Wait, Are You a Pirate?

Okay, so fighting pirates is not that easy, even for NATO.

“From a military standpoint, we certainly are limited by what we can do,” [NATO Admiral Mark Fitzgerald] told Reuters news agency.

“How do you prove a guy’s a pirate before he actually attacks a ship?”

Hint: those guys that captured the Ukrainian ship with 33 tanks, who demanded a $20 million ransom, brought it down to $8 million, conducted an interview with The New York Times, threatened to blow the ship up, changed their mind, and are now threatening to execute the ship’s passengers since they’ve run out of food and water? They’re pirates.

Russian warships are bearing down, and they seem more likely to use force to free their countrymen aboard the Ukrainian ship. The situation is certainly urgent, and even though Somali “freelance coast guards” have had some success freeing a vessel from pirates, violence is not necessarily the way to go in this case. Russia, NATO, and the U.S. will have to all cooperate, and rapid diplomacy will likely prove more effective than shooting first — even if we know who the pirates are.