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One Day can Change a Country

The Netherland’s relationship with Russia drastically changed after July 17th, 2014, when the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile in the eastern part of the Ukraine, supposedly by pro-Russian separatists. The plane did not have a technical malfunction. It was shot down. Two-hundred and ninety-eight people were killed, roughly sixty-five percent of whom were Dutch. Prior to the shoot-down, the Netherland’s relationship with Russia was sound and growing stronger. In 2010, The Moscow Times released an article titled, “A Dutch Welcome for Russian Tourists”, in which Annemarie Gerards, the spokeswoman of the Keukenhof flower park, said, “the Russian market is becoming very important for us.” A mosaic of Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral made from 65,000 flowers illustrated such importance and effort to draw more Russian tourists into the country. Concerning political relations, on November 9th, 2013, the Dutch King Willem-Alexander met with Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin Palace in Moscow and thanked him for receiving the Dutch delegation during the 400th anniversary celebration of Russian-Dutch relations. During his visit, the Dutch King assured Putin that “everything can be resolved in the spirit of friendship.” Concerning economic ties between the two countries, Dutch business websites have begun terming the Netherlands and Russia “A Growing Trade Powerhouse”. On April 9th, 2014, The Moscow Times released an article, “Netherlands Postpones Trade Mission to Russia Over Ukraine Crisis”. Despite this postponement, the article was written in a rather positive, optimistic tone, stating: “The Dutch have been looking to expand economic ties with Russia, a big export market where the Netherlands is already a leading investor.”

In the aftermath of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 disaster, headlines such as “After MH17, Holland's Cozy Relationship With Russia Under Fresh Scrutiny” (International Business Times) and “In the Netherlands, a nation’s pain turning to rage” (USA Today) confirmed the immediate and fundamental shift in the Netherlands-Russia relationship. The Dutch peoples’ sadness was expressed over all forms of social media; “We will miss you”, for example, filling Homepages on Facebook. Sadness quickly escalated into frustration, as was expressed by the July 19th headline of the country’s largest daily newspaper De Telegraaf, “Enough is enough”. On July 22nd , the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte demanded justice and “a united European Union approach and pressure on Russia to do more.” The Bloomberg News quoted Jan Melissen, a senior research fellow at Clingendael (the Netherlands Institute of International Relations), proclaiming that the country passed a turning point: “Even for a trading nation, this is the point when you have to consider whether economic interests are outweighed by principles and values." Later at a meeting in Brussels, Rutte acknowledged that “all options are on the table as it is clear that things have changed since Thursday [July 17th].” He rightly added, “This is no longer about economy and trade only, but about security.” Sharing a similar opinion, Bram van Ojik, the leader of the GroenLinks (GreenLeft) opposition party, claimed: “This is a litmus test on how serious we are about sanctions as they can hurt us as well. We need to be prepared to shoot ourselves in the foot.”

One day can indeed change a country. Contrary to what the Dutch King said to Putin on his visit to Moscow just a year ago, after the July 17th disaster it looks as though “the spirit of friendship” has been wiped of the slate. It is clear that the Dutch people and mindset hold security, principles, and values over economic benefits. Although this is an optimal standpoint, can such idealism be actualized in a global community in which ‘money makes the world go round’? Holland may be prepared to shoot themselves in the foot, but will the rest of Europe, the United States, and others be willing to do so as well?


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