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Prism of disaster

This book analyses the MH17 catastrophe as a prism that refracts the broader historical context in which it occurred, arraying its distinct strands and their interrelations in a rare moment of clarity. It argues that in the new Cold War with Putin's Russia, the West operates from a perspective inspired by the mentality of extreme risk-taking that stems from the dominant role of finance in contemporary capitalism. The book also argues that the dividing lines established by the enlargement of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic in 1922 and the addition of Crimea to it in 1954, remained operational after independence. The armed seizure of power on 22 February 2014 occurred on the back of the demonstrations and put state power in the hands of Ukrainian ultra-nationalists and actual fascists. Based on the unpublished government and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) documents, the book offers an analysis of global political economy and contemporary debates about Russia and East-West relations. It reviews the results of the official investigations into the MH17 disaster, which Ukraine delegated to the Netherlands. Both were profoundly compromised by granting the coup government in Kiev a veto over any outcomes, a novelty in the history of aviation disaster investigation that was considered shameful even in Ukraine. The book investigates how the coup regime, encouraged by its backers in Washington and Brussels, responded to the anti-Maidan movement among Russian-Ukrainians with extreme violence.

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A civilian airliner in the firing line
Kees van der Pijl

This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book. The book discusses the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 catastrophe as a prism that refracts the broader historical context in which it occurred, arraying its distinct strands and their interrelations in a rare moment of clarity. It reviews the results of the official investigations into the MH17 disaster, which Ukraine delegated to the Netherlands. Both were profoundly compromised by granting the coup government in Kiev a veto over any outcomes. The book argues that in the new Cold War with Putin's Russia, the West operates from a perspective inspired by the mentality of extreme risk-taking that stems from the dominant role of finance in contemporary capitalism. In fact, the post-Soviet space became a testing ground for predatory finance and for the uncompromising authoritarianism that people also see emerging in the West.

in Flight MH17, Ukraine and the new Cold War
Kees van der Pijl

Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was brought down amid a new Cold War between the Atlantic bloc and Russia, and greatly exacerbated it. To understand the tragedy, this chapter contextualises it in the wider confrontation pitting the liberal West against a loose contender bloc composed of several relatively disjointed parts. It argues that in the current new Cold War with Russian President Vladimir Putin's Russia, the West operates from a perspective inspired by the mentality of extreme risk-taking that stems from the dominant role of finance in contemporary capitalism. The financial crisis of 2008 coincided with the first test of strength with Russia, when the George W. Bush Junior administration encouraged Georgia to try and recapture its breakaway province of South Ossetia by force. The European Union (EU) was simultaneously trying to commit former Soviet republics to an Eastern Partnership and EU Association.

in Flight MH17, Ukraine and the new Cold War
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Kees van der Pijl

This chapter explores the ultra-nationalist legacy with which post-1991 Ukrainian nation-building became conflated, setting its face against its real diversity. It then turns to the capitalist oligarchy that appropriated post-communist Ukraine's wealth by privatising old Soviet centres of power. The privatisation of the Ukrainian economy, like those of other post-Soviet republics, entailed the formation of an oligarchy of billionaires and multimillionaires dividing the country's wealth among themselves. The chapter further looks at how Ukraine is situated in the economic balance between the liberal West and the Eurasian/Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) contender bloc. An enduring orientation of Ukraine towards the BRICS and the Eurasian Union was a distinct possibility, on top of its heavy-industrial contribution to the former Soviet economy in exchange for gas. Finally, the chapter identifies the anti-Russian oligarchs who sought to align Ukraine with the European Union (EU) and NATO.

in Flight MH17, Ukraine and the new Cold War
Kees van der Pijl

This chapter discusses the Maidan revolt in Ukraine and its consequences. As in 2004, the revolt was an opportunity for the oligarchs marginalized by the ascendant Donetsk bloc to reclaim power. Viktor Yanukovych had won the presidency this time around without irregularities. The decision of President Yanukovych not to sign the European Union (EU) Association Agreement in 2013 sparked a round of demonstrations. Andriy Parubiy led the armed groups in the Maidan uprising and in that capacity was responsible for the shooting of demonstrators and riot police that in the West is routinely attributed to the authorities. The coup provoked the secession of Crimea and the uprising in the Donbass. Importantly, Parubiy, put in command of all military and intelligence operations as Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council (NSDC) after the coup, played a crucial role in the 'Anti-Terrorist Operation' to bring the rebellious provinces to heel.

in Flight MH17, Ukraine and the new Cold War
Kees van der Pijl

The February 2014 regime change in Kiev placed state power in the hands of Ukrainian ultra-nationalists and anti-Russian billionaires intent on removing the country from the post-Soviet orbit and reorienting it to the West. The chapter relates how the stirrings of an anti-Maidan movement in the Russian-Ukrainian provinces was responded to, on the urgent advice of US and NATO officials and American advisers in the field, with an Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO). It then explains how the actual civil war in the east was decided and how it was covered by NATO. The chapter further discusses the circumstances of the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17. Excessive risk-taking is a key feature of the speculative mindset; as the crisis reduces the opportunities for compromise, violent options move into the foreground. This understanding frames the approach presented to the downing of MH17.

in Flight MH17, Ukraine and the new Cold War
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A failed state on NATO’s frontline
Kees van der Pijl

This chapter first looks at how giving Kiev a veto over the two official investigations into the Malaysian Airlines Flight MHI7 disaster fundamentally compromised the outcomes. The final report of the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) entrusted with the technical investigation. The findings of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) tasked with the criminal prosecution do not depart from the claims made by the hardliners in the Ukrainian interior ministry and their Western backers directly after the disaster, although the JIT investigation did appear to be tugging at the leash at times. Next, the chapter explores the scorched-earth policy for Ukraine. It further deals with an account of how the neoliberal 'market democracy' experiment failed. Supervised by expatriate financiers, and apparently aimed at securing control of the country's energy infrastructure for the West, this deal contributed further to making Ukraine a social disaster zone and a failed state on the NATO frontline.

in Flight MH17, Ukraine and the new Cold War