If you are a regular follower of Lords of the Drinks you know we like to keep things light around here. Also you will very rarely see a post written in the first person. Well, this post is gonna be different. Every since a boeing of Malaysian Airlines carrying 193 men, women and children from my country Holland (298 people in total) was shot down I have been struggling a little bit with myself and there are some things I have to get of my chest before I can continue to deliver your regular doses of drunken fun. In the next lines I will explain why I believe we shouldn’t blame Russians in general, but focus on mister Vladimir Putin and the former KGB agents who surround him. But first let’s start by raising our glasses in a salute to all the innocent victims that died in this disaster.
For you to understand my emotions and the things I’m about to say I want to take you back 2 days in time. In the late afternoon Dutch time I heard another airplane by Malaysian Airlines crashed. I have to admit that my first reaction was very mellow. Too bad for those people but actually it was a bit far from home. At least I thought it was. As it turned out the plane flew from our capital Amsterdam and was obviously carrying a number of Dutch people too. Still accidents happen, just a few years ago a plane with a lot of Dutch people on board crashed near Tripoli. It wasn’t till I heard that the plane was shot from the air that I was really blown away, simply shocked. I wasn’t sure how to react.
Finally the first feeling that came up was one of big anger and thirst for revenge. In a blind rage the only thing I wanted was to see blood spill of the ones responsible. Blow them to pieces like they blew our people up. That feeling was followed by immense sadness, knowing that violence would not undo what happened. The body count for Holland meanwhile kept rising from 60 to 80 to 154 to 189 and finally 193. It made me feel physically sick, as I had the feeling I had to vomit. Being so powerless sucks. I guess this is what Americans must have felt like at 9/11 or Spaniards with the train bombings in Madrid. So it took me a while to get my thoughts together and write down a rational story.
Back to Thursday evening. Quite soon it became clear that Russian separatists in Ukraine were behind the atack. Now before this incident one could argue if they were rebels or freedom fighters but since Thursday they can officially be labeled as terrorists. The situation in Ukraine is complex but I think we can all agree that shooting down a plane with almost 300 people on board who are in no way involved is just sick. We are talking young couples and families with kids. People who were looking forward to a wonderful holiday in South-East Asia or Australia. Their trip to paradise became a one-way ticket.
Shortly after Russian commander Strelkov proudly showed the world how they shot ‘a Ukranian plane‘ it became clear this was in fact the Malaysian Airlines flight that dissapeared off the radar. The next reactions by both the separatists and the Kremlin made my blood boil. Everything was denied and they tried everything to put the blame on Ukranian forces. It’s possible to make a mistake, no matter how horrible, but at least have the balls to admit it. They did the opposite and this is not the only thing that makes me suspect foul play. At first Russian separatists denied to even have weapons that could should an airplane at a height of 10 kilometer. Shortly after it was proven that they did. This height is also important to debunk the theory that the Russians thought they were dealing with a Ukranian plane carrying goods, since they normally fly about 4 kilometers lower. If the cannoneer couldn’t see the difference in size and shape of the plane in his sight, the difference in height should have tipped him off.
I’m sorry this is starting to sound more and more like a conspiracy theory but let’s not rule out the possibility that this plane was shot down on purpose. And even though officially it would be the separatists who did this, since Putin is backing them up he is responsible. In fact I believe the ethnic Russians fighting in Ukraine don’t even dare to go to the toilet without the Kremlin‘s permission. Putin is an old KGB-man for whom the Cold War never really ended. People who dealt with him all say he is constantly playing power games. And for the ones who can’t believe he would go as far as killing almost 300 people, I would advise to read the book Blowing Up Russia: Terror from Within. It explains how men of Putin’s FSB (basically the old KGB under a new name) blew up buildings in Russia to create fear (for Chechens) and rise to power. The lives of several hundreds of Russians were a small sacrifice for the greater good. The book is strictly forbidden in Russia and co-author Alexander Litvinenko was murdered in a horrible way by the use of a radioactive substance.
But wait, there is more… We are still a blog about alcohol and in 2012 Putin’s goverment decided to raise taxes on spirits like vodka and cognac by 30%. Probably not a big thing for his rich friends but for poor Russians this was a disaster. Vodka is a part of life for most Russians, so you can imagine the inpact of this huge raise. And of course it was a huge blow for the liquor industry, as alcohol production also went down by 30%. Not a major crime like blowing up a flat or shooting down a plane but still a nasty move.
As far as the conflict in Ukraine is concerned I stayed neutral for a long time. The whole situation looks a lot like the Yugoslavian War and there were no winners in that war. When some Ukranian and Russian nationalists are fighting over land the normal civilians lose. As I understood from friends from that region nobody wantspower games or a war. They just want to work and feed their families and that was hard enough as it was. The conflict is also too complex for someone from Holland to judge who is right or wrong. However, when one of the fighting parties shoots down a plane full of random people from my own country I am getting dragged into it, like it or not.
So what to do now as we mourn our 193 deaths in Holland? Well it’s easy to react in violence. But that’s the language of Putin, a language he speaks like no other. I have heard some people say we should kick all Russians out of Holland or better yet the EU. In my opinion this is the stupidest thing we can do. There are plenty of bright Russian minds studying abroad who are not happy with their goverment either. So don’t hate them but embrace them. Let’s not forget they had to deal with Putin and his regime a lot longer than we have. I hope one day these young and educated Russian generation will break the democratic dictatorship in their country. For now I would settle for kicking out all Russian diplomats and stop buying any Russian products. Since my budget already didn’t allow much caviar, I will make sure my vodka is from Poland, Finland or Ukraine when I salute my fallen nationals. Cheers, may you rest in peace!