Kremlin hit squads
The recent testimonies in the International Court of Justice confirmed what the world has known for a long time: Russia shot down the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in Donbas in 2014, killing 298 people on board.
In the latest hearing on June 9, the court reviewed multiple fragments of the Buk ground-to-air missile that destroyed the aircraft and killed its passengers and crew. Two witnesses told the court that they saw the missile launched from a location controlled by Russian-backed forces.
This wasn’t a secret. Russia’s involvement was documented by independent investigators years ago. Everyone knew that Russia murdered European citizens in its quest to destroy Ukraine as an independent nation. No response followed. No response will follow. Europe is continuing to close its eyes on Russian atrocities, hoping they will one day stop. They won’t.
In 2014, Russia has shot down a passenger plane, launched a military invasion that has left the Kremlin in control of 7% of Ukrainian territory, killing nearly 14,000 people so far. Russia blew up arms depots in the Czech Republic, killing two people, and in Bulgaria. It carried out murders in the U.K., war crimes in Syria. The list is endless.
Europe showed that it has no intention to strongly defend its values as long as money can be made with Russia.
The testimonies in the Netherlands confirming that Russian forces shot down the MH17 flight come just as Europe is getting deeper into bed with the Kremlin by allowing the completion of the $11 billion, Ukraine-bypassing Russian-German gas pipeline, Nord Stream 2.
The U.S. could lead by example, but instead, it lifted the sanctions from Nord Stream 2 companies. President Joe Biden said on June 9 that he wants a “stable and predictable relationship” with a Russian dictator who routinely orders assassinations of critics and opponents with chemical weapons. He will get only instability and unpredictability.
What happened to opposition leader Alexei Navalny, writer Dmitriy Bykov, the Skripal family and many others shows that Russia has an active death squad ready to assassinate anyone, anywhere. No one is safe.
Instead of drawing up reprisal sanctions, Western countries seek a dialogue with Russia. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg even suggested holding a summit with Russia.
The West is making all the wrong moves. Russia respects only brute force. Ahead of the June 14 NATO summit and the June 16 Biden-Vladimir Putin meeting, the Kremlin has escalated the crackdown on its opponents and banned Navalny’s supporters from Sept. 19 parliamentary elections, which will be rigged for Putin’s party.
Now Putin can promise to roll back the most atrocious measures as a pretend compromise. The West will pronounce it a win for democracy. And the Kremlin will continue to kill. It knows it won’t be punished by the weak Western leaders. It knows it can buy off sellouts like Gerhard Schroeder.
Until the MH17 court trial confirmed Russia’s involvement, Europe could keep pretending that Russia’s war on Ukraine was a distant problem. But the truth is that Russia is at war not just with Ukraine, but the civilized world. Ukraine has been fighting for its survival for seven years. Will Europe ever wake up and join?