Where was NATO?
Response to downed MH-17 flight
By: Shama Vaidya
On July 17th, 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 [MH-17] was shot down by a Buk missile over rebel infested Eastern Ukraine. MH-17 was an international passenger flight flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, carrying 283 passengers and 15 crew, all of whom were killed in the crash. The warhead detonated outside the left side of the cockpit, immediately killing the pilot and copilot. According to the Dutch Safety Board’s report of the crash, the passengers were barely aware of the attack.
298 people were killed in this attack, and it happens more often than one might think. Since 1950, “there have been some 20; on average one every 3 years”, citing messy mix ups of military
exercises as reasoning for hundreds of dead civilians (Parker). Despite the overwhelming evidence, a majority of the militaries deny responsibility of the attacks, and are allowed to walk away with no punishment. This flight was different.
The question becomes where was NATO when this attack happened? Why do they maintain an almost disrespectful radio silence in reply to this blatant attack? The Dutch Safety Report is public, anyone has access to the information. Anyone could tell you that the missile was a Russian made Buk missile. Russia disavowed this finding, insisting that those missiles had been “phased out” in their military. This then brings us to insurgent rebel groups, which crawl through Eastern Ukraine. We know that the launch area was within a 320 sq km area, but we still today no group has claimed responsibility for this attack.
In order to fully understand why NATO’s complacence is odd, one must first
understand who they are and what they stand for. NATO is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, whose essential purpose is to assure the safety and security of its members through political and militaristic means. They operate on a collective defense system, in which an attack on one member is an attack on all members. A prime example of the invocation of Article 5 is the post haste after the 9/11 attacks. NATO used this Article to their advantage in order to legalize and justify the war. Post 9/11, NATO relied heavily on the non-European members to secure the mission against the Taliban. Their military organization “encompasses a complete system of commands for possible wartime use”, which its Military Committee controls as the main infrastructure of NATO forces (Haglund).
In the situation regarding MH-17, NATO could have invoked Article 5 again. By using this principle, the alliance could “impose a no-fly zone over eastern Ukraine”, and Alliance aircraft could “search out and destroy illegal surface-to-air missiles” thereby preventing similar attacks in this area (Parker). The issue then becomes how Russia would react to NATO actions on their home turf. NATO prides itself on the principle of peaceful interactions with nations, only resorting to violence when absolutely necessary. It is however inevitable that an action taken by NATO on Russian soil would undoubtedly provoke a response from the Russians. Despite this scenario, I firmly believe that it is still NATO’s responsibility as the police force of the nations to address these concerns. If they continue to maintain their docile nature, the nations will begin to lose respect for this institution and the collateral damage will be irreparable.