When the Obama administration’s former top man in Moscow told Defense News that Russian leaders should apologize for the shootdown of an airliner in Ukraine, he was greeted with charges of hypocrisy.
In a Twitter exchange late Tuesday evening, your correspondent asked Michael McFaul just what the “accountability” of Russian leaders he was calling for in a series of tweets would look like in practice. Then, things got interesting.
Here is his reply:
“Michael McFaul @McFaul .@BennettJohnT at a minimum, it means an apology. Someone pulled the trigger. They should admit to their mistake”
McFaul’s response brought a slew of critical tweets from across the globe.
Some criticized him for using the death of those aboard Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 to grind a personal ax, like this one from Sydney:
“Natalia Miz @NataMiz @McFaul Maybe you should stop using this awful tragedy to show your hate for Mr.Putin… We don’t know yet who killed the innocents on #MH17”
The former ambassador answered that he possesses “hatred for Putin, but I am outraged by the killing of innocents killed on #MH17 . There must be accountability for it”
Another individual, whose Twitter profile places him in Siberia, Russia, shot back that McFaul has failed to make the case that Moscow had a role in the airliner shootdown, nor that Russia-backed separatists are responsible.
“Eugene Mamontov @22eug @McFaul @BennettJohnT you don’t leave any chance for a version that it was Ukraine army shot down the plane? The more they shot down earlier”
But perhaps the most stinging critique came from Moscow, with one tweeter suggesting McFaul and other American officials are guilty of hypocrisy on the Malaysian jet incident:
“Irina Galushko @IrinaGalushkoRT @McFaul @BennettJohnT Iranian Air flight 655. 290 deaths. G.W.H.Bush: “I will never apologize for the U.S. No matter what the facts are””
That individual was referring to an Iranian passenger jet a US Navy ship shot down in July 1988. It took the US government nearly 10 years to compensate the families of those killed, and to express “deep regret” for that incident.
US officials at that time said an American war ship mistook the Iran Air Flight 655 — an Airbus-made plane — for an Iranian military F-14 Tomcat fighter jet.
Is the Cold War back? Maybe. Maybe not. Time — and a myriad coming decisions made by Ukrainian, Russian, US, European, and separatist leaders — will tell.
But the backlash McFaul received for suggesting Moscow and/or the rebel forces it is back in Ukraine apologize for killing nearly 300 people who were minding their own business on a passenger jet shows tensions between the US and Russia are rising.
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