The Russian Military has a Severe Credibility Problem Again

The Russian Chief of the General Staff has repeatedly exaggerated Russian military capabilities globally. He has boasted in equally inflated fashion of his great military achievements in Syria. Two inept operatives from the Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff then screwed up the attempted assassination of Skripal’ in England just before President Putin’s re-election. And it now appears that their television interview to explain their innocence as determined seekers after culture has not even convinced the Russian public (see previous post). As if this were not enough, the Ministry now has another foul-up on its hands and this has to do with explanations for the shootdown of the Malaysian airliner MN17 over Ukraine on 17 July 2014, leaving nearly 300 dead.

When it first happened, the Russians announced that the plane had been shot down by a Ukrainian Su-25. That did not appear to convince anyone. Then they announced that it had been shot down by a “Buk” surface-to-air missile by Ukrainian forces in the village of Zaroshchenskoe. But it was pointed out that at the time the village was actually in the hands of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (mercenaries working for Russia aided and abetted by separatist Russians in Eastern Ukraine.) Somehow, undeterred and devoid of embarrassment, the Ministry plodded on relentlessly.

The international investigators then found serial numbers relating to the missile that downed the plane and asked the Russians to check their provenance. Silence. Four months later appears a peculiar set of documents where the the signature for production of the item is nearly a year off the mark from the rest of the evidence. To say the least at least one Russian newspaper did not find this terribly convincing and it reproduces the documents in its pages on the web (“Vosstanovlennomu verit’? Dokumenty ob ukrainskoi prinadlezhnosti rakety sbivshei ‘Boing” MN 17, vyzyvayut eshche bol’she voprosov k Minoborony RF”, Novaya Gazeta, 18 September 2018.)

This kind of schoolboy fib-telling by the régime may not much matter within Russia today because no one in the population at large can do anything about it and it has become habitual. Election results are arranged well in advance. Errant behaviour by the rulers of Russia therefore carries no domestic cost. The trouble is that, because it has produced a culture where inaccuracy occurs without consequence, once Moscow is obliged to answer internationally for its behaviour lack of credibility does anything but serve the national interest. What goes around, comes around.