I read many postings by Malaysians on the social media urging the government and world leaders to take a tough stance against Russia after pro-Russia rebels allegedly shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 that killed 298 people on July 17.
While the pro-Russian rebels and Ukraine blame each other for the incident, Moscow is being accused of not doing enough to ensure that
authorities have proper access to the crash site.
Australian prime minister Tony Abbot is the lone voice thus far demanding a tough action against Russian leader Vladimir Putin. US President Barack Obama is happy for the rally of support he gets from all over the world for economic sanction on Russia be intensified.
Our Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, however, is a man of diplomatic amid mounting pressure by some quarters that the government should issue a statement condemning Russia and Putin. They will have to wait for the outcome of a special Parliament session Wednesday but I think 'condemning Putin' is most unlikely.
Malaysia and Russia have been enjoying positive bilateral relations over the years - people to people and government to government. Although trade declined slightly to US$1.7
billion in 2012 from US$1.83 billion in 2011, efforts were being taken
to increase the trade. There was
about a five per cent drop in bilateral trade in 2012 mainly due to
decline in several big deals but Moscow was taking many initiatives to increase the trade level.
The Soviet Union established diplomatic relations
with Malaysia on 3 April 1967, and the Trade Agreement was signed. In
November 1967 the Soviet Trade Representation was established. In 1970,
the first group of Soviet students came to study Malay at the University of Malaya.
Ties between the two suffered when Malaysia declared its support for Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion throughout the 1980s. However, relations recovered following the conflict's end, and both countries have since
put aside historical disputes and worked to repair diplomatic, economic,
and military ties.
Since Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in 1985, relations between Russia and Malaysia have improved significantly. Former Malaysian prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad met Gorbachev several times.
In 2002, Mahathir made his visit to Moscow. He stated that Russia could be a rival to the US and Israel and he praised Russian President Vladimir Putin and his opposition to Western interference in other sovereign states.
In 2007, Malaysia and Russia sent the first Malaysian to the International Space Station, as part of the Angkasawan program for the Malaysian National Space Agency and the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos). It was a project under the government-to-government offset agreement through the purchase of Sukhoi SU-30MKM multirole fighter aircraft for the Royal Malaysian Air Force. It was a success, as Sheikh Muszapfar Shukor became the first Malaysian in space.
In recent weeks, separatist forces have downed numerous
Ukrainian planes, and it is likely they thought MH17 was another. This
means the incident falls under the rules of war. Under those rules, all
combatants have a duty to distinguish between military and civilian
Even if they thought the plane was a military object, as
communications transcripts suggest, the separatists could still be found
guilty in the International Court of Justice under a rule that says
combatants must take all reasonable precautions to verify that a target
is a military one before they attack. It appears the perpetrators failed
to do this, though just who brings them to justice, or when, is for now
an unanswerable question.
Guilty or not, let’s put it this way. Putin isn’t issuing
direct orders but he has paved the way for the separatists to work
their chaos, partly through direct action and partly by turning a blind
eye. While it’s extremely doubtful Putin ordered this attack, many
defence experts believe he provided the separatists with sophisticated
Russia has moved military equipment across the
Ukrainian border in recent weeks, and it’s believed that all of the
Ukrainian aircraft shot down during that time were done so with Russian
manufactured air defence systems.
It is thought that the Russian
surface-to-air missile known as “Buk” was used to shoot down MH17. These
missiles are launched from trucks, and there are reports Russian trucks
were recently seen crossing the Russia-Ukraine border. One of them was
even said to be missing a missile.
It is unclear whether Russian
military figures orchestrated the attack that downed MH17, but as a
general point, it is known that Putin strongly sympathises with the
separatists. The Russian President continues to be infuriated by Kiev’s
leanings towards western Europe and its institutions.
with the downing of a commercial airliner by what US and Ukrainian
officials suggest was a Russian missile supplied to pro-Moscow rebels,
Putin is facing a personal barrage of worldwide condemnation that
threatens to result in further sanctions on Russia if it does not
rapidly change course in Ukraine.
Australia has raised the
prospect of banning Putin from a meeting of the Group of 20, the world’s
most powerful nations, in November if he does not exert more pressure
on the rebels who left corpses strewn on the ground for days,
contaminated the crash site and hampered an international investigation.
meanwhile, openly accused the Russian leader of sponsoring 'terrorism'. US Secretary of State John Kerry, appearing on multiple political
talk shows Sunday, called this a 'moment of truth' for Russia.
in Europe - a continent long leery of going too far to pressure Moscow
over its support of separatists in Ukraine - initial shock was quickly
gathering into outrage and action.
On Sunday, German Chancellor
Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and British Prime
Minister David Cameron held a joint phone call on Russia. A Downing
Street spokesman said that the three leaders agreed that the European
Union 'must reconsider its approach to Russia and that foreign ministers
should be ready to impose further sanctions on Russia when they meet on
Now, some Malaysians are suggesting that a demonstration should be held at the Russian Embassy in Jalan Ampang. I am not sure if its a good idea but what's the gain when Putrajaya - in taking the pain in MH17 - still wants to maintain that strong diplomatic relation with Russia.
Its not about punishing the people of Russia but their leaders must foot the responsibility in assisting the international investigation team, return the remains of the victims to Malaysia, identify those responsible for shooting down the plane and punish them severely.
Malaysia, just like many other countries, will not sacrifice its good diplomatic relation with Russia. Even the US will not go to the extreme in imposing sanctions on Russia as it will not only harm its two-way bilateral relations but will open the door to a new international conflict.
Soviet Union is no longer there but Russia is still a formidable force, economically and militarily. Malaysia only wants justice for the dead, and any effort to seek justification will not bear any bad stigma to diplomatic ties.
Yes, we are saddened by the incident. We are still reeling from MH370 mystery. However, the truth has yet to prevail for MH17. Whether its Russia or Ukraine, someone has to take up the full responsibility and deliver justice to the victims.