- The Netherlands is sending up to 42 F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine to help in its war against Russia.
- The announcement was made at Eindhoven Air Base, where the victims of the MH17 tragedy have been repatriated.
- However, experts say the symbolic move was mostly practical.
Nine years ago, a formal ceremony It took place at Eindhoven Air Base, the Netherlands.
The event saw the arrival of the first bodies of the victims of flight MH17, which was shot down over territory controlled by Russian separatists, killing all 298 passengers on board, including 196 Dutch citizens.
The Malaysia Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was blown out of the sky by proxies loyal to Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2014, who took over the Donbass region from Ukraine – today the fulcrum of some of the bitterest battles of Russia’s 2022 invasion. Indeed, Prosecutors in The Hague said in February that they had found “strong indications” that Putin had approved the use of the Russian BUK missile system to shoot down the plane.
At the same air base on August 20, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte confirmed that his country would send up to 42 F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine after the United States announced that it had agreed to the transfer. Reuters reportedin what may have been a symbolic reference to the 2014 tragedy.
“I think our government has drawn this connection very clearly. Because it hosted Zelensky at the same airport where the bodies of the MH17 passengers were brought when they were brought back to the Netherlands,” said Chris Collin, Ukraine expert at Dutch media company RTL. Holland told Insider.
Collin said the tragedy also helped Dutch people contextualize Russia’s war on Ukraine.
“In 2022, when the war started, I would say people really liked it,” he said. “Russia is the same country that took this plane out of the sky, the same country that has now invaded Ukraine.”
“The Netherlands will do everything in its power to ensure that justice is served in Ukraine”
The Netherlands has been openly supporting Ukraine in its war against Russia, while Rutte has also hinted at a possible link between Flight MH17 before, saying in a message: statement On the dispute: “Since the shooting down of MH17, we in the Netherlands have known that justice is not done automatically.”
“The Netherlands will do everything in its power to ensure that justice is served for Ukraine, however long and however difficult it may be,” he added.
But while the delivery of the F-16s may seem symbolic, Cullen said it was largely a practical step.
the The Dutch Ministry of Defense has been planning for a long time on phasing out its aging fleet of F-16s, which it is replacing F-35 aircraft.
Others agree that there may be other motives behind the move.
Pete Bloig, President of Disaster Foundation MH17, tragically lost his brother, sister-in-law and nephew in the accident.
But he told Insider that “the Dutch F-16s directed at Ukraine are not retaliation for the MH17”.
Bloeg said the Netherlands’ position on the war against Ukraine should not be just a reaction to the MH17 tragedy. It was just a case of trying to help fight off Russia’s invasion of another sovereign nation.
“The international community has to respond to Russia’s aggression. And I think it’s really important that our government and the international community support Ukraine,” he said.
Holland’s position on Russia
Paul van Hooft, senior strategist at The Hague Center for Strategic Studies, explained how the Netherlands’ approach to Russia has evolved since 2014.
He said the Dutch were initially reluctant to antagonize Russia, even in the midst of Flight MH17 — but that changed after its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, when they began to take a harder line.
But van Hooft said it was surprising how little the MH17 was used in the Netherlands’ decision-making on Russia, and said Dutch politicians had failed to capitalize on the similarities and symbolic nature of the invasion and flight.
“Dutch politics is not really prone to this kind of grand gesture,” he said, adding that the symmetry was elegant, especially since the F-16s would be used for air defence.
Van Hooft added that the F-16s, which cost about $63 million each, could be the most important donation to the war from the Netherlands. “I’m not sure what we have left is that amazing,” he said.
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