Ukraine 2: A Twelve Step Program to Remove Putin
Vladimir Putin has already lost his imperial gamble because nearly the entirety of the civilized world has come together in recognition of his abuse of power. The product of 22 years of misguided preparation, this is the culmination of what might have been a successful term in office had it ended a decade ago. Instead it has been revealed as a long term strategy shot through with evil intent. Human life means nothing to Putin with the sole exception of himself, and his bluster about placing Russia’s nuclear arsenal on high alert is no more admirable than using his own people and much of the rest of the human race as a human shield. What a “genius.”
The problem that lies before all of us — and thankfully we do have a group of heads of state, dedicated deep state experts, and international organizations doing what they are supposed to do — is to decouple Putin from the authority currently invested in him due to a historical Russian culture of a tiny elite ruling over a serfdom that amounted to a slave class. This centuries long status was indeed formalized into law by the 1649 Code of Law.
Because this one ridiculous figure possesses (for now) such devastating power of destruction over so many of us, we are all justified in searching for a solution to the immediate problem, and then to look beyond it to how this situation may be rendered inoperable in the future. With that in mind, here is my Twelve Step Program to remove one evil man from power.
The Peace Palace, seat of the International Court of Justice, The Hague, Netherlands
First, file a war criminal complaint with the World Court naming Putin as the defendant. This is already being seriously considered at the UN. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has filed evidence of war crimes, and our UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield has brought this up before the UN General Assembly. He has also filed papers to admit Ukraine to the European Union and NATO. Please proceed!
Second, organize the UN and NATO to declare that as a war criminal, Putin’s orders no longer carry force of law within the Russian government. The sovereignty of Russia must be declared as separate from a government that may no longer enjoy that authority.
Third, order officials in Russia to escort Putin to the World Court to depose him as to human rights and sovereignty violations. Any high level officials failing to cooperate should be included in the World Court’s indictment.
Four, assuming he and his top officials do not comply, bring the complaint to the UN for removing Russia from the Security Council. Replace Russia for a two year term with Ukraine. (Putin's response to such a step is already on public display: Ukraine was never truly a sovereign state; and Ukraine was being ruled the last several years by a clique of Neo-nazis. In fact it is Russia that is being ruled by a clique of Neo-nazis)
Five, have the Security Council and the General Assembly vote to declare the Putin government null and void as to its representation of the Russian nation, and all security decisions made with regard to Ukraine also as rendered null and void. The Russian military may then to be directed by the UN Security Council to stand down and return to barracks. Putin will laugh this off of course.
(Note: A good deal here will depend on China once again voting to abstain; I believe they would do so as with the February 25th resolution condemning Russia as in violation of international law.)
Six, the Security Council then announces the date of an election in Russia, and sets forth arrangements to guarantee that they are free and fair. Again, Putin will laugh this off and some will declare the UN toothless (or worse, in violation of Russia’s sovereignty; wouldn’t THAT be ironic). They would miss the point. These first six steps are all designed to form a legal and political web that begins to isolate Putin from his military and security apparatus. Let’s call it the stage setting. Enforcement is not the task of the UN, nor of the US, NATO and the many other allies. It is the task of Putin’s own commanders.
Session of the UN General Assembly, New York. Courtesy of the United Nations
Seven, the U.S. and its NATO allies must mass an overpowering force in all NATO member countries positioned at Russia’s western borders — a much larger and better armed force that Russia has, and even given that 200,000 troops and full military equipment are engaged currently in the Ukraine and suffering the impact of a determined resistance. These are two fronts that the Russian military is ill equipped to manage. That means the possibility of a military operation — actually, a REAL peacekeeping force, maybe 500 thousand to 1 million in uniform — is very real, but quite different from Russia’s violation. The Iraq war of 1991 involved the massing of ca. 600K troops and took around two months. The U.S. alone currently has around 1.5M troops on active duty, and another million on reserve; dozens of allies in NATO and beyond would be part of this massing. This phase provides Putin with an ample timeline to end hostilities and enter a negotiating phase; and also offers him a window within which he may focus on further plunder and massing as best he can on his own western border. In political terms I believe that during this time his position within the Russian government will deteriorate. I am certain that the allies military superiority to their Russian counterpart will more or less resemble the Russian advantage over their weaker neighbor; this will be very clear to the leadership within Putin’s government and military.
Eight, this force may well be required to advance into Russian territory if Putin’s inner circle does not remove him during this period. With all of the legal declarations in place, they will have ample opportunity to do this while gaining immunity from prosecution by the World Court. It must be announced that, if the force is ordered to cross into Russian territory, it is enlisting the aid of all patriotic Russians to escort Mr. Putin to The Hague and plan elections for a new Russian government. No one is to be shot at except in self-defense. Mr. Putin — unlike his own illegal directive to summarily execute President Zelenskyy — must be protected from physical harm so that he may be tried in accord with international law.
Nine, the UN dissolves the Duma pending new elections simultaneous with the Presidential election. For current members to run they must be reviewed and cleared by a multi-national council appointed by the UN.
Ten, frankly one must expect Putin to try to rally violence — both military and civilian — and squeal very loudly that Russia (i.e., he) is the real victim. If his commanders have not removed him by this point we will be at the most dangerous phase, a point at which he may attempt to deploy Russia’s nuclear arsenal. He will recall memories of Napoleon’s and Hitler’s invasions of the motherland. The allies will be termed Neo-nazis, and the same accusations of genocide will be leveled without the slightest merit. This likely appeal to the Russian people to rally behind him, I believe, will fail to create a wave of support at this point. He will very likely descend fully to the infantile expression of anger and frustration: if I can’t have it NO ONE will. He will be seriously considering using nuclear weapons at this point. And because the world is indeed taking his threat seriously, it will be at this moment that the prior legal steps taken will make the difference. His commanders will choose to decouple Putin from Russia’s military and security apparatus.
Ukrainian troops at a frontline military outpost shortly before the area was hit by artillery
fire from Russian-backed separatists in the village of NovoLuhansk in eastern Ukraine
on February 19. Photo courtesy Lynsey Addario for The New York Times
Some elaboration is needed here for the simple reason that so much will depend on these ten steps (if all are needed) produce this singular result. How to best ensure that Putin cannot authorize the launch of nuclear weapons has to be considered from multiple angles. His present authority must be eroded sufficiently that it can be overridden from within by a cadre of cronies buttressed by even a few actual patriots. For Putin, looked at clinically, nuclear weapons are very unlikely regarded as a tactical option to be used only in the theater of war. He may well have a larger nuclear response strategically planned (the activation of which could well guarantee the rapid cycle of mutually assured destruction). This is the most concerning result, the culminating moment of years of a one-person dictatorship. If he has already been seriously contemplating this in the eventuality of losing his Ukraine gambit, the world will arrive at this moment almost whatever path we choose: the dictator will understand that his authority has not only been challenged, but that it is about to be successfully rendered inoperable. As happened with Hitler’s order that his generals burn German cities to the ground in an act of mass suicide, Putin’s commanders will decline to allow Putin’s nuclear commands to be carried out. This would not, any more than for those German generals, be an act of moral courage but one of personal cowardice. So be it. For the military leadership to act thusly would be rooted in the organs of international law together with the threat of overwhelming force. And what if Putin does manage to launch even a portion of his nuclear force? Tens of millions will be killed mainly in the US and Europe, and in return probably the majority of Russians. It is possible that due to our advance preparation and rapid response, the use of technologies like iron dome, and the unwillingness of much of the Russian military to comply, that far fewer casualties would result. Should the Great Disaster occur, obviously the recovery would be far more extensive and painful than WW2. It is what we are all hoping to avoid. The object, however, is to have used international law and declarations to decouple Putin from Russia’s military and security apparatus, as already described. So now looking a bit beyond the tenth point, I am assuming the outcome this twelve step program is aiming for.
Eleven, if we are able to decouple him, this is the point Putin will be forced to surrender himself to the World Court. It is feasible to assume that he may go into hiding. In either case, he would be removed from causing further immediate harm. The minute he goes into hiding, if he does so, he has surrendered governing powers, so elections and the change of government may proceed. No doubt Putin would, from his own little government in exile, attempt to build a guerrilla force or militia to reimpose his will on the rest of the country; probably some good Russians will kill or be killed in the process. He would certainly no longer resemble the modern Peter the Great that he aspires to be.
Twelve, let us return to the early 1990s, when the US had an opportunity to craft a new Marshall Plan for the deconstructed Soviet state, redesigned to promote genuine freedom within an egalitarian legal system, along with economic aid designed to structurally benefit the general public. We failed to do this, and are paying for that with the present crisis. The approach taken 30 years ago was not as stupid as the Versailles Treaty, but fell far short of the brilliance and success of the Marshall Plan (imperfect, but the most successful conclusion to a major war in human history, and that’s good enough for me). Rather than receiving robust, truly strategic assistance at the time, we just helped the new Russian state conduct a fire sale of Soviet assets to private interests, and then looked the other way when those interests proved to be predatory and corrupt. That did not lead to a solid, capitalist, or honestly governed country; it led to the world’s purest kleptocracy. The balance between the private and public sector must be actually implemented (in Russia that will still be a new thing; to us it seems ordinary, but “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone.” Too many Americans today actually wish to burn down our own house. That is just nuts.) Putin has stuck himself with a suicide pact, signed and agreed to only with his infantile self: If I cannot have it, then nobody will. At some point he will have to be brought before the World Court for deposition and trial. He may not allow that to happen; Herman Goring managed, ironically and symbolically, to swallow a cyanide tablet. The humanity of the world is poised to outweigh and overcome Putin’s personal descent.