Following an interview on Newshub Nation today, where New Zealand's Deputy Prime Minister claimed that there was no evidence that Russia either meddled in the US election, or was responsible for the shooting down of MH-17 over Ukraine, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern must sack Winston Peters from her Government, as his position as Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister is no longer tenable.
Mr Peters went so far as to suggest New Zealand trading with Russia would be no different to New Zealand trading with Australia given Australia's treatment of criminals who are New Zealand citizens living in Australia.
Perhaps Mr Peters hasn't noticed, but last time I checked Australia hadn't conducted invasions of South Ossetia and the Crimea, nor was Australia supplying troops and equipment to a proxy war in Eastern Ukraine and backing the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad which has repeatedly and recently used chemical weapons on civilians.
Nor has Australia been involved in attempts to disrupt elections and referendums in the US, France, Germany, and the UK.
The Australian Government also hasn't been attempting to carry out assassinations of dissidents and former intelligence officers using chemical weapons either.
So there's a big difference there, Mr Peters. A mighty big difference.
Mr Peters' comments are completely inappropriate coming from our Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.
If you're one of New Zealand's friends or allies and you're seeing those comments today, you'll be asking yourself what is an apologist for Russian aggression doing as Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand. If you're one of our intelligence and defence partners, Mr Peters' remarks will undermine your faith in sharing intelligence with your New Zealand partners. And if you're one of the countries whose citizens died in the attack on MH17, you'll probably be weighing up whether to summon New Zealand's diplomatic representatives and demanding a "please explain" from them.
In short, what Winston Peters said on Newshub Nation this morning has the potential to turn into a significant diplomatic incident for New Zealand, damaging our crucial security, trade, and travel relationships around the world.
But not only that, Mr Peters comments will be upsetting and offensive to the families of victims from the downing of MH-17.
Both the Joint Investigation Team and the British Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament have found that it was a Russian supplied 9M38 BUK missile system that shot down MH-17, but that the BUK system crossed the border into Ukraine from Russia on the day of the attack, and was then slipped back across the border shortly afterwards. Given both the nature of a BUK missile system (in that it's not the type of weapon you could just supply to rebel forces without significant training on how to use it), and that Russian soldiers are on the ground in Eastern Ukraine under the ridiculous guise of claiming to be civilians (even though they've been demonstrated to be serving in the same command structures with the same officers as they did in the Russian army). In fact, the UK based NGO Bellingcat has amassed evidence that shows that soldiers from Russia's 53rd Anti-Aircraft Rocket Brigade were operating the missile unit responsible for shooting down MH-17 on that day.
With all this in mind, it is simply not credible to claim that there is no evidence that Russia had any responsibility, or wasn't involved, in the attack, when the evidence points towards either the Russians pulling the trigger themselves, or doing everything but pulling the trigger. It's essentially a question of whether they're guilty of murder or aiding and abetting a murder, including the destruction of evidence and obstruction of justice.
While Winston Peters has tried to argue that there's no enough evidence for a case to be brought in a court of law, he should probably look to the UN Security Council, where Russia was forced to veto a Malaysian drafted resolution that would have led to an international investigation. I wonder why that was?
With regards to Russian interference in the US 2016 Presidential election, each week we're met with more evidence about Russian attempts to meddle. There's the FSB linked hackers targeting the Democrats, fake Twitter profiles trying to amplify Donald Trump's tweets, Russian linked Facebook pages running political ads, or Special Counsel Robert Mueller's growing list of charges being brought against those involved in the Kremlin linked campaign. It is beyond any reasonable doubt that there was a Russian backed attempt to destabilise the US political system during the 2016 election.
Once you've read all that, keep the in mind the following:
- As Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters is effectively the second most important person in the Executive.
- As Foreign Minister, Winston Peters is meant to be representing both the New Zealand Government and our interests as a country overseas.
- As a member of Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee, Winston Peters is responsible for the oversight of our intelligence agencies.
- When Jacinda Ardern has her baby in June, Winston Peters will be Acting Prime Minister for six weeks.
In light of Winston Peters' indefensible comments on Newshub Nation, it's no longer tenable for him to be Deputy Prime Minister or Foreign Minister, or for him to be Prime Minister for those six weeks in June and July. Not only are Winston Peters' remarks immensely embarrassing for New Zealand on the world stage, but their impact of our most crucial relationships with our allies and friends, as well as the hurt they'll cause to the families of the 298 victims of that horrific attack.
If Jacinda Ardern is to maintain both her own credibility as Prime Minister, and New Zealand's credibility in the international community, especially with our friends and allies, Winston Peters must be sacked.