Calling Putin a war criminal doesn’t help

Calling Putin a war criminal doesn't help

Knoll points out that the Biden indictment has no legal ramifications. “Only because the United States did not sign the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Talking about genocide will have more consequences.” The United States and Russia both signed and ratified the Genocide Convention, which is intended to prevent genocide.

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Russian expert Hubert Smits noted that Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti simply reported Biden’s accusatory words without a response from the Russian authorities. This came an hour later: the Kremlin spoke of “unacceptable and unforgivable speech.”

That sounds powerful, but the impact of Biden’s harsh words in Moscow may not be as great, Smits believes. “It’s fuel for the fire. Putin has already written off the United States. What happens on the battlefield, the resistance of the Ukrainian army, is much more important than what happens at the negotiating table.”

But the accusation of the US president is not wise, says the expert of the press platform Ram in Russia. “No. With words like that make the cat further.”

Putin became increasingly radical in his speeches on Russian state television. Yesterday, the Russian president spoke of “traitors and criminals” helping the West, adding that the Russian people should “spit them out like mosquitoes.”


Smits knows just how much more radical Putin has already become. “We don’t know what’s going on with him. He lives in his country house. We don’t know who can reach him and how he is. But this will only reinforce his mistrust of the West.”

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At the same time, Putin will not care much about Biden’s words. “If German Chancellor Schulz said this, he would find it even more disturbing. Russia still gets a large part of its GNP from Europe.”

Ukraine’s defense minister called on the European Union to label the Russian leader a war criminal, like Biden. This has not happened yet. “European leaders are more conservative, at least for now.”

Jörg Knoll sees it too. “European leaders know they are still important in the conflict. Macron and Schulz had a phone call with Putin last weekend. They can still play a role in getting out of this conflict.”

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