Saturday, March 31, 2018

What can we do about Putin?


It's not just that he  is suspect No 1 for the Skripal attack in Salisbury.
  • He has a bunch of other sudden deaths to explain - at least 9 more, 3 politicians, 3 journalists, 1 oligarch who fell out with him, one lawyer and Litvinenko the spy.
  • He is implicated in the election of Trump and the triumph of the Brexiters.
  • He has backed the murderous dictator Assad in Syria, and blocked international action to bring that war to a close.
  • He has grabbed the Crimea, and is fighting a war in Donbass, Eastern Ukraine.
  • He has conducted computer attacks on 8 countries
These cases have not all been legally proven, but they certainly add up to a pattern.

Many people will respond with "What about Iraq? Drone killings? Our friendship with Saudi Arabia? etc". This is a red herring fallacy. Iraq, drones and Saudi Arabia are all valid topics, but this post is about Putin.

I am not arguing that Putin is Bad and the West is Good. The world is complex, but Putin has a lot of questions to answer, and if we just step back and let him carry on as he pleases, things will probably go from bad to worse - not least, because some may eventually begin to argue for military action against Russia, which would be disastrous.

Putin is not alone. There are several other worryingly authoritarian regimes in the world: Burma, Philipines, Turkey and Sudan, with Rwanda and even the USA heading in that direction. So it is very important that the international community develops non-violent ways of persuading leaders to turn away from the path that leads to dictatorship.

What follows is a review of what the world can do to contain Putin in peaceful ways.

  1. At present, some 23 nations have ordered Putin spies/diplomats to leave. This is standard practice in this kind of situation, and if  they are spies, it's not a problem. If some  of them are in fact diplomats, this is not such a good idea, because in times of tension and disagreement, we need more diplomats, not fewer.
  2. Sanctions have been in force since 2014, to protest against Putin's actions in the Ukraine. These seem to be reasonable, targeted on Putin's officials (banning them from travel) but also on the arms industry and finance.

    However, it appears that in the UK the financial sanctions are not being thoroughly applied. Jacob Rees-Mogg MP is a major shareholder in a firm called SCM, whose subsidiary, Somerset Emerging Markets Dividend Growth (SEMDG), has an investment worth about £150 million in Russian stocks, of which about £58.8 million is invested in Sberbank, a Russian bank which has been under sanction since 2014, (EU Regulation 833/2014), as a consequence of Russian bombing of civilians in Syria and other crimes. It appears that SEMDG is therefore involved in illegal activity. I am raising this with the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.
  3. A legal option is available. Putin could be taken to the World Court (the UN's International Court of Justice) which is competent to judge in dispute between states. It might take time to get to court, but the fact that Putin would be described in news bulletins as "Putin, who is being taken to World Court to answer accusations of poisoning" would be a drag for him. If he is found guilty by the World Court, his standing would be even more diminished.

    It is surprising that in all the media coverage about what to do about the Skripal attack, nobody has mentioned this possibility. Maybe it is because the UK would fear being taken to the ICJ for its various misdemeanors. Like the huge error that Blair and Bush committed in Iraq.

    Anyway, I will ask my MP about the World Court possibility.
  4. The Putin Question illustrates the need for the Green Party's excellent policy, the Global Index of Human Rights to be implemented at the UN. This requires all states to have their human rights records assessed, as already happens, and for the assessment to be turned into a score (as is already done by more than one academic institution) and for the score to be published annually by the UN. This means that the relative human rights status of any state can be seen at a glance, and it will create a universal, continuous and gentle tendency for all states to improve their human rights record.

    The natural history of dictatorships is that they all come to an end eventually, usually after one or two generations. Sometimes this is by violent revolution, and the natural history is for violent revolutions to be followed by a period of chaos, which leads to the emergence of a "Strong Leader" who imposes another dictatorship.

    Even non-violent revolutions often lead on to violence, when peaceful protesters are met with lethal force. This happened several times in the Arab Spring.

    This is why the gentle, continuous and universal pressure to improve and become more democratic that is offered by the Global Human Rights Index is so attractive.
  5.  Finally the Global Index of Human Rights leads on to a set of specific actions to be applied to the most poorly functioning states, and those that are drifting steadily towards dictatorship. This is set out in the section titled Dealing with Dictators (Appendix 4, p 20). These actions link poor human rights performance with a tariff of quasi-automatic sanctions which are applied as the regime becomes worse, and lifted as the regime improves. This removes the hypocrisy and double standards that political considerations tend to bring into the situation.

In conclusion, there are many peaceful and constructive measures that can be implemented in dealing with Putin and his those like him.

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