MH-370, Vladimir Putin and the Kansas City Shuffle

KAZAN. Sabantui, a Tatar festival.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Strange tales are emanating from Russia about the fate of the vanished Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.  First came a report that Russian military intelligence knew where the plane was. The Americans had “captured” the missing 777 and “diverted” it to their military base on the remote island of Diego Garcia, the story went, in order to prevent some “mysterious cargo” from falling into the wrong hands.

Improbable as this sounds, it so captured the imaginations of conspiracy theorists that even now, with several nations looking for the plane on the bottom of the Indian Ocean in the most expensive search operation in history, the US has found itself obliged to issue an official denial.

And then, a few days ago, came  a counter-claim from a Russian newspaper, citing another anonymous intelligence source: the plane had been hijacked by “unknown terrorists”, and crash-landed on a desert road in Afghanistan, where it was apparently still sitting, with one wing broken, while the passengers are alive and being held hostage in “mud huts”. There was even a name for the lead hijacker: “Hitch”.

It all sounds rather far-fetched: you’d think some one would have noticed a 777 lying around south of Kandahar, given the number of military flights in the area, to say nothing of spy satellites.  And then there’s the small matter of the pings from the Black Box that were apparently heard thousands of miles away in the Indian Ocean.

But then the disappearance of MH-370 is a genuine mystery. We really don’t know what happened, and rather than accept the possibility that the world is still a big and hostile enough environment that a modern jet can vanish, people prefer to believe in a conspiracy hatched by all-powerful intelligence agencies who know exactly what happened, but are covering it up.

It’s the same with 9/11: people would prefer to believe it was an inside job than accept that 19 Arabs managed to pull it off. The illusion that some one is in control is always better — even if it’s malevolent control.

But it seems curious that both claims should cite Russian intelligence as a source — especially since they’re mutually contradictory.

It’s interesting, too, that the majority of conspiracy theories about Flight 370 centre on an American cover-up, rather than, say, a Chinese conspiracy, or a Russian one.

If you want a real conspiracy, you need look no further than Ukraine, where Vladimir Putin is warning the Kiev goverment risks starting a civil war — even as his supporters do their best to whip one up, so Mr Putin can step in to “protect” them from Ukrainian aggression.

Dangerous as it is, the situation in Ukraine is not as enticing as devising Tintin-like explanations for the disappearance of Flight 370. Mr Putin arguably got away with annexing Crimea so easily because the world’s attention was distracted by the search for the missing plane.

Which presents a thought: could the bizarre alternative reports of Flight 370’s fate be a Russian take on the Kansas City Shuffle?

The Kansas City Shuffle, you’ll remember, is when  when everybody looks right, and you go left. The timing of the Afghanistan claim, just as things start to hot up in eastern Ukraine, is interesting to say the least.

I’m not saying Russia had anything to do with the disappearance of Flight 370. I don’t know what happened to it, but I tend to suspect the most likely explanation is some sort of fire or depressurisation, or other accident.

But when you’re conning the entire world, you’ll take advantage of any distraction that comes along. And, if it starts to lose their attention, perhaps you’ll prod them back in that direction again.

Of course , the beauty of being an anonymous “intelligence source” is you can always deny you said anything at all.

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  1. So well written I can’t help but think there might be something to what you said. Were the events of MH-370 an accident, or managed to hide something else? Hmm… Great post.

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