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Dangers from the MH17 catastrophe(2)

2014-07-23 08:41 China Daily Web Editor: Wang Fan

Now the three leading Western European nations of France, Germany and Britain are preparing to bring more pressure to bear on Russia. The US and the European Union are already pushing for such a course of action. But this is extremely reckless and will be counter-productive, because instead of helping ease tensions in Ukraine, it will only provoke Russian President Vladimir Putin to take a stronger, nationalist stance against the West.

Such a position has proven increasingly popular with the Russian public, and Putin has many critics among the extreme nationalist elements who complain that he has not taken enough measures to defend Russian interests and the Russian-speaking majority in eastern Ukraine.

What the situation really needs is coordinated private diplomacy between the US and Russia to work out a practical road map to end the violence and allow real self-government and increased federalization for eastern Ukraine. Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, among others, has strongly advocated such a course of action.

But for this to work, US policymakers will have to take into account the horrific three-decade (1914 to 1945) bloodbath across Ukraine, and the hatred it generated. But so ignorant and callow are the current policymakers in Washington - liberal and conservative, Republican and Democrat alike - that it is literally impossible for them to understand this.

There is, therefore, no realistic way to avert a new cold war between Russia and the West. Indeed, we will be lucky if this new chasm remains generally non-violent and "cold", for there was nothing "cold" about the missile that is said to have brought down MH17, or about the Ukrainian air strikes that led to the rebels equipping themselves with BUK missiles in the first place.

Just over three weeks ago, we solemnly observed the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. The trigger for that catastrophic war was a single act - the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne, in Sarajevo (in today's Bosnia and Herzegovina) on June 28, 1914. The downing of MH17 is a far greater act of crime. But, terrible as it is, it should not be allowed to destroy hopes for peace and understanding between the different power blocs and civilizations of an increasingly diverse and dangerously unpredictable world.

The author, Martin Sieff, is a national columnist for the Post-Examiner chain of online newspapers and a senior fellow of the American University in Moscow, and has the book, Shifting Superpowers: The New and Emerging Relationship between the United States, China and India, to his credit.

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