For me, Putin’s war on Ukraine has long been personal.
The war in Ukraine has nothing to do with Tony Abbott or anybody he knows. The aftermath of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 tragedy has become his own Misogyny Speech – his one claim, like Julia Gillard’s, to a paragraph of phony world-historical moment during a failed premiership. I say that, believe it or not, as somebody who likes and respects the man.
At about 515am, on July 18, 2014, I was in the gym, preparing for a day intended to dwell on the repeal of the carbon tax late the previous evening, when the news started to come through, that Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 had been shot down over eastern Ukraine, and Australians were on board.
From the beginning, it was clear that this was a crime, not an accident; an atrocity not a tragedy.
It soon transpired that there were 38 Australian victims of Putin’s first invasion, murdered by a Russian missile battery, that had crossed into Ukraine, as part of his stooge attack on the eastern Donbas.
There was no evidence whatsoever that the downing of MH17 was a crime or an atrocity “from the beginning.” Officially, it was an accident, there being zero proof – not even a claim – that Moscow ordered the destruction of a passenger jet. The three cut-outs convicted in absentia of “murder” in 2022 were found to have transported a Buk surface-to-air missile launcher from Russia to territory held by separatists during the Donbas War. Investigators acknowledged the men did not “push the button” loosing the ordnance that killed 298 passengers and crew.
Abbott’s overwrought Remember the Maine-ish pairing of “murder” and “atrocity” was – and is – nothing more than Russophobia for undiscerning audiences (these days, that’s most of them). He never believed the shooting down of MH17 was a criminal plot. How do I know? Because he said so to the ABC’s Michael Rowland in July, 2015: “Well, I am not suggesting that the Russian President knew anything about this in advance. I suspect, based on my own conversations with him last year, that he is horrified that all of this has happened.” While it is reasonable to speak of “crime” in the context of liability, it is extremely difficult to establish in the context of kinetic war. International prosecutors in The Hague found no evidence Vladimir Putin or any Russian officials were directly involved in any crime. Like the USS Vincennes’ downing of Iran Air Flight 655 in 1988 – killing all 290 passengers – the MH17 incident was a “terrible human tragedy.”
It was also foreseeable: Malaysia Airlines knew the route over Ukraine was by then dangerous but continued to use it to save money. This in turn was possible, as Fairfax matter-of-factly reported at the time, because “the cash-strapped Ukrainian government was receiving overflight fees” and had “a financial incentive to keep the airspace open.” Virtually nothing that happens in Ukraine is ever more than a metre away from a duffle bag of money. The International Air Transport Association concluded that Ukraine “bears responsibility” for the disaster.
As for Mr Abbott’s CIA-scripted gaslighting about a Russian “stooge attack” on Donbas, the eastern war of ethnic cleansing was launched by Kiev and killed 14,000 people. This followed an American coup that removed President Victor Yanukovych from office and made use of multiple ‘battalions’ of nazis. They called this travesty the “Revolution of Dignity” for the same reason that Eric the Red called an icy Sahara “Greenland.” To lure fools and investors.
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I told our parliament that morning, “the bullying of small countries by big ones, the trampling of justice and decency in the pursuit of national aggrandisement, and reckless indifference to human life, should have no place in our world”.
The War on Terrorism Mr Abbott helped wage has killed 900,000 people. And counting.
I have never ceased to thirst for justice for those Australians, cast into eternity, because the Russian dictator could not bear to see an independent Ukraine.
And I have never ceased to want freedom and democracy for Ukraine, a country yearning to be rid of the bondage of Moscow.
1. Ukraine is not a democracy. 2. It was invaded because it was a muppet of the United States.
It might have been the prospect of a thousand Australian soldiers on Russia’s border, that swayed Putin’s proxies, belatedly to allow police and investigators to retrieve the bodies, and to collect the evidence, that later allowed a Dutch court to convict the Russian officers responsible.
I have great respect for Australia’s genuine soldiers (not the girls playing rugby at the ADFA in the ads) but I doubt that a nation responsible for toppling the Third Reich after fending off Operation Barbarossa would be so easily stricken with nerves. This is pub rhetoric.
Even though it wasn’t necessary in the end, I will always be grateful to then-President Petro Poroshenko, and the Ukrainian parliament, for unanimously granting Australian military forces the right to operate in their country.
And I’m pleased that for a year or so afterwards, Ukrainian military personnel were welcomed into our training programmes, for help in their fight for national freedom.
I’d be very interested to know more about the background of those “military personnel.”
A few months later, I had my “shirtfront” discussion with Putin – that’s Australian sports-slang for a very rough tackle – when I told him that Russian missile batteries don’t go abroad by accident; and that he owed it to the families of the dead to apologise, and to pay compensation.
His reaction, that Ukrainian provocateurs had downed the plane, that the Ukrainians were all fascists, and that Ukraine had no right to exist, epitomised the Putin obsession to recreate greater Russia.
It even took a bizarre turn, when he suddenly, quite literally, grabbed and shook me, saying in English, “you are not a native Australian, but I am a native Russian”.
Missile batteries went “abroad” because the United States started a civil war in Ukraine with a view to claiming ownership of the country and regime-changing its neighbour. There is no evidence that Putin wants to recreate a “greater Russia.” There is evidence he wishes to maintain a conventional buffer of the kind Canberra demands in ‘our region’ vis-a-vis China. It surprises me that Mr Abbott retails the “shirtfront” tale in public. Putin was obviously briefed about the then PM’s telegraphed intention (the latter being no military genius, clearly) and was ready. The result: a total intellectual and physical victory to Putin. Not “bizarre” but humiliating. By the way, the US – to this day – has never apologised for what the cowboy captain of the Vincennes did.
Two years later, visiting Kyiv as an ex-PM, President Poroshenko assured me that Ukraine was readying itself for Putin’s next assault.
And a few years after that, Mr Poroshenko was charged with treason and a host of other trumped-up crimes in a classic banana republic get-even/shake-down by his Stalinist successor, Volodymyr Zelensky. Poroshenko was, however, true to his word on readying Ukraine: following the Russian invasion he donated vehicles for the cause that he dubbed “Bandera-Mobiles” – in honour of the country’s most beloved figure, Nazi Stepan Bandera.
It was Volodymyr Zelensky’s scornful rejection of President Biden’s chopper ride to safety, that meant Kyiv was no Kabul, and marked the Ukrainian President as the Churchill of the 21st century.
The Washington Post admitted more than a year ago that there is no evidence the ‘need ammo, not a ride’ line was ever spoken by Zelensky – or, indeed, anybody else. It was invented. If not saying something makes a man Churchill, greatness is within everyone’s grasp.
Then there’s this idea that Putin’s war was, somehow, provoked by NATO; by NATO’s expansion east, to take in Romania, Poland, Hungary, the old Czechoslovakia and the Baltic states.
But NATO never sought new members; it was the new members that sought NATO.
And as for this view that the 2014 Maidan protest, was somehow engineered by the CIA, just because some US politicians were barracking for it; and that the CIA then maintained biological weapons factories inside Ukraine – that’s a fiction ranking with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Correction: his denial of established reality is the forgery. And he knows it.
It’s actually Putin’s line, that a Russian-speaking Jew from eastern Ukraine is somehow a neo-Nazi, just because he’s not anyone’s puppet, that’s the brazen lift from Joseph Goebbels’ propaganda playbook.
This is as dumb as saying Anthony Albanese will protect Calvary Hospital because he’s a ‘Catholic.’
There’s not the slightest doubt that Beijing is watching what happens here, weighing what it might do across the Taiwan Strait.
Mr Abbott’s government did not recognise Taiwan as a nation. If the Chinese are watching, they’ve learned that the Anglophone world is unwilling to lose a single soldier for Ukraine. Not one.
Ukraine is not the only country under existential threat, but it’s the one most threatened now; that’s why it’s the global frontline of freedom, and why every free country should rally to its side.
By rally, he means ‘send them stuff.’ As for freedom, its frontline for me is my front fence. Beyond it, extremists here have done – and are doing – far more existential damage than Russia or China. This is also the case in the US, New Zealand, Canada, the UK and Europe. Much like Greg Sheridan – another lapsed Santamaria-ist with a 1970s mentality – Mr Abbott is apparently not interested in Judeo-Christian values as the requisites of civilisation and liberty. He is at odds with the orthodoxy of international relations expounded by Saint John XXIII in Pacem in Terris which makes it clear that natural law is the sine qua non of righteousness in one nation’s relations with others. To stand with the Sniffer Joe Axis of communist perverts is like standing with the Reds in the Spanish Civil War. Mr Santamaria stood with the Nationalists. Peace – not protracted war – is the only goody to back in Ukraine. Achieving it will require big men – not fake Churchills.