It was sup­posed to be a land­mark year for Dutch-​​Russian rela­tions. But in the fall of 2013, a government-​​sponsored cel­e­bra­tion of the two coun­tries’ centuries-​​long ties ended on an odd note. In November, Dutch King Willem-​​Alexander stopped by the Kremlin for a friendly visit to Russian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin. At the time, Russia was holding a Dutch-​​flagged Green­peace ship and its crew on charges of piracy (later down­graded to hooli­ganism). And, in the Nether­lands, gay-​​rights groups were protesting the visit in light of Russia’s strict laws against homo­sexual “pro­pa­ganda.” The Guardian was not exag­ger­ating when it described Netherlands-​​Russia Year 2013, as the cel­e­bra­tion was called, as “a strong con­tender for the least suc­cessful diplo­matic ini­tia­tive in recent Euro­pean history.”

The downing of Malaysia Air­lines flight 17, which resulted in the deaths of 193 Dutch nationals, puts the failed Netherlands-​​Russia Year 2013 in a new light.

Read the article at Foreign Affairs →