The summer of 2014 – a passenger plane carrying almost 300 people crashed in Eastern Ukraine, a region that was the scene of a bloody insurgency launched by Russian-backed separatists. Now, it was immediately clear that these separatists were responsible for the MH17 crash; they not only shot down several Ukrainian army planes in the days before, but even claimed responsibility for the attack – that is, before finding out they had downed the wrong plane and quickly removed their claim from social media.
While the US and Australia rightly pointed at Putin and the filthy war the Russian dictator had started in Ukraine, European leaders treated the event like it was a regular murder case. ‘Anybody could be behind this, we must not jump to conclusions’, seemed to be their message. Efforts were made not to further anger the belligerent Russians. Even if sanctions were eventually put into place, these were officially only a reaction to the annexation of Crimea, not for the violence in Donbass. Mentioning Russia in the same sentence as the MH17 crash was carefully avoided by top European politicians for months after the crash. The response appeared driven by the same scared reflexes that often kick in after Islamist terror attacks.Our article on Jihadism in Europe
How can it be that a continental power-block of half a billion people with massive economic and political influence does not even utter an angry word when hundreds of its citizens are shot out of the sky? That is what I wondered back then. Are we really so weak as to silently watch how the perpetrators pump out propaganda and actually blame us for their crime? This! Exactly this is why we need a strong and self-conscious Europe, I realized; a Europe that stands firmly for its citizens and, when harm is done to them, has the dignity to at least name the culprits. Because European countries individually do not impress dictatorships like Russia, Turkey or China, Europe must speak with one voice on international affairs. Europeans must know that they are not alone, that their country is not alone, but that they are part of a family of nations that looks after them and speaks out in their interest.