, pub-6663105814926378, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0 Russian-made missile downs a passenger plane 4289

Russian-made missile downs a passenger plane

Russian President Vladimir Putin remained defiant in the face of intense international pressure this week, after evidence overwhelmingly indicated that it was a Russian-supplied Buk missile that shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine last week. All 298 people on board—including 80 children—were killed in the attack, which is believed to have been carried out by pro-Russian separatists who mistook the passenger jet for a Ukrainian military plane. The majority of the victims from the Amsterdam–Kuala Lumpur flight are Dutch; scores of Malaysians, Australians, and British are also among the dead. Separatists initially denied investigators access to the crash site. For several days, the bodies were left to rot in the open, and reportedly looted of cellphones, jewelry, and credit cards. After an international outcry, military planes finally transported most of the victims to the Netherlands for identification.

Vladimir Putin and Russian officials fiercely denied responsibility, and claimed that Flight 17 had probably been shot down by Ukrainian military jets. But American intelligence analysts said the downed plane’s fuselage was strewn with telltale shrapnel holes and blistered paint that result from a Buk missile, which explodes just before reaching its target. Other evidence of separatist and Russian involvement includes photos of a Buk mobile launcher—without at least one of its missiles—retreating into Russia shortly after the plane’s destruction. President Obama called the attack an “outrage of unspeakable proportions” and threatened Russia with further economic sanctions if it continued to support the separatists. The EU failed to take any immediate action, deciding to wait for an investigation into the attack on Flight 17.

“Vladimir Putin has blood on his hands,” said The Seattle Times. In his determination to keep Ukraine in Russia’s orbit, he “inspired and armed” the rebels who downed this airliner. It’s obvious why the separatists blocked access to the crash site—so that it could be “scrubbed of Russian fingerprints.”

This atrocity now brings the West to a “moment of moral and strategic clarity,” said The Wall Street Journal. Even when Putin annexed Crimea in March—“the first land grab of a sovereign European state since World War II”—the West responded only with toothless sanctions. Stopping this “would-be czar” will require firm, unified action from both Europe and America, including crippling sanctions.

This is “Putin’s Lockerbie,” said Adrian Karatnycky in The Libyan-ordered 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 turned Muammar al-Qaddafi into an “international pariah”—and the same could happen to Putin. The Russian president essentially has two options: Either he continues supporting the rebels and tries to weather the inevitable sanctions and international opprobrium or he abandons them, losing Ukraine to the West and face at home.  For Putin to back down now would be unthinkable, said Daniel Treisman in The Kremlin’s propaganda machine has convinced Russians that protecting Russian speakers in Crimea and eastern Ukraine is of critical national importance—and proof of Putin’s manhood.

The West need not be powerless, said Roger Cohen in The New York Times. In response to this atrocity, the U.S. and the EU could send enough military aid “to transform the Ukrainian army into a credible force,” force Putin out of Ukraine, and treat Russia like the rogue state it has become. “It won’t happen.” Europe’s pacifism is so reflexive, and the Continent is now so entwined economically with Russia, that appeasement has become the default position. “This mass murder is an outrage that should not stand”—but it probably will.

If the tragedy of Flight 17 proves anything, said Joshua Rovner in The Washington Post, it’s that Putin isn’t a master strategist after all. Conducting invasions by arming insurgent groups seemed clever, but it can backfire, because such groups are inherently uncontrollable and reckless. Putin’s meddling in Ukraine has been disastrous for his country: The economy is tanking, and Russia is increasingly isolated. As the West considers its next move, it should be “careful not to overestimate its adversary.”


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