Russian War Crimes Bedevil Ukraine

They should be bedeviling President Trump as well. He’ll need to speak out soon.

President Trump’s policy toward Russia has been confusing to many people. His too-often stated and too-fulsome praises of Russian President-for-Life Vladimir Putin left many conservatives bewildered.

Trump’s words haven’t been consistent with his actions against Russia. Leftists have been happy to overlook the actions and focus on the words. Perhaps the most confused is Washington Post columnist David Ignatius who, with the Post’s infallible inaccuracy, wrote recently that the Trump administration was tilting policy toward Russia. He wrote this despite Trump’s threat to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty and his refusal to enter into more arms control negotiations with Russia without China’s participation.

The administration made a major accusation against Russia this week in a statement by our ambassador to the Organization of Security Cooperation in Russia, former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore. (OSCE’s mission is to monitor and try to limit Russian aggression in Europe.)

I’ve written before about Russia’s continuing aggression against Ukraine, citing the statements of two prominent Ukrainian government officials. In emails, through translators, Oleksandr Turchynov (former interim Ukrainian president) and Arsen Avakov (current secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council) combined to say that Russia still had about 35,000 troops on Ukrainian soil and that the low level of fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces is clear proof that Russia isn’t giving up its ambitions to conquer all of Ukraine.

Turchynov and Avakov believe that Putin has yet to make a political decision to trigger the final conquest of Ukraine.

The Crimean Peninsula, which Russia conquered in 2014, was formally annexed to Russia after a phony referendum held that the Crimean people wanted to be part of Russia. The United States has condemned that annexation as the illegal result of a sham election. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made clear that we regard Crimea as still a part of Ukraine.

Gilmore broke new ground in the Trump administration’s fight to keep Ukraine free.

In a Thursday statement to OSCE ambassadors, Gilmore condemned Russia’s conscription of unwilling Crimean men into the Russian army in violation of the Geneva Conventions, to which Russia is a party.

Gilmore said:

Since 2015, Russia has conducted annual spring and fall conscriptions in Crimea. A failure to participate, to submit to those conscriptions, is punishable by a criminal penalty. An August 2019 report by the UN Secretary General stated that at least 18,000 men in Crimea had been conscripted under threat of criminal prosecution into the Russian Armed Forces, some of whom were assigned to military bases in the Russian Federation. The Russian government reportedly conscripted 2,600 individuals into its armed forces in the fall of 2019 and plans to conscript 3,300 more this spring, which would bring the total number conscripted by Russia to nearly 24,000 citizens of Crimea.

His statement went on to say:

Article 51 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that an Occupying Power “may not compel protected persons to serve in its armed or auxiliary forces.”

Russia has engaged in exactly this type of behavior. In addition to forcing thousands of residents of Crimea into its armed forces by implementing a law that punishes by criminal penalty failure to participate in compulsory military service in the Russian armed forces, Russia has pursued criminal charges against those who resist. A 2019 Human Rights Watch review of court documents from proceedings in occupied Crimea — Russia’s own records — identified 71 criminal draft evasion cases and 63 guilty verdicts between 2017 and 2019. The Crimean Human Rights Group documented eight such cases in February 2020 alone. The actual number of criminal cases is likely to be much higher. Why do we refer to criminal cases? Because that is the force being applied to the people of Crimea in violation of the Geneva Convention.

Russia is an occupying power in Crimea. Its citizens are therefore protected persons under the Conventions.

In short, Gilmore accused Russia of war crimes in Crimea and documented the accusation thoroughly.

There should be no Russian escape from Gilmore’s accusation but, of course, there will be. The Geneva Conventions rely on their signatories to enforce them. All the nations of the world — including pseudo states such as the Palestinians — have signed most or all of the Conventions.

Russia has so frightened most of Europe and is so involved in European economies that none of the EU members (21 of 27 of which are NATO members as well) will take a stand against Russia over Ukraine. That, as usual, leaves us to do the heavy lifting. We aren’t — and shouldn’t — go to war over Ukraine but more can be done.

Trump is so preoccupied by the COVID-19 pandemic and the November election that he has little time for foreign affairs, but still manages to approve policy statements. He is tremendously gun-shy about dealing with Ukraine because a 2019 conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky led to his impeachment in January.

The Dems have already said that they’re going to try to impeach Trump again. They told the Supreme Court that last week in support of their lawsuit to get the Mueller investigation’s grand jury transcripts. Let them try.

Despite all that, Trump can do a few things to clarify our policy toward Russia and at the same time enhance our ties to Ukraine.

Presidential speeches are part of governing. Trump has made far too few about foreign policy over the past four years. One of the charges the Dems will make in the campaign is that Trump has made us weaker by his scattershot foreign policy. Joe Biden, don’t forget, was chosen as Obama’s veep on the basis of his long experience in foreign policy (despite the fact that he’s been wrong on every major issue since he became a senator).

Trump should make a policy speech about European security and our opposition to Russian aggression. In it, he should mention Ukraine and his military aid to it, as a prime example. Don’t forget that Ukraine begged the Obama administration for military aid since 2014 and didn’t receive it.

Trump has authorized military aid to Ukraine. Avakov told me that our role as a strategic partner to Ukraine is significant. One thing more is needed.

Before the impeachment, Zelensky had been asking for a White House meeting with Trump to show our commitment to his country. Trump should invite him for such a meeting as soon as possible. No new action against Russia is necessary at the moment, but photos of Trump and Zelensky meeting in the Oval Office would send a significant message to the world.

Throughout history, fighting for freedom has never been easy. With Trump, Pompeo, and Gilmore behind them, the Ukrainians have a much better chance to succeed.

(c) The American Spectator


  1. All it needs is for Trump to condemn Putin live on TV, but it won’t happen. In this respect he’s no different from the leaders in Europe, all of whom are very reluctant to label Putin as a war criminal, despite the overwhelming evidence.

    • “Trump’s words haven’t been consistent with his actions against Russia.”
      I prefer actions over words when speaking about politicians, but words from the POTUS can bring down walls. I doubt Trump has figured out yet that helping Ukraine is the best way to get the Moskali to stop the killing. Then they would just move on to another killing field. That’s what they do.

      • A few words like, Russia get out of Ukraine altogether, or we’ll destroy your already decimated economy.

  2. Reagan: ‘Mr Gorbachev, tear down that wall!’
    Trump: ‘Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 Hillary emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press’.

  3. Obama gave Ukraine blankets, pillows and food rations. Trump has actually given Ukraine arms and other equipment that can bebb b used to fight. The Democrats would like to overlook that and keep the label of Trump being in the pocket of Putin. Trump has pulled out of numerous agreements, has shuttered some Russian properties and expelled diplomats, put sanctions etc. But that’s not enough because in Helsinki he didn’t “condemn Putin “ in public. What good does Public condemnation actually do for Ukraine ?

    Trump is being a statesman by keeping open channels of communication. What food does throwing tantrums and saying we will not speak to you again, actually help. Trump has done more for Ukraine than anything Obama did in his final 2 years in office when the current Crisis erupted.

    But internal politics of the USA will overlook that people the democrats need anything they can use to get trump out of office so they can institute the healthcare for all, healthcare for immigrants, open borders, Green new deal, and all the other socialist pipe dreams that are meant to great big government and a population that is dependant in that government for all their needs. A very very bad road to go for the economy.

      • For starters, the most conservative estimates put the cost at between 15-45 Trillion dollars per year.

        Remember the Democrats want to open the borders for all immigrants to come in, job or not, and immediately qualify for all benefits.

        They want all the moos lim nations to send as many of the moos Lims as possible. Diversity. Then they will tax the wealthy to death. This will lead to less investments and less wealth creation. That’s the death of capitalism.

      • Medical care paid for by the government is not affordable. The countries that have tried have been seriously hurt for their efforts. If you keep pushing it, you end with a boondoggle like the British National health Service and Canada’s version. Both are pathetic and are worse than the Veterans Hospital System in the US.

        • Free health care works in New Zealand, you just need to get your head out of the sand.

          • It does indeed and New Zealand is a wonderful country : one of the best in the world. However, it is not free; it works on the British model and is funded by contributions from those who are in work.
            This business model works fine until mass immigration puts it under terrible strain, as has unfortunately happened in Britain.

What is your opinion?