Stop the Genocide in Ukraine. Stop the “Deportation” of Its Children. Send the Weapons — Now!
If only the collective mind could stay collected and fix on the main point.
Which main point is: While the West’s “rules-based international order,” early to act, now dithers and drags its feet about sending all necessary weaponry to Ukraine, so that Ukraine can defend itself in the genocidal war waged against by Russia’s Vladimir Putin, that very reality — the ongoing genocide — is being lost sight of, degraded, “deprioritized.”
What a tragedy, a tragedy-in-the-making, signaling the direst turn possible for the rules-based international order. Because: If Putin wins, no rules will apply anymore. It means genocide becomes “normal” in warfare. It means land-grabs by power-hungry autocrats become “normal” and justifiable war aims. It means torture and rape return as “normal” instruments of war. It means civilians are “fair game,” not just those in uniform. In sum, it means the end of the modern era’s historic achievements: codifying the rules of war and securing the dignity of the individual human being, no matter nationality or station.
And with the long-awaited “spring counteroffensive” soon to begin, this question — Quo vadis, rules-based international order? — may be answered sooner rather than later.
Genocide clearly is taking place in Ukraine. But ongoing atrocity seems not to be top-of-mind in the West’s councils of power. So, just to remind:
Genocide is defined by the 1948 U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide as: “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical [sic], racial or religious group.”Putin has stated his genocidal theory of the case — that Ukraine does not exist as a sovereign nation — and he is acting on that theory, seeking to smash Ukraine out of existence. See: the cities razed; the apartment buildings, hospitals, schools, theaters bombed; the civilians dead in the streets or fleeing to neighboring countries. (The term “genocide” combines the Greek words “geno,” for race or tribe, and “cide,” for murder or killing, and was coined by Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin in 1944.)
Perhaps the cruelest, most insidious instrument of genocide is this: the abduction of a people’s children, so as to “re-educate” them, that is, to disavow their nation of origin and embrace the invader nation. Therein lies its insidiousness: extinguishing the promise that children represent — their nation’s future. It is one of the five genocidal methods cited in the U.N. convention: “forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” Another proscribed method: “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.”
This monstrous phenomenon — Ukrainian children “deported” to Russia, told their parents don’t want them, “adopted” by Russian “parents” — is much in the news now. In a particularly odious page from the genocidaire’s playbook, some of these innocents were paraded at an enormous Putin-blessed rally, singing the Russian national anthem and hugging their uniformed captors, a spectacle whose hideousness is exceeded only by the trauma visited on their young souls. This inhuman program is overseen by Russia’s (pardon the expression) “Commissioner for Children’s Rights,” Maria Lvova-Belova, who in a widely-reported meeting with Putin noted she herself had “adopted” a Ukrainian teenager from (the razed city of) Mariupol, who’s now the “happy bearer of a Russian Federation passport.” As veteran human rights journalist Anna Husarska writes in The Washington Post:
“In September, Lvova-Belova spoke of ‘a group of 30 children from Mariupol who we found in basements’: they ‘at first said nasty things about President [Putin], defiantly sang the Ukrainian national anthem and chanted ‘Slava Ukraini.’ But after some work on the children, she proudly announced, it is possible to ‘make sure that everybody supports our strong country.’”
This is Theater of the Absurd morphing into Theater of Cruelty. As Husarska writes, the Kremlin always “present[s] this crime as a compassionate rescue.” How many Ukrainian children have been deported to Russia? Ukrainian sources say nearly 20,000. However, the respected Institute for the Study of War now cites the claim of Ukraine’s National Resistance Center that a stunning 100,000 Ukrainian children have been deported by Russia, with this ominous note: Many of these children were “diagnosed” with a “pathology,” thus requiring treatment in Russia. (Talk about pathology!) Only recently are some few Ukrainian children being returned home, some retrieved by their brave and daring parents.
History has its strange ironies: As it happens, the last surviving Nuremberg prosecutor — Benjamin Ferencz, the American lawyer who introduced the still-new term “genocide” at the trials in 1947 and successfully argued its case against the Nazi perpetrators — died recently, aged 103.
Mr. Ferencz, in his opening statement at Nuremberg (video here), explicitly addressed the subject: “Genocide, the extermination of whole categories of human beings, was a foremost instrument of the Nazi doctrine.” He presented the case as “a plea of humanity to law.” Ferencz went on to say of the Nazi machine — in words that ring out as warning to the rules-based international order now — “Death was their tool and life their toy. If these men be immune, then law has lost its meaning, and man must live in fear.”
Another historical irony: Ferencz was the main force behind establishment, in 1998 at The Hague, of the International Criminal Court — the very Court that recently issued arrest warrants for Putin and Lvova-Belova for “unlawful deportation” of Ukrainian children, an act of genocide. (Lvova-Belova now says these children were “taken for their safety” and claims Moscow is “coordinating with international agencies to return them to their families” in Ukraine. We should be skeptical about that claim.)
Back to the rules-based international order: The much-touted spring counteroffensive in the Ukraine war will start soon. Yet the West has not come through with all the weapons, for ground and air defense, that Ukraine has asked for. Recruiting posters “plastered” across Ukraine urge young Ukrainians to “turn your rage into weapons.” But rage isn’t enough, of course; firepower is needed. Why is it every weapon Ukraine has asked for is, sooner or later, provided by an equivocating West, but usually later? This time, with Russia regrouping from much larger resources, it must be sooner. The recent national security leaks, serious as they are, are seriously distracting focus away from the war, becoming a whodunit. The leaks’ real takeaway? Ukraine’s military vulnerabilities — which only the West can allay.
President Joe Biden declares the West will stand with Ukraine “for as long as it takes.” But in his State of the Union speech this year, Biden’s theme was “finish the job.” The West needs to help Ukraine finish the job. We should remember who we are — the rules-based international order — and what we value — defending humanity against genocide — and do our part.
For more on the abduction of Ukrainian children, see here, here, here, and here. Independent TV Rain, formerly operating in Moscow before it was shut down and now operating in Amsterdam, has produced a one-hour documentary on this sad chapter.