Netherlands should start considering its response to shootdown of MH-17

Would you say that the Netherlands should somehow very specifically react on shootdown of MH-17 as many Dutch nationals were killed, do you expect that the Netherlands will do everything to see those culpable to be tried? Read few comments.

Hylke DijkstraAssistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Maastricht University

The downing of Malaysian Airways flight MH-17 is an incredible tragedy. With nearly 200 Dutch nationals on board, it is also, first and foremost, a national tragedy. I cannot recall a similar terrible event taking place in the past few decades. Priority should go to the families of the victims and to finding out what precisely happened. This requires a thorough investigation under international flag, in which the Dutch government should be allowed an active role.

Naturally, The Netherlands should also start considering its response to this horrific attack. This should involve perhaps some unilateral action, particularly vis-a-vis Russia, if it turns out that indeed Ukrainian rebels used Russian surface-to-air systems. But most importantly, it would require a strong response in all relevant international forums, including the Security Council, the European Union, and most importantly NATO. The international community needs to make very clear that such an attack against civilians cannot go unpunished. Yet the attack also shows the severity of the situation in Ukraine and how this conflict affects us all. I would therefore like to see The Netherlands at the diplomatic forefront of trying to resolve the conflict in Ukraine in the coming months.

Heidi Maurer, Assistant Professor, Maastricht University, Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation Fellow at Center for Transatlantic Relations (SAIS), John Hopkins University

From this perspective it is quite clear that the MH-17 incident was a big wake up call for Dutch public opinion in relationship to the conflict in Ukraine, and the impact was here eve stronger than in many other European countries. It is interesting on how this incident impacted on the position of EU member states in the Council: it seems that the Eastern European plea for having a bit of a tougher stand did not change that much, while this incident had way more impact on some of the Western Europeans – notably UK, Germany and France. Not only were their governments more cautious in even thinking about sanctions, but also public opinion seemed more divided and unsure. The MH-17 shootdown drew attention back, and in many ways it exemplifies quite well what is happening in Ukraine at the moment: that the government in Kiev has a hard time keeping control over its territory, that there are military groups, which do not seem to be too organized and well trained but who get military support from Russia, that US president Obama takes quite a strong stance (at least stronger than some US discourse would suggest), and that the Europeans keep reacting slow and indecisive.

One of the more interesting questions for the next few days/weeks will of course be what impact this incident will have on the conflict. Dutch and also Western European politicians call for a full investigation, but I doubt that the media interest will stay on the high level. After that it will be more of a technical exercise, but politically I do not think that there will be any major sustainable impact. There so not seem to be any signs that the shootdown is going to have a considerable impact on the course of the conflict. Kiev continues to try to take back control, rebels are going to resist, and as long as it can not be fully shown with evidence that Putin is orchestrating the “rebel forces” the rest of the global attention is going to move to the next conflict.

The Austrian Foreign Minister (I am currently at home, so also able to follow the discussion here a bit more) gave an interview in Austrian news few days ago, and in a little faux-pas he referred to the “first European victims” since the start of the Ukraine crisis – and I found it interesting to observe how outraged some Austrians reacted on Twitter, as our foreign ministered thus implied quite openly that Ukrainians are not Europeans. But with the state of the conflict at the moment, this is not questioned anymore. Ukraine is European in the public opinion, and in my view this is really a shift to 7-8 years ago.

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