‘Russia is behind it. They were the ones who shot down that plane.’
That was the line given to us by one of our fellow parishioners at the 8 am service, in Maryland, on Sunday.
Oh my…he is losing his mind, we thought. How would he know who shot down a plane over 4,000 miles away? And why would he care?
But in the US media…dinner time chat…and after-church conversations, Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, is condemned. Without trial. Without due process.
The rush to judgment was so fast even the kangaroos hadn’t gotten to the courthouse when the verdict was handed down.
Time to ‘do something’
In the lobby of the Hilton Hotel, here in London, we overheard a conversation:
‘What do you think the international community should do,’ asked an earnest voice. The speaker — a middle-aged woman who seemed to care more about her ideas than her appearance — seemed to want to ‘do something’.
Her interlocutor took her simpleminded interrogation and threw it back at her, wrapped in so many good intentions it took her a while to figure out what was in it.
‘We in the international community need to focus attention on these things. We need to develop a dialogue. We need to build faith in our institutions…generate a consensus…work with aid agencies and NGOs…focus on civil society…’blah, blah.
‘Putin can’t be allowed to get away with this!’
So universal is the opposition to the Russian president…so fiercely is he set upon by the world improvers…and so many are the fingers that point in his direction, we feel a compulsion to come to his aid.
We are for the underdog…the lost cause…and the die hard — whether he’s guilty or not.
Passing over the obvious objection — that it’s none of our business — we take up a defence of Russia and of Vladimir Putin. We do so not in pursuit of justice (we’ve given up on that), but on the trail of mischief and provocation.
A long history of misery
Russia has a long history of misery — most of it self-inflicted.
One of the episodes, not entirely self-inflicted (though greatly self-aggravated), was during the Second World War.
The USSR lost over 20 million people in that ghastly war. It only survived because it was able to pull back across the Steppes…wearing out its enemy in mud, cold and extended lines of communications.
Distance…space…and time are Mother Russia’s historic allies. So, it is perfectly understandable for Vladimir Putin to want to at least hold onto eastern Ukraine as a buffer against NATO and the EU.
Meanwhile, despite the assurances given by President H.W. Bush and subsequent US presidents and secretaries of State, the new Russian Federation’s periphery states have been drawn toward NATO…the EU…and its potential enemies.
Also, the EU and the US meddled in Ukraine, helping to unseat its democratically elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, so that he might be replaced by someone more agreeable.
Why shouldn’t Putin meddle back?
In the second place, what is a passenger jet doing over an active war zone?
Shooting it down was probably an accident. But it is the kind of accident you’d expect.
A bunch of trigger-happy rebels are on the ground shooting at Ukrainian military airplanes. One of them is bound to do something stupid sooner or later. None of the people on the ground had an interest in shooting down the airliner. Except those who wanted to pin it on Putin.
But who knows? Everybody makes mistakes. And if it turns out it was Russian separatists, it is extremely unlikely that they were operating under direct orders from Moscow.
Besides, compared to the reckless and murderous way the US and its allies throw their weight around, Russia has been remarkably restrained and civilised.
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