of which the Holy See is Master of the Art – two things count: respect for the other and ignorance. The former is to be always placed as a founding element of peace, the latter is to be eradicated, especially in countries like Italy and in many others, as a factor of war.

Why was the Soviet Union respected and why the same respect and consideration is not owed to Russia? Why with the Soviet Union, after the normalisation of the Prague Spring, did a still divided but wise Europe (today, instead, united only by the banks’ and bankers’ money) and a sharp-witted West, with Russia’s agreement, launch the Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe? Why instead did a powerless Europe, a semi-colony of the United States of America – with the UK as the 51st star on its flag – together with the White House, pretend not to see what was happening in Ukraine? Why did they turn a blind eye to this conflict, which has been going on since 2014, and fomented the rise to power of people who, by inciting hatred against Russia, were under the illusion that NATO would come to their aid, turning Europe into a pool of blood for their purposes?

Do some people probably believe that Russia is still that of Yeltsin, ready to open up – in every sense – to the first master coming along? These are the cases in which respect is lacking and ignorance triumphs.

As to an example of ongoing and consistent respect in foreign affairs, it is useful to comment on a recent speech delivered on April 21 by China’s President Xi Jinping, which developed several points.

He pointed out that, for over two years, the international community has made strenuous efforts to meet the challenge of COVID-19 and promote economic recovery and development in the world. He added that the difficulties and challenges show that the international community has a shared future for better or for worse, and that the various countries must strive for peace, development, and win-win cooperation so as to work together and tackle the different problems that gradually emerge on the scene.

With a view to facing the health emergency, China has provided over 2.1 billion vaccine doses to over 120 countries and international organisations and it will continue to make the pledged donations of 600 million doses to African countries and 150 million doses to the countries of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to proactively help bridge the vaccine gap.

With specific reference to the economic recovery, President Xi Jinping pledged to keep on building an economy open to the world, strengthening macroeconomic policy coordination and preserving the stability of industrial and supply chains, as well as promoting balanced, coordinated and inclusive development globally. He said: “People need to be put first and development and social welfare must be prioritised. It is important to promote pragmatic studies in priority areas such as poverty reduction, security, food, development finance and industrialisation, as well as work on solving the issue of unbalanced and insufficient development, and move forward by establishing job creation initiatives.”

With regard to the recent war clashes, President Xi Jinping deems necessary to jointly safeguard world peace and security. I wish to add that the Cold War-style mentality – what is happening in Ukraine, i.e. the West disrespecting Russia, considering it an enemy as in the past, but not as strong as in the days of the CPSU – can only undermine world peace. Hegemonism aimed at conquering Eurasia – as the land that holds the remaining raw materials on the planet – and the policy of the strongest country can only undermine world peace. The clash of blocs can only worsen the security challenges of the 21st century.

Why, while the Warsaw Pact (of which the People’s Republic of China was never a member and never wanted to be a member) was dissolved, did the same not happen with NATO? China has always wanted to promote world peace, never wanting to be part of aggressive and barking alliances.

China pledges to advance the vision of common, integrated, cooperative and sustainable security and to jointly preserve world peace and security. It pledges to respect all countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity; to pursue non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs, and to respect the development path and social system chosen by peoples. It pledges to abide by the aims and principles of the UN Charter; to reject the warmongering mentality (opposing the good countries by default vs. the bad ones conventionally); to oppose unilateralism and to reject the policy of bloc confrontation. China takes all countries’ security concerns and legitimate interests into account. It pursues the principle of indivisible responsibilities and builds a balanced and effective security architecture. It opposes one country seeking its own security by fomenting insecurities in the others. China seeks dialogue and consultation, as well as peaceful solutions to inter-State differences and disputes. It supports all efforts for the peaceful settlement of crises. It refrains from double standards and rejects the arbitrary use of unilateral extraterritorial sanctions and jurisdictions.

It is crucial to adopt a comprehensive approach to maintain security and respond together to regional disputes and planetary challenges such as terrorism, climate change, cybersecurity and biosecurity.

Global governance challenges must be addressed together. The world countries are on an equal footing when it comes to sharing fortunes and misfortunes. It is unacceptable to try to throw anyone overboard. The international community is currently a sophisticated and integrated device. Removing one of its components makes it very difficult for it to function, to the detriment of the party that is deprived by others of its own guarantees that call into question the very existence of a State – such as trying to deploy nuclear warheads a few kilometres from a capital city.

Only the principles of broad consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits can promote the common values of humanity, foster exchanges and inspire reciprocity between different civilisations. No one should believe to be better than another by divine grace or manifest destiny.

True and genuine multilateralism must be pursued and the international system centred on the United Nations and the world order based on international law must firmly be preserved. Great countries, in particular, must set an example in terms of respect for equality, cooperation, credibility and the rule of law to be worthy of their greatness.

In ten years of President Xi Jinping’s leadership, Asia has maintained overall stability and achieved fast and sustained growth, thus creating the “Asian miracle”. If Asia does well, the whole world will benefit. Asia has continued to strive to develop, build and maintain its strength, i.e. the basic wisdom that makes the continent a stabilising anchor of peace, an engine of growth and a pioneer of international cooperation.

These achievements come from as far back as the aforementioned Chinese refusal to join aggressive military blocs. They are based on the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence drafted by Prime Minister Zhou Enlai on December 31, 1953, published on April 29, 1954, and reaffirmed at the Bandung Conference on April 18-24, 1955: (i) mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty; (ii) mutual non-aggression; (iii) mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs; (iv) equality and cooperation for mutual benefit; (v) peaceful coexistence.  

They are based on the Eight Principles for Foreign Aid and Economic and Technical Assistance proposed by the aforementioned Zhou Enlai before the Somali Parliament on February 3, 1964, which became the emblem of China’s presence in Africa: (i) China always bases itself on the principle of equality and mutual benefit in providing aid to other nations; (ii) China never attaches any conditions or asks for any privileges; (iii) China helps lighten the burden of recipient countries as much as possible; (iv) China aims at helping recipient countries to gradually achieve self-reliance and independent development; (v) China strives to develop aid projects that require less investment but yield quicker results; (vi) China provides the best-quality equipment and materials of its own manufacture; (vii) in providing technical assistance, China shall ensure that the personnel of the recipient country fully master such techniques; (viii) Chinese experts are not allowed to make any special demands or enjoy any special amenities.

Over the last ten years President Xi Jinping has successfully applied the Chinese doctrine in international relations, following and implementing his country’s multi-millennial traditions of diplomacy. ASEAN’s central place and role in the regional architecture has been strengthened in Asia, preserving the order that takes all parties’ aspirations and interests into account. Each country, whether large or small, powerful or weak, inside or outside the region, contributes to the success of Asia’s development, without creating war frictions. Each country follows the path of peace and development, promotes win-win cooperation and builds a large family of Asian progress.

The ASEAN countries are the following: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam (Papua New Guinea and East Timor as observers).

Furthermore, the fundamentals of China’s economy – its strong resilience, huge potential, ample room for manoeuvre and long-term sustainability – remain unchanged. They will provide great dynamism for the stability and recovery of the world economy and wider market opportunities for all countries.

The People’s Republic of China will be fully committed to its new development rationale. It will step up the establishment of a new growth paradigm, and redouble its efforts for high-quality development. China will promote high standards; expand the catalogue for the creation of new computer software; improve investment promotion services and add more cities to the comprehensive pilot programme for opening up the service sector.

China will take concrete steps to develop its pilot free trade zones and the Hainan Free Trade Port will be in line with high-standard international economic and trade rules and will move forward with the institutional opening process.

China will seek to conclude high-level free trade agreements with more countries and regions and will proactively endeavour to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA).

China is moving forward with the Silk Road (Belt and Road) cooperation to make it increasingly high-level, sustainable and people-centred. China will firmly follow the path of peaceful development and will always be a builder of world peace, as well as a contributor to global development and a defender of the international order.

Over the last ten years, under President Xi Jinping’s leadership, the People’s Republic of China has been following the old Chinese saying: “Keep walking and you will not be discouraged by a thousand miles; make steady efforts and you will not be intimidated by a thousand tasks”.

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International Law

The More Things Change…

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The brutality of ethnic cleansing is complete.  It does not distinguish between mother and son, young and old, child or adult.  It goes about its gruesome business without conscience or moral compensation.  It is the conversion of man into an unthinking beast.  It is Putin, Zelensky, Modi and Xi Jinping … all rolled into one.  It is us.  The seed is there, needing only fertile soil to germinate. 

The EU announces more aid to Ukraine — mostly military aid; the US announces more aid to Ukraine — mostly military aid.  The Ukrainians saying ‘we will never surrender’ continue to fight.  The Russians asking for talks are not backing down.  Ukraine’s real value to the world is as an exporter of grain which helps to stabilize grain prices.  Feeding a war therefore, runs counter to such stability.

On the heels of covid and its inflationary fallout, who wants a rise in food prices?  Not India, not Africa, not the EU and Russians are already feeling the pinch.  Perhaps grain exporters in North America could be an exception.  Yet at what cost?

According to the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, the Security Council failed to prevent the war or to end it.  How can it when the most influential member and its European allies are busy funding it?

Human strife is displayed on almost every continent.  Stone throwing at ultra-nationalists by Palestinians after Friday prayers is a routine accompanied sometimes by tragedy.  One side provokes, the other side retaliates.  Stones are thrown, fights  breakout.  The authorities respond and more Palestinians are killed — fifteen last Wednesday.  Is this the big story in Israel?  Of course not.

A TV report accused millionaire Naftali Bennet, the current prime minister, of extravagant expenditure from the public purse at his home, which currently serves as his official residence.

Mr. Bennett disclosed that $26,400 of taxpayer money was spent on his home each month including a $7,400 food bill.  His defense avers that his conduct is within the rules and that his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu spent, on average, $84,300 per month during his tenure.

Noting his efforts at parsimony, he pointed out he did not employ a cook as he is entitled to.  Instead, the family sent out to restaurants, presumably the best ones, to have food delivered.  Sensitive to the criticism, he states he will henceforth pay for all the food from his own picket.

Sara Netanyahu, his predecessor’s wife, had to admit misusing public funds during a similar scandal and was obliged to pay a $15,000 fine.  The prime minister is paid $16,500 per month — average monthly salary in Israel is $3,500.

Plus ça change …

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