Five days have passed since Malaysian airline flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine, killing 193 Dutch nationals. Here is a round-up of the latest media comment.
Elsevier’s political commentator Eric Vrijsen focuses on prime minister Mark Rutte’s rejection of a Dutch military presence in Ukraine. ‘Mark Rutte, why else do we have elite troops?’ the news magazine asks in its editorial headline.
Vrijsen is in favour of sending in elite troops to make the crash site safe and allow air crash investigators to do their job. He concedes that such an intervention increases the risk of an escalation of violence and would be welcomed by Ukraine.
‘The sooner NATO gets involved, the better Kiev would like it. But the rebels won’t tolerate a military intervention by Dutch elite troops. Rutte can’t afford to wait for the Americans,’ he writes.
Rutte must, however, ‘threaten to send in these troops in order to up the pressure on the rebels and Russian president Vladimir Putin.
‘And if he does this, he will probably have made up his mind to act on his threat. (..) The Dutch Special Forces (the commandos of the army and the Marsofs of the Marine Corps) are internationally respected. Rutte doesn’t have these elite troops at his disposal for nothing,’ he concludes.
The Volkskrant in its editorial writes that the Netherlands needs to ‘take the initiative to realise the necessary protection of the crash site so the OVSE investigators can do their work unimpeded.’ Just how the prime minister should do this the paper doesn’t say because ‘sending in F16s and troops, as has been suggested, would be the road to oblivion. Rutte can’t go it alone,’ the paper writes.
‘What matters now is that Europe adopts the economic sanctions announced by president Obama. The EU must present a united front on this. Economic gain can’t continue to be an argument for a policy of appeasement towards the Kremlin. It is the duty of the international community to defuse the crisis in Ukraine and help a country that has suffered much to stand on its own feet.’
‘Vladimir Putin has a beer with the king and queen, foreign minister Frans Timmermans says he had a whisky with Sergej Lavrov and still it wasn’t possible to secure the crash site,’ shock blog Geenstijl writes.
The website also wonders why Dutch troops couldn’t have been deployed. ‘It would have been risky but if the ties between the Netherlands and Russia are as good as we are led to believe, that option should have been considered.’
Kiev could have asked for EU, NATO or UN help as well. Maybe they did. ‘The conclusion must be that the EU and NATO failed to get a grip on the situation,’ Geenstijl writes.
‘A new anarchy is raging on our doorstep and it has lashed out at defenceless citizens from the rest of Europe,’ writes professor of International Politics at Free University Brussels, Jonathan Holslag in the NRC. ‘Important lessons about how we are going to maintain our safety need to be learned.’
Holslag doesn’t doubt for a minute that Russia is implicated in the attack on the plane and that Putin should be punished for it but ‘this is about more than Putin alone’.
‘The crisis in Ukraine was clearly not enough to bring about more European cooperation on energy. Talks in Brussels to lessen European dependence on Russian gas failed. In April, Shell boss Ben van Beurden promised Putin that Shell plans would not be shelved. BP did the same.’
In May, Italian energy company ENI brokered a megadeal with Russia. A month later, Austria supported Gazprom’s controversial Southstream: ‘opportunism as well as a lack of strategic vision’, Holslag writes.
‘This single-minded focus on the Kremlin also ignores the fact that the world is full of weaponry to shoot down airplanes,’ says Holslag. ‘Perhaps it’s time that Europe, in the wake of the battle to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons and landmines, takes up the battle against the proliferation of missiles. A convention on air missiles is the least we owe to the victims of MH17.’
‘It may sound cynical to say this while the search for bodies goes on in Ukraine, but this should be Europe’s 9/11, a turning point in our strategic thinking but one that apart from retaliation also leads to more investment in the safety of the 500 million Europeans in this turbulent world,’ he concludes.