October 2016Opinion2016

MH17 Report Gives More Fodder to Russia’s Spin Doctors

By Alexander Grey
Staff Writer

On September 28, one of the more interesting events in the Russia-Ukraine hostilities came to light as the Dutch Joint Investigation Team (JIT) released their findings on the MH17 plane crash. The report claimed that a Russian Buk missile was indeed used to take down the plane, fired from a field controlled by pro-Russian rebels. Moreover, the missile system used during the attack was brought back into Russia the following day, and thus started the Russian disinformation campaign.

The report created a perfect storm of diplomatic grandstanding: Ukraine began conducting a separate inquiry to pursue international criminal charges, the Netherlands’ Prime Minister Rutte has emphasized the necessity that the JIT finish its investigation “with focus and determination and without any political interference,” Russian state-media claims Ukraine and the JIT collaborated to fabricate evidence in the investigation, and the Kremlin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, declared the investigation unreliable due to bias and political motivation” on the part of the Dutch.

There is one vitally important question that still stands: what does this mean for the Putin administration? The answer is simple: Nothing. This report will, in essence, do nothing to hurt Russia, a nation that alleged both that the CIA filled MH17 with corpses and shot it down and that the pilots of the plane simply crashed themselves to cause an international incident. While voting in favor of Resolution 2166, they have done nothing to actually aid the investigation of MH17, only creating more work for the investigators with false reports.

The modus operandi, or common methodology, for the Putin administration has been to push the limits of international affairs and see what happens. When they invaded and forcefully seized the Crimean Peninsula, there was some outrage, but no substantive action taken. Additionally, Russia stalled all Security Council actions.

The same will happen with MH17 – Russia has already gotten away with it. When the JIT finishes its investigation and finds those responsible for the murder of 298 people, Russia will call its finding into question, using RT and all other state-run media to brew a disinformation campaign as they did when the plane was originally shot down.

Or perhaps they will conduct their own report, with their own “evidence,” which declares Ukraine to be the guilty party. It would not be of any surprise if that was the course of action. The only surprise would be if Russia actually faced any meaningful consequences in what is now near-irrefutable evidence of foul play.

This report is simply further proof of what lies within the Russian foreign policy playbook. Because they are a great power, they can effectively do as they please, and no one will retaliate due to the fact that it would spark a war. In another month, this report will fade away into obscurity and the Putin administration will sleep well knowing they got away with yet another flagrant crime.

Alexander Grey

As a member of the Class of 2019 and a Diplomacy major at the Seton Hall University School of Diplomacy and International Relations, Alexander Stringer focuses on Eastern European studies and state security. Being a scholar of Classics for fours years, he aims to apply Roman and Greek ideas of government to the modern geopolitical climate.

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