Will MH17 be our 9/11? (15) New revelations concerning a US-Dutch-Australian military response in July 2014

On 24 July 2014, a week after the disaster with Flight MH17, we posted a blog warning against a military adventure in eastern Ukraine. That was based on a report in Dutch daily De Volkskrant that the Dutch government of prime minister Rutte was lobbying for a military response. 

After a few weeks one might have reconsidered, thinking that this was perhaps a temporary overreaction and/or over-reporting, best forgotten. Meanwhile new revelations have appeared from Australia that suggest this was indeed a serious project, albeit not necessarily a solely Dutch-Australian undertaking.

The new information, collated with other snippets by Russia reporter John Helmer on his Dances with Bears blog, reveals a frightening lack of realism on the part of our prime minister. Or, on a different interpretation, a weak-kneed response to outside pressure. The Volkskrant report chose the first interpretation, suggesting this was a Dutch initiative and that the council of ministers met after the remembrance ceremony at Eindhoven airport to discuss the plan. The cabinet was preparing a so-called Article 100 procedure meant to inform parliament of military action.

Still on the 24th foreign minister Frans Timmersmans, whose demagogic speech at the UN three days earlier earned him the title Politician of the Year although it was replete with disingenuous insinuations, travelled to Australia to get a Dutch lead role accepted in the investigation, with the implication of armed protection. De Volkskrant reported that not all parliamentary groups were convinced of the viability of the undertaking. Rutte meanwhile had spoken on the phone with Poroshenko in Kiev and Putin in Moscow, but not with the self-defence forces in the Donbass, although these had allowed OSCE, media and also a Malaysian delegation, immediate and unhindered access. But for the Dutch LibLab coalition, loyalty to the NATO narrative of the regime change and a ´Russian invasion´ prevented using that opportunity. Instead it decided that an OK from Kiev would be enough to send troops and avoid a cumbersome UN route.

The next day, the populist but usually well-informed Dutch daily, De Telegraaf, reported that leaves for the crack troops of 11 Air Mobile Brigade, 4,500 strong, had been cancelled and that over the weekend of 26-27 July they would be flown from their two bases in the Netherlands to the Donetsk area in eastern Ukraine. In addition Dutch special forces then in Mali were being recalled.

We might as well have forgotten, but now Helmer has come up with new details of this episode. James Brown, a former Australian army captain, meanwhile head of research in the US Studies Centre of the University of Sydney, has revealed that the Rutte plan for a military intervention was not a Dutch-Australian plan but had backing from Washington. Luckily for all involved, and for world peace one must assume, Germany, which commands the 9,000 strong rapid intervention division, Division Schnelle Kräfte, of which 11 Air Mobile forms part, vetoed the dispatch of the troops. Along with 3,000 Australian troops the Dutch brigade or even the entire division would have constituted a sizable force, albeit it no match for a possible Russian response.

Helmer reports however that the Russians at the time had no clue that the US (through the Netherlands and Australia) were considering a military operation. In fact, whilst Rutte on Monday 27 July announced that that the plan to dispatch 11 Air Mobile was off the table, the Americans and the Australians continued to plan an operation, only calling it off on 5 August—three days before the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine and the resignation of the fascist head of all Ukrainian military and intelligence operations, Andriy Parubiy, who had been installed right after the coup in February 2014.

Australian prime minister Tony Abbott (who after his ouster last September became one of Poroshenko´s international advisors) in a radio interview in February 2015 stated that the idea of a military operation was not his, but that it was seriously discussed between the Dutch and the Australian military. However, no one believes that such an operation would have been launched without express US backing and Helmer confirms this by his claim about continued US-Australian planning for another week.

So this leaves the ball in Rutte´s court. Maybe he should explain himself on this matter, because in the end this was a major gamble that might have drawn NATO into a major war, with Dutch troops on the frontline.

Recently Dutch Liberal Party parliamentary leader Halbe Zijlstra at a party conference stated that we must reckon with a large-scale war with Russia in the near future.

With leaders like this, that might well be something to take serious.

Kees van der Pijl (with thanks to Hans van Zon)

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