Written by – Elijah J. Magnier:
European countries and the US have launched a massive media campaign that intends to “hold Russia accountable before a special tribunal for war crimes” that Moscow has been accused of committing in several cities since the beginning of the Ukrainian war. This campaign aims not only to hold Russia accountable but to find a legal pretext that the West can use to dispose of the hundreds of billions of Russian funds withheld by several countries and private companies. However, such a move is complicated because it will invite Russia to reciprocate by finding another similar domestic legal formula – since western institutions are under the West’s control – to seize and dispose of what western companies own in Russia. Western assets and businesses seem somehow more substantial than what Russians own in western countries. In addition, a western legal measure – if implemented – will open the door to the accountability of all western countries that have carried out similar actions of war amounting to “war crimes against humanity” in past years, in Palestine, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Serbia and other countries.
Ursula Von Der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, who was carrying the flag of war against Russia, announced that the losses of Ukraine amounted to 100,000 dead soldiers and $ 600 billion in infrastructure. At the same time, President Volodymyr Zelensky estimated the Ukrainian infrastructure damage at one trillion dollars. According to Von der Leyen, Russia “must pay…this is why we propose setting a specialised court”.
The EU Commission Vice President and foreign and security policy High Representative, Josep Borrell, also announced that “Europe supports the creation of a special tribunal to examine the legal means for holding Russia accountable”. He also said that “Russian funds withheld in western banks should be used for the reconstruction of Ukraine” and that “Europe needs a new security system.”
According to Von der Leyen, the amount of Russian retained funds belonging to the Central Bank is about $300 billion, while the money withheld from wealthy Russians is around $19 billion. A critical portion of this wealth has been frozen in the US, France, Belgium, Italy, Germany and the UK. Russian sources in the Douma say that the volume of funds, debts and assets of companies in Russia is about $400 billion to $500 billion, so the barter principle is very possible.
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If an official accusation criminalising Russia emerges, the western countries believe in having the right to use Russian funds to compensate for the losses resulting from the Russian state’s performance. Of course, if such a procedure is undertaken, countries like Yugoslavia and Iraq, to name but a few will have the right to demand compensation from NATO nation members and all those countries who took part in the 1999 attack and the 2003 occupation that contributed to the destruction of that society and its infrastructure.
The 1999 attack on Yugoslavia was in breach of international law as it was unauthorised by the UN Security Council and in violation of the same NATO collective defence and article 5 that protects each member state and uses lethal force when a member is attacked. Moreover, there was enough evidence to incriminate NATO for its attacks, which took the lives of at least 2500 civilians, and destroyed bridges, railways, nine power-generating facilities, oil refineries, industrial plants and hospitals.
The US and its allies sanctioned the illegal war against Iraq without the UN’s approval or the UN Security Council Charter. The same UN Secretary general Kofi Annan condemned it. By the same token, Iraq is entitled to hundreds of billions of dollars in compensation due to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed and the destruction of its infrastructure by the west. Years after the end of the Iraqi war, many Iraqis still suffer from the damage resulting from the US’s use of illegally depleted uranium against individuals and at more than 300 sites.
The human losses caused by the US and NATO wars in Afghanistan, Syria and Lebanon will be pushed forward to be placed on the same table as the Russian war on Ukraine. Despite the « principle » that the West is entitled to what others are not, the open exchange of information and the international media will not be able to ignore the devastating damage caused by past Western wars. Therefore, the western insistence on the “Special Court” against Russia is double-edged. It will hit the West’s adversaries where they want. Still, it will also hit the US and NATO members, who may be unable to avoid their own double standards without collateral losses by all those countries who have been victims of western wars during the last decades.
Europe may also need to consider the catastrophic results on European private companies in Russia, which will undoubtedly be significantly affected financially. This will increase the economic burden on the old continent, which is already crumbling under the pressure of inflation and consequent population unrest.
Therefore, the western option to mount an escalation with Russia will have a reverse consequence which is entirely independent of the military developments on the battlefield. It seems that Ukraine may not be in a solid position to continue fighting for very long following the death of 100,000 officers– according to Von der Leyen – and at least three times more wounded who have been removed from the battlefield. Europe leaders must carefully consider how long they can sustain the war in Ukraine and understand that it enriches the US but impoverishes the old continent.
The discontent of the European population has grown principally due to the increase in inflation. Also, weapons are scarce in Ukraine, which jeopardises the security of European nations. Also, the Franco-US meeting between Presidents Emmanuel Macron and Joe Biden confirmed their inevitable differencesregarding the economic consequences of the US’s war against Russia in Ukraine. France is unhappy with US policy and the EU’s growing dependence on Washington’s economy and security stability.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has rejected President Biden’s terms to “stop the war to start negotiations » because the Russian military operation will continue “until its objectives are met”. Russia is counting on its progress on the battlefield and the “snow general” who knocked on the doors of Ukraine, which – despite Europe’s provision of 500 massive electric generators – languishes in darkness for long periods. Russia is targeting and destroying Ukraine’s infrastructure, which makes the reconstruction of Ukraine very costly for the West.
Europe will not gain by escalating the situation with Russia and confiscating its money: the US tried with Venezuela’s $20 billion in frozen funds: it gave large sums of it to the US ally, Juan Guaido, who is now forgotten. The government of Venezuela will request the return of all the money, including what the US has disposed of. Russia has its own way of striking western companies and crippling the European economy.
Will the US be content with its gains in this war, and will Europe accept its losses and turn away from Ukraine to rebuild its economy once more? Any escalation to confront Russia will backfire on the old continent, as with the sanctions imposed at the beginning of the war. These deprived Europe of cheap Russian gas and replaced it with US gas, at four times the price.
It is politics, not the law, that is triggering the west to jump on Russia’s assets, and there is no understanding that Russia will not hesitate to react similarly. Other states could misuse their power and confiscate the resources of western or other nations because of this demonstration of Europe’s weakness resulting from blind support of US policy. Moreover, in this climate, many investors will hesitate to venture into any country for fear of seeing their assets confiscated and, consequently, creating a disturbance in the international trade market.
It is a cut-throat war in favour of those who can hold out as long as possible. The US and Russia can indeed hold out for a long time, for many years to come: but the length of this period is unsustainable for Ukraine and indeed for all the European nations.
Proofread by: Maurice Brasher