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.