The call for an international tribunal to investigate the MH17 tragedy is yet another attempt by the West to sway public opinion about Russia.
Relatives gather during a commemoration ceremony in Nieuwegein, near the central city of Utrecht, Netherlands, Friday, July 17, 2015. Photo: AP
For a very different take read: "A year after MH17: The lessons for Russia"
The anniversary of the MH17 tragedy is one of the hot topics of the summer. In the lack of other rational accusations against Russia, the community of hawks in the West is using the MH17 tragedy for political purposes – as a last resort to bring Moscow to “international justice.”
It’s no wonder that the shortage of war news from Ukraine has provoked a new line of discussion about the culprits in the MH17 tragedy in July 2014. Random exchanges of fire at the Minsk truce line is not convincing enough and does not contribute to the image of an “aggressive Russia” in the midst of another land grab – after all, the conflict is more or less frozen, and the humanitarian catastrophe in Donbas where thousands of people are starving due to the Ukrainian blockade is of less concern to the international community.
On the contrary, the crash is a winning cause whoever is guilty. There is no need to explain it to European public opinion, which has always been quite sensitive to any civilian casualties, let alone nearly 300 people dead in the middle of the continent. There is no need for a thorough investigation, as the lack of collected evidence can always be accounted for by the intense hostilities in the zone of the accident.
There is no need to provide additional arguments, since the story of the South Korean Boeing shot in the early 1980s by the “Evil Empire” still lives in the memories of the older generation. Besides, it is a perfect chance to condemn the rebels – regardless of whether they used Russian weaponry or a seized Ukrainian missile system - since nobody will ever do the fact-checking in the situation of turmoil in the southeast of Ukraine.
Moreover, the idea of the international tribunal fits quite well into this logic. Some Russian analysts were predicting such a turn of events about a year ago. There is a need to keep Moscow in tension without provoking a hot conflict – and this can only be done with the help of political means and permanent maintenance of a “dark image” in the media.
The real goals can be ambivalent, depending on which side the observer is – to bring Russia back to the high moral standards in international relations and remind Moscow of the unacceptability of “game-changer” practices; or to undermine and overthrow the Putin regime. It does not matter – the tribunal is an ideal tool to achieve both objectives: one may remember the tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.
At the same time, the resistance of Moscow – vetoing the UN Security Council resolution – is also a plus for the authors of the idea, as it indicates the “malignant intentions” of the Russian regime and demonstrates once again the weakness of the Security Council, giving more arguments for circumventing it next time when real action is needed. The tribunal will be perfect to show the “barbarian” and “unpredictable” regime, which does not only “violate” territorial integrity in its “secessionist greed,” but does not stop in committing “war crimes” against innocent people flying over. Of course, there can be no “business as usual” with such a mad and bloody dictatorship, according to such thinking.
The only effective Russian strategy would be to start a counter-fire, i.e. to demand actively for the tribunal on war crimes in Ukraine. If Russia had enough soft power instruments at hand, it could easily launch a campaign together with various NGOs to broadcast to Europe the information about dozens of civilians killed every day due to the artillery shelling, about the human rights violations, about the Ukrainian war economy, and so on. However, Russia lacks such resources at the time when they are badly in need – despite much talking in the recent years, the soft power infrastructure has not been prepared for such missions.
Thus, the Boeing accident coverage is so good because it is a never-ending story. Its major benefit is its infinite timeline. The preliminary results of the investigation should allegedly be complete by October, i.e. more than one year after the crash. The final report, which will probably be as vague as some of the leaks in the media, should appear only next year.All this time the uproar about the tragedy will continue to work for political ends and it will be no surprise if the announcement of the international report will be delayed even further. The saddest thing is that the 300 people who died aboard the flight and their relatives are becoming pawns in this geopolitical game.
The opinion of the author may not necessarily reflect the position of Russia Direct or its staff.