ACT News


Australian warned against sending armed ADF to MH17 crash site

Australian Defence Force personnel will be walking into a volatile situation at the MH17 crash site in Ukraine which they are not prepared for, a senior Defence figure in Australia has warned.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott's announcement of Australia's intentions to send 190 armed Australian Federal Police and an unknown number of ADF personnel to help recover bodies and evidence from the site has been met with incredulity in some parts of Europe, with one analyst branding it ''nuts''.

The senior defence figure in Australia, who did not wish to be named, said it was a poor idea for Australia.

"They can't secure the site,'' he said. "It's kilometres long and wide. They could escort Australian officials and provide close protection, but this is a civil task rather than a military task and it's a terribly volatile area.

"We don't have the language skills or knowledge of the area.

"For any military deployment you have to look at a status of forces agreement with the government and, given the area the aircraft is in, I don't think there is anyone to make that agreement with.


"What I've heard this morning is the rebels don't want more than 30 investigators there.''

Australian Defence commentator Dr Peter Dean, director of studies at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University, said negotiations would be key.

"It really depends on the diplomacy undertaken around this,'' he said.

"If our government can make its intentions clear and be accepted on those grounds I think this [Mr Abbott's goal] can be achieved.''

Dr Dean said Australia's status as a non-NATO member would play in its favour and its geographical distance from Europe would also help.

"I think we see it through a different lense than the European commentators,'' he said.

"We are not sending the army over there to take on the Russians or separatists. It's not a European country interfering in another European country's business. It's a country from the outside that has experienced a significant loss of life of Australian people and permanent residents.

"The Prime Minister is wanting to send people to provide security. I don't think Australia is necessarily mad for wanting to do that.''

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told parliament in The Hague on Friday, that though tempting, he was too concerned about possible ramifications to send troops to Ukraine.

Senior program officer for central and eastern Europe at the Berlin bureau of the German Marshall Fund of the United States Joerg Forbrig said of the Australian plan: "they must be nuts.

"It's a very dangerous proposal and will be seen as a provocation by the separatists and the Russians,'' he said.