The almost gleeful attacks by columnists and cartoonists on Vladimir Putin when the Russian plane went down were in very bad taste. The difference between this and MH17 is clear. MH17 was shot down by accident in Ukrainian territory probably by rebels who thought they were shooting down a warplane from Kiev. It was not a deliberate act by Russians, let alone ordered by Putin. (Russia could however be criticised for not putting more pressure on those who control the crash site to cooperate with the investigators – most likely they know what happened and don’t want to admit it.)
The Russian airliner was almost certainly blown up deliberately by ISIS because Russian warplanes are in action against ISIS. It could just as easily have been an American or Australian plane for the same reason. One interesting conclusion must be that Russia is in fact targetting ISIS fighters otherwise why would they target a Russian aircraft?
This is yet another example of the bias and ignorance on the part of mainstream media and politicians in Australia of both Russia and the Middle East. It is interesting to note that the Dutch led report on MH17 specifically criticised the Kiev Government for not closing the relevant air space but did not suggest that this was a deliberate act by Russia. The Australian media played down the Report’s criticisms of Kiev and got stuck into Putin instead.
Putin has clear aims in Syria. It is in Russian strategic interests to support Assad or anyone who will give them what he gives them just as it is in US interests to ally itself with Saudi Arabia. Neither Syria or Saudi Arabia is a bastion of democracy and human rights. Australia as usual is there on the American coat tails. This is a very complex situation and a solution is hard to find. The US seems to be working with the Kurds but will it support an independent Kurdish homeland against Syria,Turkey and Iran? The whole muddle is not just about ISIS – bad as they undoubtedly are – but also about Kurdish desire for a homeland like Israel, Sunni versus Shia, Iran versus Arabs and all kinds of tribal groups.
This whole situation is not about different ideologies but about great power rivalry and local conflicts all wrapped up in moral rhetoric.
Cavan Hogue was former Australian Ambassador to USSR and Russia.