President Joe Biden just declared what every red-blooded American with two eyes and a television believes: Vladimir Putin "is a war criminal." After initially mishearing a reporter's question and answering "no," the president clarified that he does, in fact, believe the Russian autocrat is guilty of war crimes. This was one "Candid Joe" moment the White House could stomach. Biden was "speaking from his heart," explained Press Secretary Jen Psaki, "and speaking from what he's seen on television."
Putting his words into action will be more complicated, Representative Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who has introduced a resolution to recognize Russia's war crimes said. "We have seen every day that civilians are being targeted, schools, hospitals." Unlike previous wars, we don't have to sort through the rubble to uncover the facts; the world is watching this invasion in real time. The infamous World Health Organization has already documented 43 attacks on hospitals and health facilities. The State Department's own embassy in Ukraine reported Russian troops gunned down ten people in a bread line. Not to mention a widely reported bombing of a theater in Mariupol, where hundreds of civilians, mostly women and children had taken shelter.
Yet the State Department suggests "it needs to further investigate who launched this blitzkrieg," said Smith. We know who; this war is Vladimir Putin's responsibility. Therefore, "an international tribunal needs to be set up immediately," said Smith. In these situations, "delay is denial," and swift action could deter Russian soldiers from following through on orders to attack civilians. There are paths to international justice, but they could take a while.
Nor is it even slightly surprising that Vladimir Putin is committing atrocities on the battlefield. The former KGB thug has solidified power for decades by imprisoning and assassinating political opponents. He has already invaded two smaller neighbors, Georgia (2008) and Ukraine (2014) to seize territory. Now, all the world's threats of sanctions could not deter him from an unprovoked, full-scale invasion designed to wipe Ukraine off the map. Does anyone think this monster will restrain himself to the gentleman's rulebook for war?
That said, there is a silver lining amid the mounting civilian death tolls, said war correspondent Chuck Holton. Russia's shifting tactics seem to indicate that their war machine has stalled, and that they have run out of precise munitions. "The only thing they have left is these... rockets," said Holton. "They're launching them on civilian targets because it's easier." There is a path to victory for Ukraine, but it requires more Western support, support which President Biden keeps blocking.
Underneath the din of constant shelling, the Kremlin would like you to know that its feelings were hurt by President Biden calling Putin a war criminal. In fact, they called his comment "unacceptable and unforgiveable."
In the midst of this man-made disaster, there are those like Sergey Nakul, pastor of Grace Reformed Church in Kyiv who are preaching an urgent message of forgiveness that is found only in Christ. He sent his wife and children to safety but stayed behind to advance the gospel. "People are so open right now, when they understand that their life could just end any moment -- and nobody knows who is next." He isn't afraid of death -- or of Putin. "Repent of all of your evil deeds," is his message to the dictator, "because you're not God."