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The International Criminal Court Takes Aim at Vladimir Putin

April 05, 2023
Jacqueline R. McAllister and Daniel Krcmaric


In analysis for Political Violence At A Glance, an IGCC-supported blog dedicated to political violence and its alternatives, Jacqueline R. McAllister, an associate professor of political science at Kenyon College, and Daniel Krcmaric, an associate professor of political science at Northwestern University, analyze the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant issued for Putin, and what it means for the continued war in Ukraine.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) shocked the world on March 17 by issuing arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Maria Lvova-Belova. The ICC indicated it has reasonable grounds to believe that each bears criminal responsibility for unlawfully deporting and transferring children from occupied Ukraine to Russia—considered war crimes under international law. Rather than starting its ongoing investigation in Ukraine with arrest warrants for “small fry” war criminals, the ICC rolled the dice by going after its most prominent target ever: Vladimir Putin. Often considered the “most powerful man in the world,” Putin is the first leader with a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council—and the first leader with an arsenal of nuclear weapons—to face an ICC arrest warrant.

What does all of this mean going forward? And how will the ICC arrest warrants influence the war in Ukraine?

It is important to start by managing expectations: Neither Putin nor Lvova-Belova is likely to land in the ICC’s dock anytime soon. Since the ICC does not have a police force, it relies on state cooperation for enforcement. Russia refuses to recognize the ICC, and it is inconceivable that Putin and Lvova-Belova will voluntarily turn themselves into the court. The road ahead for securing justice will be bumpy.

Nonetheless, the ICC’s arrest warrants may have several implications for the war, some negative, some positive.

Read the full blog post at Political Violence At A Glance.