THE MASSACRE IN THE SKIES OVER UKRAINE: A COMMENT
"When Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was blown out of the clear sky over Ukraine by a surface-to-air-missile it was, without any doubt, an outrageous act of banditry that must not go unpunished. Let us be clear on one thing: the crisis over Ukraine, which has been escalating since late last summer, has been initiated and driven by Russia at each and every step. And whatever details emerge over the downing of the Malaysian airliner on Thursday, it is here that the ultimate responsibility lies. A year ago, after a lengthy silence on the subject, the Kremlin decided it simply could not accept that Ukraine sign a free-trade agreement with the EU that had been ready since 2012. Moscow initiated severe economic measures as well as a nasty propaganda campaign to force Kiev to ditch the agreement and, if possible, opt for the Kremlin-centred Eurasian Union it hoped to establish. But the EU agreement was the free and deliberate choice of Ukraine. Every Ukrainian president and prime minister since independence in 1991 supported such a deal. In no way was there a conflict between the new free-trade deal with the EU and the old free-trade arrangements with Russia and other former members of the Soviet Union. It should also be noted that the EU deal does not go as far as Ukraine wanted. Any talk of the EU “forcing” Kiev to choose is uninformed. When Viktor Yanukovich, former Ukrainian president, fled the country in February – after 100 people had been killed by snipers in the streets of Kiev – the Kremlin unleashed a new and vicious cycle in the crisis. The invasion, occupation and annexation of Crimea was a clear violation of fundamental principles of European security and international law. The world has seen nothing like it since Saddam Hussein, then Iraqi president, invaded and annexed Kuwait in 1990 in a similar smash-and-grab operation, also claiming obscure historical justification. It is certainly true that Crimea had been part of Russia for nearly two centuries. But there are few places in Europe that have not been part of some other country at some point. Moscow’s aims were not limited to Crimea. There was obviously an intention to carve up Ukraine, with a “Novorossia” established in the east and south of the country, also giving Russia de facto veto power over the rump of Ukraine."Carl Bildt, "Putin’s credibility lies amid the wreckage of flight MH17". The Financial Times. 17 July 2014, in www.ft.com.
"Certainly it would not be surprising to see the rebels, or their Russian sponsors, shooting down suspected Ukrainian aircraft. In fact, just before the Malaysian airliner went down, the Ukrainian government had accused a Russian fighter plane of shooting down one of its own fighters in Ukrainian airspace on Wednesday. Just a few days before that, Ukraine accused Russian rebels of shooting down a Ukrainian transport aircraft. This is becoming rather too regular an occurrence to be ignored. The deaths of all those innocent passengers and crew aboard the Malaysian aircraft, who were in no way party to this conflict, makes it impossible for the West to look away from Russian aggression or for Russia to escape culpability. Even if the shooting down of the Malaysian aircraft was accidental and not ordered by the Kremlin, as seems likely, Vladimir Putin is nevertheless ultimately responsible. If you hand a bazooka to a hyperactive teenager and he destroys your neighbor’s house, the person providing the weapon is just as culpable as the one firing it. And there is no doubt that anti-aircraft missiles, along with tanks and other advanced weaponry, have been provided to pro-Russian separatists, many of them Russian citizens and even members of the Russian intelligence and military services, by the Russian state. You don’t pick up an anti-aircraft missile at your local military surplus store the way you might an AK-47. The question now is what we–meaning we in the West–are going to do about this outrageous act of villainy. John McCain said that if Russian involvement is proved, there will be “hell to pay.” I certainly hope so. What would this “hell” consist of? No one is contemplating the use of Western military force against Russia or even Russian separatists in Ukraine, but certainly there is much that the U.S. and its European allies could do to provide military equipment and training to the Ukrainian armed forces to enable them to defeat Putin’s minions–something that we have been afraid to do until now for fear of triggering Russian escalation. As if shooting down civilian aircraft isn’t escalation enough".Max Boot, "Downing of Plane Shows West Cannot Ignore Russia-Ukraine Escalation." Commentary. 17 July 2014, in www.commentarymagazine.com. One does not have to be enamoured of the type of bluster that one can expect from the sometimes egregious American political commentator Max Boot, to not be outraged by the massacre in the air over Ukraine which occurred the other day. Au fond, of course as the Swedish Prime Minister, Carl Bildt correctly points out, 'who is to blame' (to quote from the title of Aleksandr Herzen's splendid 19th century roman), is of course the Russian State President Vladimir Putin. It is he of course whose policies have promoted the current bout of violence which we are seeing in Eastern Ukraine. Violence which is senseless in the extreme. One may only hope that given the massacre in the skies, that the Western powers in Europe and America will now press fully on the sanctions button and force the Kremlin to abandon its puppets in Eastern Ukraine. To allow the current situation to continue is a recipe for the loss of more and more innocent lives completely without need. Unless of course one wishes to give further encouragement to Putin's revisionist policies not only in Ukraine but in other parts of the 'former' Soviet space 1. Given this fact does anyone not realize that London real estate prices and Italian export dollars are by far much less important things to worry about? 1. For a rather convoluted exercise in precisely such a justification, see: Aleksandr Lukin, "What the Kremlin Is Thinking: Putin’s Vision for Eurasia". Foreign Affairs. (July / August 2014), in www.foreignaffairs.com.