The people of Ukraine – who have lost their loved ones and their homes, who have had to flee bombardment and death – and their sovereign government in Kiev have the right to demand billions of dollars’ worth of reparations from the regime of Vladimir Putin.
Putin, who ordered the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in violation of the United Nations Charter, can refuse to pay. And Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, can veto any UNSC resolution for such a reparation.
The final outcome, however, is in the hands of the global community of nations.
On March 2, a total of 141 UN member nations voted in the General Assembly to condemn the Russian invasion.
Invasions shouldn’t be cheap
Many of those nations have billions of dollars’ worth of Russian assets, seized, frozen or otherwise within their jurisdictions.
These nations can collectively and individually determine, after due process, that Russian state assets can be seized and, under numerous international law precedents, distributed to the innocent Ukrainian victims of this unprovoked Russian aggression.
That is one way to condemn this Russian invasion of a sovereign nation and indemnify innocent civilians. That is one way to raise the price of committing atrocities.
War reparations have more than 2,000 years of history, from Rome’s imposition of indemnities on Carthage to reparations after the Napoleonic wars to post-World War II Germany and Japan.
Under the 1951 Treaty of Peace with Japan, Article 14, and numerous subsequent agreements, Japan paid reparations to dozens of countries, including Cambodia, Denmark, Indonesia, Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Thailand.
The payments began in 1955 and ended in 1977. Russia waived its reparation in 1956, the People’s Republic of China renounced its in 1972, and Sri Lanka declined to receive any payments.
Some countries still allow individual citizens to press in their courts for more payments at individual levels.
The most recent case followed the unprovoked Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. After the US-led allies forced Iraqi forces out in 1991, UN Security Council Resolution 687 ordered Iraq to pay US$52.4 billion in reparations to Kuwaiti nationals and corporations.
The Iraqi government agreed that 30% of its oil revenue be earmarked for this reparation; the funds were duly collected and paid out.
Such collective actions of the global community can raise the price of aggression, help the innocent victims and hence promote global peace. Yes, “globalization,” whatever one’s definition may be, can in the form of reparations be a force for peace.
Sanctions are for raising the price of bad behavior. Reparations are for indemnifying those people who have suffered and also for raising the price of bad behavior.
Putin will most likely try to ignore such civilized proceedings and go his own way. We cannot let him. We should not let him.
The international community should collectively exclude Russia, its corporations, its sport teams – and, especially, this individual, Vladimir Putin – from any participation in the global community.
Jakarta should let him know that he is persona non grata at the upcoming Group of Twenty meeting in Indonesia.
When a big military power chooses, totally unprovoked, to invade and destroy another country, the global community must stand together and demand, “Pay for the damages or you may not stand among us.”
A retired Tokyo-based analyst for a major US investment bank, Matt Aizawa now crunches numbers and contemplates the world from beside a mountain lake north of the city.