Statements about genocide: – Increases pressure on NATO countries

On Tuesday, US President Joe Biden said he believed Russia was committing genocide in Ukraine. Professor Sven G. Holtsmark at the Norwegian Defense College believes that this is putting further pressure on NATO countries. At the same time, he serves ramsalt criticism of the Norwegian authorities.

– When Biden uses that word, it naturally increases the pressure on all NATO countries to assist Ukraine financially and with arms deliveries. Norway is a good example here, because Norway has consistently behaved as one of the worst in its class, also when it comes to financial assistance to Ukraine. Norway has not been among the countries that have taken the initiative to assist Ukraine, to say the least.

Holtsmark has been dean at the Norwegian Defense College and acting director at the Department of Defense Studies.

Before Odd Roger Enoksen (Sp) resigned as Minister of Defense, he stated to Dagbladet that the government is continuously considering which and how many weapons they can send to Ukraine. The Ministry of Defense clarifies to Dagbladet that this still applies, even though Norway has a new Minister of Defense – Bjørn Arild Gram (Sp).

NATO: US President Joe Biden and NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg.  Photo: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters / NTB

NATO: US President Joe Biden and NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg. Photo: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters / NTB
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– Strong escalation

First, Biden referred to Russia’s actions as genocide in a speech. Afterwards, Biden told the press that he used that description because it is becoming more and more clear that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to eradicate the Ukrainian identity.

Biden is quoted as saying that he thinks that it seems that Russia is committing genocide in Ukraine, but that he will leave it to the experts to decide whether it can legally be described as genocide. It is clear that there is a sharp escalation in vocabulary on Biden’s part, but he is not alone in believing that Russia commits genocide in Ukraine, says Holtsmark.

The professor refers to a column that was recently published in Aftenposten where he and associate professor Sigurd Sørlie conclude that Russia at least lays the foundation for genocide in Ukraine.

– The statements from the Russian side no longer deal only with the replacement of the regime and de-Nazification. Now there is talk of attacks on the Ukrainian identity, nationality and culture, and then we are very close to what is covered by the usual definition of genocide.

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– Great and dramatic development

Researcher Ståle Ulriksen at FHS Sjøkrigsskolen tells Dagbladet that Biden’s statements represent a large and dramatic development.

– It is a fairly large and dramatic development. If you define it as genocide, you commit to punishing those behind it and to try to prevent it from happening, Ulriksen says to Dagbladet and quotes from Article 1 of the Genocide Convention:

«The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish».

Ulriksen states that it is clear that it is of great importance that Biden refers to Russia’s actions as genocide, all the time the United States is the largest and most powerful country in NATO. The researcher also says that in a short time one will get an answer on how this statement will affect the development.

– For example, Slovakia has also now said it is willing to assist Ukraine with fighter aircraft of the type MiG-29, he mentions.

Ukraine has loudly called for more and more powerful weapons. In the past, Poland has said it is willing to supply fighter jets to Ukraine, but so far the United States and NATO as a whole have been skeptical.

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Weapons assistance

Professor Holtsmark says that it is in the cards that one must try to prevent crimes, but that the question is about how to do it.

– In reality, the West can limit or try to prevent genocide in two ways: Sanctions and arms deliveries. There are no other tools until you are forced to intervene militarily, says Holtsmark.

He believes that it is quite clear that Ukraine is now fighting the West’s battle.

– As I understand it, it is to the degree of the West’s self-interest to assist Ukraine with all the help it can, as quickly as possible. The alternative may turn out to be that we are forced to intervene directly – with the unforeseeable consequences it will have.

Both President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky and his near adviser Mykhailo Podoljak has commented on Biden’s statements. Zelenskyj refers to it as real words from a real leader, and writes that calling a spade a spade is absolutely necessary to resist evil. At the same time, he reiterates the immediate need for more and more powerful weapons to prevent the Russians from committing more crimes.

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