I was discussing the destruction of MH17 with some friends last night and expounding my certainty that the perfidious hand of Russian Imperialism is behind it. ‘But what do they have to gain?’ asked one friend. Fair point.
Political history is made up of world-changing events that come in to one of two categories:
1. The intentional act with intended consequences.
2. The intentional act with unintended consequences.
In category (1) comes normal political & diplomatic game play and defensive warfare. In category (2) come such events as World War I. WWI was triggered by the shooting of the Austro-Hungarian archduke, the next Emperor. This was an intentional act but entirely unexpected. The backdrop was the normal political scheming and one-upmanship which had been aimed at a number of things; each country had its own agenda. France wanted Alsace-Lorraine back. Britain wanted to stop Germany’s dominance of Europe and its colonisation of parts of Africa; it wanted an end to the German Navy’s growing influence. Britain was also afraid of Russian influence in Central Asia, right on the borders of India. Austria-Hungary wanted the end of the Ottoman empire. These inter-related objectives were stitched together by a series of alliances that were automatically called into play after the shooting in Sarajevo and so we had the stage set for World War I. Each country’s leaders simply sleepwalked into it and could have stopped it at any moment – BUT NO ONE WANTED TO. World War I led to Communism and the USSR, the great depression, fascism in Europe, then to World War II. It was a monumental fuck-up.
We now have a world where the new threats are Sunni versus Shi’ite, Sa’udi versus Iran’s proxy war, Islamic terrorism and Russian expansionism. The Islamic issue has been bubbling away since Mohammed and I suspect that the Muslims need a Thirty Years War where they can all shout ‘Allahu akhbar’ in loud voices as they kill each other. This is also a fuck-up.
The Russian problem is the growing threat and the downing of MH17 could be a new trigger. Coming back to my friend’s question: ‘What did the Russians have to gain?’ In a word, nothing. It was almost certainly a monumental fuck-up; one that was always a risk when they put powerful SA-11 surface-to-air missiles into the hands of Ukrainian-Russians thugs (or Russian thugs in Ukraine) or, as is more likely, when the Russian missile battery commander put hit finger on the firing button thinking he was going to destroy a Ukrainian military aircraft. So, they murdered 298 people. Someone should be doing more than voicing concern and sympathising with the bereaved. BUT NO ONE WANTS TO. The US has weak leadership that talks a lot but avoids action, is big on sanctions but has little to lose. The most powerful countries in Europe are timid in the face of their need for Russian gas and Roubles. Vested interests are everywhere so, whilst our politicians sit on their hands, Vladimir Putin gets away with murder.