The reception and overdue indictment of Vladimir Putin for alleged war crimes in Ukraine confirms his status as a global outlaw. The International Criminal Court (ICC) ruling is unlikely to lead to his arrest and trial in the near future. But it ensures that, from now on, the President of Russia will be a criminal suspect and wanted person, liable to arrest in the 123 member states of the ICC and a great disgrace to his country.

Putin’s command responsibility for thousands of heinous war crimes committed in Ukraine has been clear since the beginning of the war he started. He and his friends have denied any wrongdoing. Russia does not recognize the ICC. The decision to indict Putin for the illegal deportation of children rather than other crimes reflects the strength of the evidence in these specific cases. But additional charges must follow.

ICC prosecutors and judges have not bowed to pressure to withhold or delay charges for fear of jeopardizing an imagined future peace process. French President Emmanuel Macron argued that Putin should not be ‘humiliated’. But Putin has blocked peace talks and, under no circumstances, should the two issues be reconciled. In a significant blow to international justice, the court has shown that there is no impunity even for senior leaders.

China, like Russia (and the US), is not a party to the ICC. But the indictment should leave President Xi Jinping in no doubt about his host’s sordid reputation as he begins a state visit to Moscow this week. A more principled leader might cancel his trip. But Xi also has blood on his hands in Xinjiang, where he stands accused Overseeing the carnage and crimes against humanity. After all, Xi’s reasons for visiting are essentially selfish.

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This week’s apparent affirmation of “no borders” Sino-Russian friendship will be portrayed in some quarters as a boost for Putin. However it is clear who is the dominant partner in the increasingly dysfunctional relationship. Xi will offer continued economic aid and diplomatic support — and refuse to condemn the Ukraine attack. But fear of being drawn directly into the conflict is unlikely to provide Putin with all the weapons he needs.

Beijing tries to portray itself as an honest broker. However, its stance is not credible, as shown by its absurd one-sided “peace plan”. Xi doesn’t want to lose Putin. The subsequent instability is not in China’s interest. Likewise, he does not want a major Russian breakthrough that could reverse Beijing’s growing subservience. A continued struggle to distract and weaken the US, China’s main rival, and dividing Europe and NATO, suits Xi’s purposes.

C’s main objective is Submit your claim To usher in an alternative, non-democratic, liberal world order, displacing the US-dominated status quo and UN-backed rules-based system. A recent dodgy Chinese-brokered deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran was hailed by Beijing as an example of how its supposedly dovish approach is paying off. Xi also hopes to win over European leaders, particularly France and Germany, who want an end to the war and closer trade ties with China.

Like Richard Nixon’s visit to Beijing in 1972, when he played the “China card” against the Soviet Union, Xi is using his Russian alliance to weaken and fail the US. A smarter, stronger leader than Putin would understand Xi’s game. But Putin is neither smart nor strong – and the tacit message to Russians from the ICC indictment is that his days in power are numbered.


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