Air disaster in Ukraine: ‘It’s Europe’s 9/11’

23 July 2014
NRC Handelsblad

NRC Handelsblad, 19 July 2014

“The tragedy of Flight MH17 forces us to draw an important lesson about our safety in the turbulent 21st century”, writes Jonathan Holslag in NRC Handelsblad. The professor of international politics at the Free University Brussels believes a strong neighbourhood policy could be a solution for the increased insecurity in Europe.

“Geopolitics are back”, writes Holslag:

But it only begins to dawn that the distance between Kiev and Katwijk [a city in the Netherlands] isn’t that enormous. All Europe countries between these cities depend for their safety on each other. […] If you think we can afford us a return to the past times of conflicting European mini States, then the attack on Flight MH 17 will be a painful confrontation with the new reality.

Putin will have to pay, adds Holslag, if a connection will be found between the disaster of Flight MH 17 and the Kremlin, but, he adds,

Apparently, the crisis in Ukraine was not enough to get the European member states to cooperate more in the energy sector

this not only about Putin. Apparently, the crisis in Ukraine was not enough to get the European member states to cooperate more in the energy sector. Consultations in Brussels to reduce the dependency on Russian gas lead to nothing.

Holslag speaks of “short-sightedness and opportunism of our leaders” and adds —

Of course, there is a big chance that, after the period of opportunism, now a period of panic starts amongst a large number of European leaders. Then they will side with the US and drive Russia into a corner.

However, the political scientist thinks we shouldn’t let our own responsibility get out of sight. Europe has created a “power vacuum along its external borders” and has failed to “build strong partnerships with the regional superpowers”.

He thinks the solution could be a strong neighbourhood policy and a new European sphere of influence that will provide more security in Europe. He also points out that the EU is not only threatened by Eastern Ukraine, but also by countries in the Sahel, where “there’s plenty of heavy weapons”. Not only airlines are at risk: with some “tinkering”, missiles can be used against our merchant ships in the Red Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar.

That is why Holslag believes it is time for Europe to take the lead in the “battle against the uncontrolled proliferation of missiles. A convention about anti-aircraft missiles is the least we owe the victims of MH 17.”

“This should be Europe’s 9/11, a pivot in our strategic thinking”, in which retaliation against our enemies and the safety of the five hundred million Europeans should be put first, he concludes.

Geertje Teunissen