Arrest warrant for Putin puts new spin on Xi visit to Russia

WASHINGTON — Chinese President Xi Jinping’s plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow next week highlighted China’s aspirations for a greater role on the world stage. But they also revealed the perils of global diplomacy: Hours after Friday’s announcement of the trip, an international arrest warrant was issued for Putin on war crimes charges.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) said Friday, March 17, 2023, that it had issued an arrest warrant for Putin, accusing him of personal responsibility for the “unlawful transfer of (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.”

The flurry of developments — which followed China’s brokering of an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran to resume diplomatic relations and its release of what it calls a “peace plan” for Ukraine — came as the Biden administration watches warily Beijing’s moves to assert itself more forcefully in international affairs.

US President Joe Biden said Friday he believes the decision by the ICC in The Hague to charge Putin was “justified.”

While the US does not recognize the court, Biden said it “makes a very strong point” to call out the Russian leader for his actions in ordering the invasion of Ukraine.

The Biden administration believes China’s desire to be seen as a broker for peace between Russia and Ukraine may be viewed more critically now that Putin is officially a war crime suspect.

China has repeatedly sided with Russia in blocking international action against Moscow for the Ukraine conflict and, US officials say, is considering supplying Russia with weapons to support the war. But it has also tried to cast itself in a more neutral role, offering a peace plan that was essentially ignored.

In the immediate term, the ICC’s warrant for Putin and one of his aides is unlikely to have a major impact on the meeting or China’s position toward Russia. Neither China nor Russia — nor the United States or Ukraine — has ratified the ICC’s founding treaty.

The US, beginning with the Clinton administration, has refused to join the court, fearing that its broad mandate could result in the prosecution of American troops or officials.

That means none of the four countries formally recognizes the court’s jurisdiction or is bound by its orders, although Ukraine has consented to allowing some ICC probes of crimes on its territory and the US has cooperated with ICC investigations. (AP)