Cheney appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union,” where she spoke with host Jake Tapper about the mass killing of Ukrainian civilians since Russia invaded the neighboring country.
“I think this clearly is genocide. I think that you asked exactly the right questions,” she told Tapper. “I think that Europe needs to understand and grapple with the fact that you’ve got a genocidal campaign ― the first kind of horrific genocidal campaign that we have seen certainly in recent decades.”
Article II of the United Nations Genocide Convention defines genocide as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” ― followed by a list of actions such as “killing members of the group,” “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group,” “forcibly transferring children of the group to another group,” and deliberately inflicting “conditions of life” meant to bring about the group’s physical destruction.
The U.N. treaty has been criticized since its 1948 adoption, both by those who feel its definition of genocide is too narrow and others who believe the term can be applied to too many situations. As defined by the treaty, the most recent act of genocide took place in 1994 in Rwanda. The International Criminal Court, however, issued an arrest warrant for Sudan’s president in 2010 on genocide charges; the U.S. in 2016 accused the Islamic State of genocide in Iraq and Syria; Gambia submitted a case to the International Court of Justice in 2017 accusing of Myanmar of genocide against Rohingyas; and several nations formally accused China last year of genocide against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, have described Russia’s attacks on civilians as a genocide ― raising comparisons to the horrors of the Holodomor, where millions of Ukrainians died of a famine engineered by the Soviet government in 1932. The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor is currently conducting an investigation on the atrocities stemming from the Russian invasion.
Though White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan was comfortable saying Russia’s actions constitute war crimes, he hesitated on Sunday to describe the attacks as genocide.
“Look, in my opinion, the label is less important than the fact that these acts are cruel and criminal and wrong and evil and need to be responded to decisively. And that is what we are doing,” Sullivan told Tapper. “And we’re doing that not just by supporting international investigations and gathering evidence to hold the perpetrators all the way to the highest levels accountable. We’re doing it by providing sophisticated weapons to the Ukrainians that are making a major difference on the battlefield.”
Congress voted on Thursday to suspend normal trade relations with Russia and to ban oil imports, while the European Union approved an embargo on coal imports. The U.N. General Assembly voted to suspend Russia from its Human Rights Council.
Sullivan pointed out that banning oil imports is harder for European countries that are much more reliant on Russian energy. The U.S. is “surging exports of U.S. liquefied natural gas to Europe” so other countries can wean off Russian oil and gas. Cheney said Sunday that European nations need to pull the plug on Russian imports if they truly support Ukraine in the war.
“Europeans need to understand that they’re funding that genocidal campaign,” she told Tapper. “I understand the economic consequences to countries in Western Europe, if they were to impose the kind of oil and gas embargo that the U.S. has imposed against Russian oil and gas, but they need to do it. And we need to do everything we can to increase our own domestic production, to help make sure that we can supply them with as much as possible.”
“But they need to understand that every single time, every single day that they are continuing to import Russian oil and gas,” she went on, “they’re funding Putin’s genocide in Ukraine.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.