Vice President Kamala Harris made perhaps the strongest condemnation of Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, asserting that he should be investigated for war crimes after Russia apparently bombed a maternity hospital in the Ukraine.
The Biden Administration had already taken a number of steps against Putin, including economic sanctions against him and his wealthy allies. Yesterday imports of Russian oil and gas were banned from the U.S. But a sitting vice president publicly supporting a war crimes investigation against the Russian head of state while on a diplomatic mission has the impact of U.S. policy; it means that Harris speaks for the U.S. government in saying that Putin should be investigated, which could lead to charges and a trial in the International Criminal Court.
The International Criminal Court prosecutor announced last week he was launching an investigation that could target senior officials believed responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide amid a rising civilian death toll and widespread destruction of property during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
But investigations at the ICC take many years, and relatively few convictions have ever been won. The ICC was set up in 2002 to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The crime of aggression, which can’t be investigated in Ukraine because neither Russia nor Ukraine is a member of the court, was added later.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. is conducting a legal review process to determine whether Russia committed war crimes.
Duda said “it is obvious to us that in Ukraine Russians are committing war crimes.” He added that in his view the invasion was “bearing the features of a genocide — it aims at eliminating and destroying a nation.”
Harris’ comments also come as she meets with the Polish and Romanian heads of state during a two-day trip in which she was also forced to clear up a public disagreement over providing warplanes to the Ukrainian military for use in the war against a Russian invasion. Polish officials on Tuesday had said publicly that the US agreed, along with their country, to provide the planes but the White House was caught off guard.
Harris is being seen with greater regularity on the domestic and world stages as the Biden Administration faces low poll numbers and high inflation with mid-term elections upcoming.