In this edition, host Jonathan Amarilio and co-host Trisha Rich are joined by Colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman, who served as a deputy legal advisor on the National Security Council (NSC) and came to national prominence after he and his twin brother, Alexander Vindman, jointly reported former President Trump to the NSC for attempting to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for negative information about his then political opponent, Joe Biden. Colonel Vindman is a JAG Officer and an expert in the law of armed conflict, military law, government ethics, and national security law. He joins the podcast to provide an overview of rules-based international law and the law of war in the context of Russia’s War in Ukraine, as well as the United Nations’ role in preventing wars of aggression.
Special thanks to our
Jonathan Amarilio: Hello, everyone, and welcome to CBA’s At The Bar Podcast where we have unscripted conversations with our guests about legal news topics, stories, and whatever else strikes our fancy. I’m Jon Amarilio of Taft Law and joining me on the pod today is Trisha Rich of Holland & Knight. Hi, Trish.
Trisha Rich: Hey, Jon.
Jonathan Amarilio: Trish, we have a very special guest on the pod today. I think anyone who’s even occasionally read a national newspaper over the last few years will recognize his name. Colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman of the United States Army. As many of our listeners will likely recall, Colonel Vindman was fired from a position at Trump White House after he raised concerns with his twin brother, Alexander Vindman about the former president’s dealings with Ukraine.
Colonel Vindman was then serving as deputy legal advisor on the prestigious National Security Council when his brother heard President Trump pressuring Ukrainian President Zelenskiy for political dirt on his election opponent, Joe Biden. After they jointly reported the incident to the NSC Council, Colonel Vindman and his twin brother Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman were then sacked just days after the conclusion of President Trump’s impeachment trial. So, that is how you, our audience, probably knows the name but as usual, and is usually the case rather, Colonel Vindman is much more than the event that made him famous.
While serving as deputy legal advisor to the National Security Council his portfolio included NATO, the International Criminal Court, International Humanitarian Law, human rights, and more. He also served in a variety of positions in the Judge Advocate General Corps, and before that as an infantry officer, including in the Army’s famed 82nd Airborne Division. He’s currently about to retire. Congratulations to him, and we are privileged to have him here with us to talk with us today. Colonel, welcome to At The Bar.
Colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman: Thank you for the warm introduction, Jon and Trish. I’m looking forward to having a great chat with you.
Trisha Rich: Yeah. Thanks for coming.
Jonathan Amarilio: Colonel, we’ve had you on, though not to discuss former President Trump and that incident, but rather because you recently authored a really thought-provoking article that caught our attention, entitled “Putin’s War Is an Existential Crisis for the United Nations” and there you discussed whether that international body and all the post-World War II rules based regime that went with it remains relevant in its current form, and that’s what we’d really like to dive into with you today. But before we jump in I think it would be useful for our audience if we look back for a broad understanding of international law, particularly the Law of War, which seems really relevant following the launch of Russia’s war of conquest against Ukraine especially given that Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, a body that is charged with preventing exactly those kinds of wars in the first place. So, when we’re talking about the Law of War, what does that mean? What sources of authority are we looking to?
Colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman: Sure. So, we’re looking in the realm of Public International Law and it’s, as you would imagine, a fairly complicated question because you have issues related to the UN and prohibited use of force. The reason why the UN was designed in the wake of World War II and really after the failure of the League of Nations is to prevent aggressive wars from taking place, the law of the jungle, where a larger more powerful country can change unilaterally the borders by invading another smaller country. And so, there’s one certainly component of international law, the Law of War, also known as International Humanitarian Law or the Law of Armed Conflict is a subset of that law, Public International Law, lex specialis. So, it’s a special area of law unto itself, developed over many centuries, frankly of warfare, and really encapsulated and put down black and white in The Hague Conventions really starting around the turn of the 20th century and 1907, and onward, and then Geneva Conventions and the progeny of the Geneva Conventions. There are four in the wake of World War II, and their additional protocols to the Geneva Conventions, that is where the Law of War, International Humanitarian Law, primarily stems from, and the purpose of the law is really to protect civilians and minimize the horrors of war, and there are four principal protocols to the Geneva Conventions that cover treatment of prisoners of war, treatment of civilians, and each articulate in a number of different articles the regulations of how you’re supposed to fight a war to protect civilians and those that are hors de combat, those that are out of the fight. So, for instance, wounded enemy prisoners of war, even though they may have one time been fighting you, once they became wounded you can no longer target them.
So, that is the general body of international law known as the Law of War.
Jonathan Amarilio: I think that’s a very useful framework to set today’s discussion, but I have a conceptual question for you, and this is something I love nerding out on because it’s what I focused on in my studies in law school and, you know, one of the things that I think you always hear from critics or skeptics of international law and just many people who maybe don’t have a full understanding of what it’s meant to accomplish A is that it’s like an inherently absurd exercise to try to regulate something as inherently lawless as war. What do you make of that sort of real politique niche perspective, and given that there’s no overarching coercive governmental body to enforce international law and the Law of War, what is its real-world impact?
Colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman: So, I come at this from the perspective of an Army officer that has served in the United States Army for about 25 years, and so war by its very nature is vicious and destructive, and horrible and cruel, and that cannot be avoided in many cases, but there can be ways, there must be ways, to protect civilians and not engage in the barbarity that has taken place over the course of centuries where entire cities were annihilated by enemy forces, and although there is not a mechanism to enforce the Law of War, really that mechanism is the United Nations and frankly powerless in this current struggle based on Russia’s veto power, there are mechanisms to hold individuals accountable for violations of Law of War, and they can be individuals that are committing the actual crimes on the ground along the lines of the murders that we see in Bucha and other places in Ukraine, but they’re also commanders through the concept of command responsibility, and that’s going all the way up the chain to Vladimir Putin himself.
So, he and the entire chain command, all the military forces, can be held accountable in a forum whether it be an international tribunal, something like the International Criminal Court, or pursuant to Ukrainian law, is every signatory to the Geneva Conventions is obligated to have domestic law on its books to prosecute violation of the Law of War. And this may be a good time to talk about the principles of the Law of War.
Jonathan Amarilio: Sure
Colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman: I talked about the purpose as being necessary to prevent unnecessary civilian deaths, and there are four main principles that support that, and the first principle is military necessity which means that you only attack targets if there is a military purpose to attack those targets, no wanton destruction of cities or non-military targets and objectives. The second principle is a principle of distinction. So, you are distinguishing military objectives, military targets, whether they be people or objects, from civilian non-combat, non-mission related subjects. So, the base principle of the concept of combat and immunities, that means that if you’re a soldier and you see an enemy soldier, you can shoot him on sight. There’s no need to provide warning. You have the right because you’re in a state of war to shoot that individual, but you lose that combatant immunity. Certainly, if you violate the Law of War and the principle of distinction means is that you have to distinguish between a soldier in uniform, somebody that’s fighting you, and civilians that are just in the combat zone.
The third principle is the principle of proportionality. If you are attacking a military target and you’ve gone through the steps of distinguishing military from civilian, sometimes you’re not going to be able to avoid civilian casualties. So, again, this is the nature of war. They can’t be targeted principally, but sometimes the civilian casualties cannot be avoided, and sometimes that term is also sanitized to collateral damage. So, if you think about it in terms of collateral damage, the collateral damage, so the injury to civilian persons and objects, can’t be disproportional to the military advantage gained by attacking a valid target. And the last principle is the principle of humanity. So, there are certain weapons that are banned by the Law of War, for instance glass ammunition is banned because you can’t x-ray, and so therefore it inflicts damage that can’t be repaired very easily through further conventions. There are weapons that are banned, chemical weapons and biological weapons, and then you cannot use legal weapons in an unlawful manner.
For instance, you can’t shoot an enemy soldier with an M16 or a round, of which all those weapons are legal, but you can’t shoot them in the legs and arms just to maim him and caused injury and wanton cruelty. So, those are the main principles that the United States operates on that Western Powers operate on, and that by appearances are lacking with the Russian forces in Ukraine.
Trisha Rich: Is it too early to conclude that Russia is committing war crimes in Ukraine?
Colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman: No. The shorter answer is no. In fact, Ukraine announced in the last couple of days that they’re trying a soldier pursuant to their own laws for a violation of International Humanitarian Law, the Law of War, and that’s because they have determined that this particular soldier – this is criminal litigation. Really, it’s classic sense.
Jonathan Amarilio: Colonel, he’s Ukrainian or a Russian soldier?
Trisha Rich: He’s Russian.
Colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman: He’s Russian. He’s a Russian soldier and they’re going to try him in Ukrainian court for violation of the Law of War. They have evidence. I assume this has yet to play out in the court, that he committed a murder, he killed a civilian that was not directly participating in hostilities, that was not impeding the mission. These are significant nuances that must be overcome by the prosecution, but if he is found to have killed a civilian for no reason, then he’s guilty of a Law of War violation, and he’s subject to penalty.
So, there are what appear to be obvious violations of Law of War. Earlier on, there were discussions about whether thermobarics, for instance, the use of thermobarics were the use of banned weapons, and that’s not the case. In fact, thermobaric weapons, sometimes people call them vacuum bombs, are in the U. S. inventory, and they’re very powerful. They’re massive weapons, going back ways and dating myself at the beginning of the Iraq War, there is something called the MOAB, the Mother of all Bombs, which was a thermobaric bomb. That is a lawful weapon to use as long as you’re abiding by the principles that I’ve laid out earlier, and you can use it against valid targets. What you can’t do, and what we see quite often, is Russia’s violation of the principle of proportionality and distinction, attacking schools, attacking hospitals, attacking apartment complexes. Those are violations not because of the weapon used, but because of violations of the principal of distinction and proportionality. Same goes with cluster munitions.
Trisha Rich: Thank you for answering that question, because it seems to me what we’re seeing in the media is obvious war crimes of Russia in Ukraine, and every time we turn on the news, every time we wake up, there’s another news alert over the weekend, you know, Russia upon the school. We have now I think over 200 confirmed, cases of Russia targeting medical clinics. We’re seeing systemic rapes, systemic executions of civilians, you know. These reports are just pouring out of Ukraine. So, I agree with everything you’re saying. It seems to me that it’s obvious what’s going on, but is there any way to stop this in real time, or is Russia just going to keep doing this until there’s some sort of escalation of another country going in there and getting involved?
Colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman: So, I mean, that’s an interesting question, and frankly I think one of the reasons why the Ukrainians are initiating their prosecution of war crimes right now and while the conflict is still ongoing is to dissuade Russian service members from either following illegal orders or from engaging in their own acts to respond to violations of the Law of War. So, that’s one way, the fact that there are numerous international tribunals and attempts by countries, that I believe Germany among them, of trying to establish universal jurisdiction of war crimes in Ukraine, and there are over 40 countries involved in potential war crimes investigations and prosecutions. Those are restraining factors potentially on Russian forces. How do you stop the Russian war crimes, is you defeat them on the battlefield, and that is probably the only realistic way to stop Russian war crimes, and the Ukrainians frankly have performed magnificently on the battlefield beyond many expectations of how they would perform, and the Russians, frankly, have performed much worse than many people anticipated they would on the battlefield. They had many years of corruption upon which their Putin regime and Russian government is based. It’s really having obvious detrimental impacts on their ability to perform the mission of the military.
Jonathan Amarilio: So, let’s talk about that in the law a little bit more, Colonel. Earlier you mentioned international tribunals, by which I’m guessing you meant like the ICC, and it seems to be that it’s easy to discuss the possibility of bringing someone to the dock in the ICC when you’re talking about smaller countries, like Serbia for example comes to mind, the Congo, but when you’re dealing with a country like Russia, the likelihood of any significant decision maker ever ending up in the Hague seems to me to be near zero unless there’s some major regime change and the new regime hands over those decision-makers. So, my question is this, if that’s right, does the threat of prosecution once a war has started like this actually hinder peace negotiations because the Vladimir Putins of the world know that unless those peace negotiations include terms that prevent those kinds of prosecutions, they have no incentive to end the war?
Colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman: So, I suspect that the Russian government is not the least bit concerned about the ICC or ever facing accountability in international tribunal. They are purely acting in their own interests. Vladimir Putin is acting in his own interest in trying to recreate the Russian Empire. However, I don’t know that that necessarily means that they will avoid accountability in the long run. It took after Kosovo and Bosnia a decade or more for some of the actors and some of the leaders to be tried, and I acknowledge that those are much smaller conflicts and much less powerful actors on the international stage, but I think that the accountability mechanisms are going to be multi-tiered. So, I think the ICC has a role. I think Ukrainian courts have a role. There could be other tribunals, ad hoc tribunals, and maybe universal jurisdiction.
So, the ICC May focus on the most senior actors in the Russian government and they can collect evidence now, they can build cases. They can even try to try cases in that central, but I suspect that accountability is down the road, significantly down the road for senior Russian leadership, but Ukrainian courts can act almost immediately. There are a number of Russian POWs that are in custody and to the extent that you can lay the litigation base, proof in a criminal proceeding, that not only something appears to be a violation of Law of War but you can say this individual violated the Law of War by murdering this civilian, there’s evidence of that. I mean, we’ve seen it just this week. There is some video footage of Russian soldiers engaging some sort of industrial facility and going to the guardhouse, speaking to Ukrainians, the Ukrainians walking away and being shot in the back, and later those Russian soldiers were seen on close camera video footage inside the facility. So, that is the type of evidence that I think you can bring to a tribunal, Ukrainian courts, much sooner, and start holding people accountable. And you could treat this almost like as a racketeering prosecution. You can work up the chain if these soldiers were for instance ordered to attack indiscriminately by the next level commander. You can try them then you can try the commander, and work up the chain. And I would expect that this ultimately plays out is multi-tier prosecutions in different venues.
Jonathan Amarilio: That’s probably a good place for us to take a break. We’ll be right back.
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And we’re back. So, Colonel, now that we have a baseline understanding of the international legal regime that governs the conflict and what Russia is doing, what the possible consequences for it may be, I want to turn to the article that you wrote that got our attention in which you call for a successor organization to the UN, or at least a heavily modified version of the UN. What were you getting at there, and why?
Colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman: Sure. Well, obviously the current war in Ukraine is an existential threat in my mind to not only the rules-based order but to the United Nations. If the purpose of the United Nations is to prevent unlawful use of force and the type of aggression that we’re seeing where there’s really absolutely no valid reason for the Russians to attack Ukraine, it’s purely a power grab and a land grab, and Russia is a veto member, permanent member of the Security Council charged with preventing those very actions amongst every other country around the world, we have a significant problem. It’s an existential threat to the United Nations and very much like there was an existential threat to the League of Nations, and in my article I write about Emperor Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia, petitioning the League of Nations in 1936 to help Ethiopia and stop the aggression of Italy and Benito Mussolini attacking Ethiopia for very similar reasons to absorb the territory, to rebuild some semblance of a colonial empire, and when the emperor appeared in person, it was very striking at that time to have such a petition, and Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s petition to the UN really conjured the same sort of images.
In 1936 although there were sympathetic countries, no real action occurred, and Italy’s actions were certainly barbaric with gassing of cities, the use of chemical weapons and indiscriminate attacks. Two years later because there was no action, we had the Sudetenland Crisis in Czechoslovakia, and really the start of World War II, and that was the death knell for the League of Nations, and the parallels are really striking between the petition of a national leader appearing before a body charged to ensure peace in 1936 and 2022. So, I think there are either significant reforms that are necessary for the UN, or perhaps the death of the UN and the creation of an entirely new body, and I certainly don’t have all the answers to this but in any case, I think it would be some sort of restraint on a country like Russia from engaging in the current activity.
So, I’m not advocating that we avoid reality and the recognition that there are certain countries that are more powerful than others and that those countries are also nuclear powers. So, some form of Security Council, some form of special committee is probably appropriate, but I am advocating for something akin to a veto override, so something that restrains the worst impulses of a country like Russia where now they know they have a veto that cannot be overridden, they can take whatever action they desire and face condemnation as they did in the UN General Assembly by a really huge margin, historic margin, but with no way to override their actions.
A veto override, which would also have a pretty high bar, would restrain potentially the worst impulses of aggressive countries like Russia by letting them know that in extreme circumstances and for instance, whatever threshold may be, every other member of the Security Council for instance voting against their action or every other permanent member voting against their action and sending the action to the UN General Assembly, there can be a myriad of different iterations of how you structure a veto override, but something at least to restrain those impulses would be I think worthwhile.
Jonathan Amarilio: So, if I could distill your criticism of the UN Security Council down a little bit, your problem is really with the veto that the five permanent members have because when one of them is engaged in an aggressive war, that veto allows them to ride roughshod over the Security Council’s enforcement mechanisms. Is that right?
Colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman: Yeah. So, I mean, there are numerous issues with the United Nations’ system, but in this current conflict, I think that issue with the veto is probably paramount among them.
And so, frankly, the UN can stand a fair amount of restructuring and reform in and of itself, but if you think about what the main purpose of the UN is, is to prevent aggressive wars, then this must be one of the main elements of that reformation.
Jonathan Amarilio: But then what? I know that’s kind of an open-ended question. I guess what I mean more specifically is let’s say you had a veto override and that occurred here. What measures could the UN then take that are not currently being taken, that could put an end to a war like this?
Colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman: Yeah, so that’s an interesting question. Assuming there was no override, it’s unclear that anybody would go to war with Russia given that they’re a nuclear power, but what it would do is put additional pressure on the international system and condemnation, and so the absolute absence of any real action in the UN. Then what’s the purpose of having a UN if they can’t act in condemning a war and authorizing the use of force? Whether a force is actually used because of the UN Security Council resolution I think is a significant question, but that’s more of a national issue.
If there’s a UN Security Council resolution condemning Russia and calling for all other countries to act in defense of Ukraine, at least the UN has fulfilled its purpose, but now that organization is completely paralyzed, and frankly we’re acting in the absence of UN action anyway. We’re providing significant weapons and support to Ukraine, and this gets into principles of neutrality and co-belligerency, other principles of international law that I think are significant in this conflict, that by some arguments we are not certainly neutral as potentially envisioned in The Hague Conventions of 1907, but we have not necessarily crossed the line into co-belligerency. So, I think the UN for it to be an effective organization needs to be able to act in situations like this, but that doesn’t necessarily mean all the actors, just like if you think about NATO Article 5, an attack against one is an attack against all, that doesn’t necessarily mean every country will go to war against a NATO adversary. It just says that they can and their actions would be in accordance with international law.
Trisha Rich: It doesn’t require them to do so.
Colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman: Exactly. So, if you think about it this way, it’s basically a reinforcement of a rules-based order.
Jonathan Amarilio: It’s ironic that you mentioned The Hague Conventions because if memory serves, I think Russian Tsar Nicholas II got those started, didn’t he?
Colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman: You know better than I in that regard.
Jonathan Amarilio: I think he did because he knew he couldn’t keep up with the militarization of the West and he thought a rules-based regime that limited arms built up would inure to Russia’s benefit in the long run. Didn’t quite work out that way.
Trisha Rich: The irony.
Jonathan Amarilio: Yeah, it’s pretty ironic.
Trisha Rich: I did have to laugh earlier when you talked about Putin being a strong man, and I wanted to make this joke. Apparently you have not seen the photo of him on the horse with no shirt, or you haven’t seen him play his men at hockey, because I think those are demonstrative of his strength.
Colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman: Well, I think that the statement I said was he’s a strong man that’s demonstrated himself, not being particularly strong, and I’ve seen both of those and I was not impressed, but it’s hard to erase them from your mind. They can’t be unseen.
Trisha Rich: It sure is.
Jonathan Amarilio: I love the hockey videos where the defender is just part, like the Red Sea, and the goalie just sort of freezes and he goes right into it. It’s amazing just how his mere presence awes them into submission.
Trisha Rich: He’s just so good at hockey, right? It’s very hard for me, as Jon knows I’m not the biggest sports fan in the world, so it’s very hard for me to tell when athletes are, I think the term is flopping, right? But when I watch those videos, I can tell that’s what’s going on.
Jonathan Amarilio: So, Colonel, let’s bring this back to accountability. Do you envision any realistic outcome to this war where President Putin and his top decision-makers are held to account, period, by any tribunal?
Colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman: So, I could envision a scenario where Putin who’s been brought low by his numerous failures in this war is removed from power, or if he is removed from power, facing accountability with Russia giving him up in order to restore goodwill, international goodwill, and eliminate sanctions, and the same with his top-tier leadership. In the absence of Putin losing power or dying, I don’t see accountability for senior Russian officials.
So, that’s why I think a multi-tier accountability mechanism where the ICC is focused on sort of the big fish and other tribunals and the Ukrainians are focused on more sort of, not necessarily lower tier but, you know, the war crimes, the Law of War crimes themselves rather than crimes of aggression, which is how the war started. So, this is where there are two aspects of Public International Law, the Jus Ad Bellum, which is how a war starts, and Russia’s violation of those rules and violation of the charter, and then jus in bello, the actual fighting of the war and war crimes that are committed, the rapes, the murders, the indiscriminate bombings, and those things are the actual conduct of the war.
And frankly, it’s hard to recognize a professional military force. The Russians fighting in Ukraine, they almost seem like Barbarian horde when they an area. They loot, they pillage, they murder, they destroy everything indiscriminately. What’s striking frankly, to me, and a clear indicator of a complete lack of professionalism is even officers when they’re captured on the battlefield, there was one case I think back in March, in the middle of March, where the Ukrainian forces captured Russian officers that had had four or five laptops, you know, half a dozen iPhones, and they’re looting and pillaging Ukrainian villages and cities.
Jonathan Amarilio: But that is always, you know – I’m a little wary when people are completely dismissive of Russia’s military capabilities because that has historically always been their MO. They start out very poorly and very sloppy in every single War of the modern era and then they slowly build up, you know, a fairly effective in WWII certainly devastating capability. So, the longer this war drags on, I’m not entirely sure we’ll be able to continue discounting Russia’s military capabilities.
Colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman: I don’t know that Russia has a great deal of time to make up for their very poor start, and when the there are a number of faulty assumptions, strategic assumptions about the Ukrainians, they’re going to fold very quickly, the war is going to be over in a few days, there’s no need to build logistics, that makes operational objectives extremely hard for military forces to achieve, but besides that it’s the basics that I think the Russians are having extreme difficulty and if they’ve learned much from their operations around Kiev, it doesn’t seem like it’s sufficient to overcome Ukrainian forces. They’re almost fighting a 20th century war in the 21st century, and that could be that kind of breathing space for them.
Their Logistics are terrible, their small unit leadership and tactics are terrible, and those are all cultural structural issues that they’re not going to be able to fix in the short-term. The Ukrainians are in large part successful because they had secure internal lines of communication, which means they can get material logistics personnel where they need to without having to worry about anything other than maybe deep strikes by the Russians, and they have fantastic small-unit leadership where they have a general assignment given to them by their superior and says, “I want you to do X objective,” but they’re not told, “This is how I want you to do it. This is–.”
Jonathan Amarilio: Right. And that’s the big contrast with the top down Russian military structure.
Colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman: Exactly.
Jonathan Amarilio: That note of hope is a good place for us to take a break. We’ll be right back with Stranger than Legal Fiction.
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And we’re back with Stranger than Legal Fiction. Our audience knows the rules. They’re pretty simple. Trish and I have done a little research on the internet. We found one law that is real but probably shouldn’t be because it’s so strange or wrong. We’ve made another one up and we’re going to quiz each other and the colonel to see who can distinguish strange legal fact from fiction. Colonel, are you ready to play?
Colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman: I will do my best.
Jonathan Amarilio: Trish, why don’t you lead us off?
Trisha Rich: Okay. Law number one, in the State of Florida, an unmarried woman cannot parachute on Sundays, or law number two, in Yamhill, Oregon it is prohibited to engage in fortune-telling, astrology, or palm reading. Which one is real? Which one is fake and/or repealed?
Jonathan Amarilio: Colonel, what do you think?
Colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman: Okay, so I think that the real law is the one that no palm reading.
Trisha Rich: Okay, you think that the one that prohibits fortune-telling, astrology, or palm reading?
Colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman: Yes.
Trisha Rich: Okay. Jon, what do you say?
Jonathan Amarilio: I’m going to say the Florida law is real, because one of the rules I’ve learned playing this game long enough is if it’s misogynistic sounding, it’s probably real.
Trisha Rich: And it’s Florida.
Jonathan Amarilio: There we go.
Colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman: Wow.
Trisha Rich: The Florida law—
Colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman: Could you repeat that? Because that’s a little bit insane.
Trisha Rich: Yeah. So, the Florida law was an unmarried woman cannot parachute on Sundays. That was a real law. It was repealed in 2005. Yeah. Sorry, Jon. The Oregon law is still on the books. It is prohibited in the city of Yamhill, Oregon to engage in fortune-telling, astrology, palm reading, or anything spirituality, anything that is not rooted in science or a prophet. So, that’s one for the colonel and zero points for Jun.
Jonathan Amarilio: Okay. Round two. I went international appropriately enough. In Russia, it is illegal to do just about anything that President Vladimir Putin dislikes, including writing him an unflattering constituent letter. Option number one, no writing Putin nastygrams. Option number two, in China, another totalitarian state, the law encourages or at least incentivizes motorists to kill pedestrians whom they’ve accidentally struck with their vehicles. Colonel, what do you think?
Colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman: Yeah, so I can’t imagine that it’s lawful to kill a pedestrian that you’ve wounded. So, I think that’s not the real law. Although, both of them are quite outrageous. So, I think that the Russian law is real and the Chinese law is not real.
Jonathan Amarilio: Trish?
Trisha Rich: Yeah. So, this is just Jon being his usual tricky self. So, I read an article a few years ago about this running over Chinese people and I think the thing was, and I know you’re going to explain it to me in a minute, I think the issue was that it changes your liability to the person and the person’s family who has passed. And so, it’s monetarily advantageous to kill them, but I don’t think that was a function of law, and Putin is obviously a monster. So, I think I’m going to go with the Putin law being real and the China thing being incentivized by the legal structure, but not actually a law.
Jonathan Amarilio: So, yes, and no. And I like this, I like this dichotomy because it’s about as hazy as most international law in my experience. The Russian law is real in that people have been prosecuted for writing unflattering letters to Putin. I could not actually find a law that was identified, that was broken, supporting that prosecution other than the fact that Putin didn’t like it and they went to prison for it. So, whether that’s a law or not—
Trisha Rich: Kind of like all those guys that have heart attacks in the trunk of their cars in Russia?
Jonathan Amarilio: Right, yeah, or just have nuclear tea, right? Yeah.
Trisha Rich: You know, just stuff happens.
Jonathan Amarilio: The Chinese law, you’re exactly right, Trish. There isn’t a law that legalizes killing people. Obviously, you’re still subject to criminal penalties although those criminal penalties tend to be very few and far between in China, because the authorities are mostly either corrupt or disinterested, but the liability incentives are such that when you strike someone and maim them for life, you have to pay for their care for the rest of their lives whereas if you kill them, there’s only a one-time, relatively small, financial penalty. So, the law actually does incentivize you to kill them and as a result, you see, no shortage of videos on the internet of unfortunately motorists in China accidentally striking someone and then backing up and running over them again and again to ensure that they finish the job so they don’t have open-ended legal liability.
A bright note.
Trisha Rich: And on that. Happy note.
Colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman: Okay. I have never seen such a video and, I mean—
Jonathan Amarilio: There are.
Trisha Rich: Yeah.
Colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman: That sounds insane.
Trisha Rich: I haven’t seen any videos but like I said, I read an article about this a few years ago that went into depth about the social and cultural issues and it talked about people that would be crossing the street with their families and somebody gets struck, and the person just hits them over and over again when their family is standing there. I mean, it’s pretty brutal.
Jonathan Amarilio: Yeah. And there are videos, I’m sad to say I’ve seen them. And that’s going to be our show for today. I want to thank our guest, Colonel Eugene Vindman, for this fascinating and thought-provoking, if tragic discussion. Colonel, thank you very much for joining us today.
Colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman: Well, Jon, first of all, I thought we were going to end on a happy note after talking about war crimes.
Trisha Rich: I was just thinking that. We’ve filled that to you as a light-hearted game at the end.
Jonathan Amarilio: Yeah, my bad.
Colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman: China was on my countries to visit but—
Jonathan Amarilio: Just be careful when you’re crossing the street. Just be careful when you’re crossing the street. Yeah.
Colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman: Okay.
Jonathan Amarilio: For those interested in an in-depth discussion about the humanitarian immigration crisis in Ukraine, please listen to last week’s episode with Attorney Andy Semotiuk, hosted by our very own Trisha Rich, who I also want to thank as my co-host here today along with our producer, Jen Byrne, Adam Lockwood on sound, and everyone at the Legal Talk Network family.
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