The brutal invasion of Ukraine that Vladimir Putin has had Russia launch and he is leading is an international crime. As the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy declared yesterday, it is “an illegal war of aggression.”
The UN Charter, it notes, prohibits the "threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state."
Also, "The invasion constitutes an act of aggression under general international law," it said. The Nuremberg Charter under which top Nazis were tried by an International Military Tribunal after World War II ended states that "waging a war of aggression is a crime against peace, and leaders of the Third Reich were convicted of that crime," said the organization.
Further, Putin's declaration as the invasion began that if any nation "tries to impede us... the Russian response will be immediate and lead to consequences you have never seen in history"-a brazen threat of starting nuclear war-was also illegal, said the group.
"Putin's thinly veiled references to resort to nuclear weapons," it said, were also "unlawful threats of force under the UN Charter."
“Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy stands against Russia’s unlawful acts of war and threats of nuclear force,” said the New York City-based organization founded in 1981. “We call for both sides to comply with international humanitarian law, respect human rights, and provide access to humanitarian aid. We further call for an immediate cease-fire, dialogue and diplomacy, and fulfillment of the requirements of the UN Charter.”
It is extremely unlikely that Putin will agree.
And that doesn't surprise me.
I have spent a good deal of time in Russia.
However, as Putin grabbed more and more power and seized dictatorial rule, I wouldn't go back there under any condition.
My involvement in Russia began after I broke the story in The Nation magazine after the Challenger blew up in 1986 about how on its the next mission, the ill-fated space shuttle was to loft a space probe fueled with plutonium, the most lethal of all radioactive substances. If the explosion had happened then, in May 1986, four months later, and the plutonium dispersed, the impacts could have been horrendous.
My follow-up writings on the use of nuclear power in space included authoring a book The Wrong Stuff, writing many articles and presenting TV programs.
And I was contacted by Dr. Alexey Yablokov, the most eminent environmentalist in Russia, former environmental advisor to Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Mikhail Gorbachev. He was long concerned about the space nuclear activities of Russia and previously the Soviet Union. There were accidents like those in the U.S. program, including one in 1978 when the Soviet’s Cosmos 954 satellite with a nuclear reactor onboard crashed to Earth, breaking apart and spreading radioactive debris over 500 miles—from Great Slave Lake to Baker Lake—in northern Canada.
Yablokov, described in one publication when he died in 2017 as the “towering grandfather of Russian ecology,” invited me to Russia to share information on the nuclear-in-space issue.
There would be many visits—seven in all—and presentations including, in 1998, in Voronezh, organized by Yablokov’s Center for Russian Environmental Policy on “Toward a Sustainable Russia: Environmental Policy;” speaking in 1999 at the “All-Russia Congress on Protection of Nature”—in a packed sports stadium along the Volga River in Saratov—and, in 2000, presenting at a conference on “Health of the Environment” at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.
My last presentation in Russia was a keynote speech, “Parallel Atomic Universes,” at a “Russian-American Women’s Leadership and Nuclear Safety Activism” conference in Tomsk in Siberia in 2002.
Putin had become prime minister in 1999. And things were changing—quickly. There was repression of the press and a takeover of media by Putin allies. As to environmental progress, a huge reversal has begun. As Yablokov said from the podium at a 1999 environmental conference in Moscow: “The result of Putin’s politics is fascism.”
The last time I was with Yablokov was 15 years ago. We met in New York City where he had come to participate in a conference at the UN about whales. The plight of whales and dolphins had been an early research subject for Yablokov. He would go on to write hundreds of articles as well as textbooks on biology and ecology.
When we met that last time, Yablokov had become leader of the Green Russia component of the Russian United Democratic Party and was also deputy chairman of the party—acronymed YABLOKO—which was challenging Putin. He told me of being followed and of living in an authoritarian state.
Putin is being widely compared since his invasion of Ukraine to Adolph Hitler, the invasion described as a parallel to Hitler’s invasions in Europe in the 1930s.
“Putin’s attack on Ukraine echoes Hitler’s takeover of Czechoslovakia,” was a headline in The Washington Post yesterday. The sub-head: “The Nazi leader used similar tactics to dismember and devour Czechoslovakia before World War II.”
“Vladimir Putin is doing exactly what Hitler did when he invaded Poland in 1939,” said the headline of a piece in the British publication Mirror yesterday. The “parallels” between Putin and Hitler are “uncanny,” wrote Dr. Robert Lyman, author and fellow of the Royal Historical Society.
“It certainly makes 2022 the most dangerous year in Europe since the end of that terrible, bloody war in 1945,” he said. “What the West does now will have dramatic consequences for the future of the world as we know it. If the world allows Putin to get away with his latest land-grab…there’s a very good chance he’ll take this as carte blanche to do it again, elsewhere.
“The targets? The Baltic States (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) will be first on his hit list, even though they are members of NATO. As I explained in my book The Rise of the Third Reich, this is what Hitler did after 1938; take little nibbles at bits of Europe that weren’t his and if people didn’t make too much of a fuss, keep on nibbling,” Lyman went on.
“The invasion of Poland in 1939 took place because Hitler believed he would get away with it, and that the West wouldn’t or couldn’t retaliate,” he continued. “So what do we do? We need to put Putin back in his box without initiating the Third World War. This will be hard, as it’s what he has calculated, with his threats today. He believes the world will be too scared to do anything, as he’s got his fingers on Russia’s nuclear triggers.”
“He is a gangster who has secured power in Russia,” Lyman said of Putin.
He wrote: “Whether Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is successful, in either the short or long term, remains to be seen. It took the world six years and millions of lives to defeat Hitler. Putin will be gambling that the world doesn’t have the stomach for a fight. He’s probably right.”
The comparison between Putin and Hitler is fitting.
This former KGB colonel who has amassed a multi-billion ruble fortune in his rise to power and has virtually extinguished opposition to him in Russia is a tyrant.
He is destroying lives. He ignores the U.N. Charter, the constitution of the international organization of which Russia was an original member.
Is Lyman correct in his assessment that “the world doesn’t have the stomach for a fight” against him? Hitler-like Putin must be stopped.