Elliott Higgins’ infamous Bellingcat organization which is attempting to position itself as an independent investigative institution focusing on international conflicts and crimes against humanity has made yet another effort to make itself relevant in the MH17 shoot-down saga by claiming it has identified the Russian officer who, presumably singlehandedly, brought the Buk launch vehicle from Russia into the Donbass, though apparently forgetting to take along such niceties as target surveillance radars, ammunition supply vehicles, or battery command units without which a single isolated launch vehicle has very limited usefulness. This “investigation” was performed in the usual Bellingcat fashion: by slapping together related and unrelated, dated and undated, photographs and social media posts which may or may not have originated on the Donbass, but which, thanks to a few Sherlock Holmes-like logic somersaults, indubitably confirm Russia’s guilt. Which is an unsurprising conclusion, since literally every single investigative project Bellingcat has ever undertaken has let its to the same discovery–if things go bump in the night, if there are monsters under the bed, you can be sure Vladimir Putin is behind it.
That Bellingcat was one of the many visible manifestations of the Hydra-headed intelligence “deep state” was never in doubt. While most Western NGOs hew closely to the official ideology of the day, Bellingcat’s eagerness to provide propaganda fodder for the current US or NATO talking points is in a league of its own. This is also manifested by its complete disinterest in any theater of war in which Russia is not engaged in any way: Iraq, Yemen, Libya. Investigations of atrocities committed by NATO forces or their proxies clearly are outside of Bellingcat’s sphere of interest. The remarkable success at utilizing crowd-funding services has the effect of concealing its real sources of funding. Bellingcat’s British origins fit well within the tradition of outsourcing intelligence “dirty jobs” to the UK, which in the past was happy to falsely implicate Saddam Hussein in an effort to procure uranium from Niger, or more recently the “Trump dossier” which alleged that the current US president availed himself of the services of FSB-enlisted sex workers.
Trump Administration’s nascent efforts to improve relations with Russia naturally put into question the future of an instrument of a hybrid war against Russia such as Bellingcat. Given the intimate relationship between Bellingcat and the international intelligence “deep state”, Bellingcat’s future will be one of significant indicators of the state of relations between the Trump Administration and his domestic “Fifth Column.”
For example, should Bellingcat gently fade away into the night or focus itself on more benign activities that do not impinge on US-Russian relations, one will be able to draw the conclusion that Trump has succeeded at bending the deep state to his will. A lot will depend on whether Bellingcat begins to attack Trump directly in the same way that the “Trump dossier” did. If the latter is the case, it will mean that the opposition to Trump is so deeply entrenched that no agreement reached between him and President Putin is likely to survive Trump’s departure from power. While it is too soon to dismiss the possibility of Russia-US cooperation on a variety of issues, one should also take into consideration the very real obstacles that Donald Trump has yet to overcome.