Thursday, July 17, 2014

Malaysian airliner shot down in eastern Ukraine?

No, that's neither a joke nor a hoax or a parody. It's a genuine disaster, now being reported. Unlike the Malaysian airliner that disappeared in March 2014 and has never been found, we know for sure that this one actually crashed in eastern Ukraine. Precisely how or why that happened remains uncertain. According to the BBC:
A Malaysian airliner carrying 295 people has crashed in east Ukraine on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, amid allegations it was shot down.

There are no signs of survivors at the scene of the crash near the village of Grabovo, which is under the control of separatist rebels.

Flight MH17 had been due to enter Russian airspace when contact was lost.

Ukraine's president called the loss of the plane an "act of terrorism" as the rebels denied shooting it down.

Separatists are believed to have shot down two Ukrainian military planes over the region in recent days. [....]

Leading airlines have announced they are now avoiding eastern Ukraine.
That's not surprising.

To repeat, the cause of this crash remains uncertain. But if the plane was indeed shot down, and if it was shot down by Russian-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine (who presumably didn't realize it was a Malaysian civilian airliner) with anti-aircraft weapons supplied by Moscow, then obviously the political repercussions could quite serious.
If it does turn out that the Boeing 777 was shot down by the separatists - with weaponry supplied by Moscow - then it could significantly alter the terms of the whole debate surrounding the Ukraine crisis.

Over the past few days there has been growing concern among Western governments that Russia was stepping up its military support for the separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Nato spokesmen insist that more and more heavy military equipment has moved from Russian stockpiles to the separatists across the border.

In response, the United States has strengthened its economic sanctions against Moscow - it is threatening even stronger action - though the European Union has so far failed to follow Washington's lead.

But if Russia in any way had a hand in this tragedy then the pressure - especially on the Europeans - for much tougher sanctions will only grow.

That's all speculative right now, but it's not implausible. Of course, for all we know so far, I suppose it's also hypothetically possible that the plane was (somehow) shot down by Ukrainian government forces, or perhaps by Russian forces. Stay tuned ...

—Jeff Weintraub