Does downing of MH17 mean war?

07:18, Jul 18 2014
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17
Malaysia Airlines flight 17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17
The crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 near the village of Grabovo, Ukraine.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17
Emergencies Ministry members work at the site of a Malaysia Airlines plane crash near Grabovo, Ukraine.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17
Emergencies Ministry members work at the site of a Malaysia Airlines plane crash near Grabovo, Ukraine.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17
Wreckage from Malaysia Airlines flight 17 smoulders at the main crash site.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17
Wreckage from Malaysia Airlines flight 17 smoulders at the main crash site.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17
Wreckage from Malaysia Airlines flight 17 smoulders at the main crash site.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17
Wreckage from Malaysia Airlines flight 17 smoulders at the main crash site.
Part of the wreckage of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 is seen after it crashed near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region.
Part of the wreckage of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 is seen after it crashed near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region.
MALAYSIA2
The site of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region.
The upper floor of Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport is reserved for family and relatives of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
The upper floor of Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport is reserved for family and relatives of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
Ukraine plane crash
An Emergencies Ministry member walks at the site of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash in Ukraine.
People bring flowers and candles to the Dutch embassy to commemorate the victims of the Malaysia Airlines plane crash.
People bring flowers and candles to the Dutch embassy to commemorate the victims of the Malaysia Airlines plane crash.
Family members of passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on a bus bringing them to a separate area at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport.
Family members of passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on a bus bringing them to a separate area at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and other high-ranked officials observe a minute's silence for victims of the Malaysia Airlines plane crash.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and other high-ranked officials observe a minute's silence for victims of the Malaysia Airlines plane crash.
US President Barack Obama speaks about the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, during a visit to Wilmington, Delaware.
US President Barack Obama speaks about the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, during a visit to Wilmington, Delaware.
Armed pro-Russian separatists stand at the site of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash near the settlement of Grabovo.
Armed pro-Russian separatists stand at the site of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash near the settlement of Grabovo.
Talking to reporters, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (R) demands swift justice for those responsible for the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, as Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein looks on.
Talking to reporters, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (R) demands swift justice for those responsible for the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, as Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein looks on.
Schiphol Chief Executive Jos Nijhuis, Malaysia Airlines Senior Vice President Huib Gorter (middle) and Malaysia's ambassador to the Netherlands Fauziah Binti Mohd Taib at a news conference on flight MH17 at Schiphol Airport.
Schiphol Chief Executive Jos Nijhuis, Malaysia Airlines Senior Vice President Huib Gorter (middle) and Malaysia's ambassador to the Netherlands Fauziah Binti Mohd Taib at a news conference on flight MH17 at Schiphol Airport.
Smoke rises from the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
Smoke rises from the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
MH17
A firefighter stands as flames burst amongst the wreckages of the MH17.
MH17
The wreckage smoulders at the site of the MH17 crash.
An Emergencies Ministry member walks at the site of the Malaysia Airlines plane crash.
An Emergencies Ministry member walks through the site of the Malaysia Airlines plane crash.
A woman who said she believed her sister was on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, cries as she waits for more information.
A woman who said she believed her sister was on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, cries as she waits for more information.
A father and daughter light candles at the Dutch embassy to commemorate the victims of Malaysia Airlines MH17.
A father and daughter light candles at the Dutch embassy to commemorate the victims of Malaysia Airlines MH17.
People light candles at the Malaysian embassy for victims of Malaysia Airlines MH17.
People light candles at the Dutch embassy for victims of Malaysia Airlines MH17.
People place candles and flowers at the Dutch embassy for victims of Malaysia Airlines MH17.
People place candles and flowers at the Dutch embassy for victims of Malaysia Airlines MH17.
A family member cries as she receives the news of the ill fated flight MH17.
A family member cries as she receives the news of the ill fated flight MH17.
A Malaysian woman who had a relative on board the Malaysian Airlines MH17 reacts to messages on her mobile phone as she waits to travel to Kuala Lumpur.
A Malaysian woman who had a relative on board the Malaysian Airlines MH17 waits to travel to Kuala Lumpur.
Relatives of passengers onboard the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
Relatives of passengers onboard the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
A father and daughter light candles at the Dutch embassy to commemorate the victims of Malaysia Airlines MH17.
Malaysian Siti Dina weeps after seeing her daughter's name on the list of passengers on board MH17.
A security officer passes a Malaysia Airlines advertisement at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia.
A security officer passes a Malaysia Airlines advertisement at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang
A man (in blue) whose family was onboard the Malaysia Airlines MH17 consoles another who had just arrived with her wife to receive confirmation that their daughter's family was onboard the plane, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
A man (in blue) whose family was onboard the Malaysia Airlines MH17 consoles another who had just arrived with her wife to receive confirmation that their daughter's family was onboard the plane, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
A relative of a passenger onboard the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) MH17 is assisted by MAS staff members as she leaves Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
A relative of a passenger onboard the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) MH17 is assisted by MAS staff members as she leaves Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
Malaysian Siti Dina speaks to media as she arrives to confirm news that her daughter was on board Malaysia Airlines MH17 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
Malaysian Siti Dina speaks to media as she arrives to confirm news that her daughter was on board Malaysia Airlines MH17 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
AIDS Conference
Members of the public walk past signage on the Princes Bridge for the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia. Twenty-seven Australians and more than 100 AIDS activists, researchers, health workers and delegates bound for the major conference were among those aboard MH17.
MH17
Relatives of passengers on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
A journalist takes photographs at the site of Thursday's Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash
A journalist takes photographs at the site of Thursday's Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash.
Members of the Ukrainian Emergency Ministry search for bodies near the site of Thursday's Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash.
Members of the Ukrainian Emergency Ministry search for bodies near the site of Thursday's Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash.
Members of the Ukrainian Emergency Ministry search for bodies near the site of Thursday's Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash.
Members of the Ukrainian Emergency Ministry search for bodies near the site of Thursday's Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash.
MH17 crash
A woman lights candles at a memorial for victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in Kuala Lumpur.
MH17 crash
Pro-Russian separatists look at passengers' belongings at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
MH17 crash
A pro-Russian separatist holds a stuffed toy found at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
MH17 crash
A flower placed on wreckage is pictured at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.
MH17 crash
A man blocks access to the scene of the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 as emergency personnel remove the bodies of passengers.

Although it's unclear exactly who was behind the apparent ground-launched missile that destroyed the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, US allies who have tried to occupy the middle ground in the worst crisis in relations between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War may now support bolder action to end the fighting in Ukraine.

"Some people thought Ukraine didn't have anything to do with them. They are now discovering their error," one senior US official said, adding that this could shatter the view in some European capitals that the conflict was largely contained.

Current and former US officials, as well as independent analysts, say the tragedy would sharpen global attention on Ukraine's raging separatist conflict and Moscow's role in fueling it. That, in turn, could be a catalyst for stronger sanctions that could inflict real damage on Russia's economy.

M17 victims
Australian siblings Evie, Mo and Otis Maslin and their grandfather Nick were killed on MH17.
M17 victims
Miguel, Mika and Shaka Panduwinata with their mother Samira Calehr. The brothers were all on the doomed flight.
M17 victims
The Maslin children were returning to Perth with Norris after a family holiday in Europe.
M17 victims
Robert Ayley with a rottweiler during his trip to Europe. Robert was one of the victims of the MH17 crash.
M17 victims
Mary Menke of Mallacoota, one of the Australian victims of the MH17 crash.
M17 victims
Liam Sweeney, 29, who was on his way to New Zealand following the West Ham football team.
M17 victims
Jack Alder, 60, who was on his way to New Zealand following the Newcastle United team.

The European Union's reticence over tougher sanctions reflects concerns among many of its member states about trade and industrial ties with Moscow and heavy reliance on Russian energy.

But with more than half of the nearly 300 people killed in the downing of the plane Dutch citizens, and more than a dozen more from other EU nations, that could change.

There is also hope in Washington that Russian President Vladimir Putin, faced with possibly the worst unintended consequences of the Ukrainian crisis, may experience what one US official described as a "moment of sanity" and work to stop the violence in majority Russian-speaking parts of eastern Ukraine.

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"This could be a tipping point," said Sam Charap, a former US State Department official and now senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Washington.

"It could be just what it takes to make the Russians step back," he said. "This is just what Putin didn't want but it's the kind of scenario that becomes much more likely when you give a lot of undertrained and unreliable people sophisticated weaponry."

Putin could also draw a completely different lesson and decide that, with U.S.-Russian relations already at a post-Cold War low, he has little to lose in defying Western pressure and instead increase support for the rebels, the officials said.

Much would depend on the level of public outrage over the destruction of the plane, and any evidence of involvement by pro-Russian separatists.

"SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES"

Ukraine accused the pro-Moscow militants, aided by Russian military intelligence officers, of firing a long-range, Soviet-era SA-11 ground-to-air missile. The separatists have said they took control of such a missile system last month and used it to shoot down a Ukrainian military transport plane on Monday.

The rebels denied involvement in Thursday's crash and said a Ukrainian air force jet had brought down the flight.

The United States has led the way on Western sanctions against Russia, announcing on Wednesday new measures targeting key institutions including Gazprombank and Rosneft Oil Co, as well as other energy and defense companies. The European Union has imposed some sanctions, including new penalties this week, but its steps have lagged Washington and have been weaker.

"This will undermine the case of those who have been reluctant," the U.S. official said.
Obama will also be under growing pressure from Capitol Hill - and from the Ukrainian government - for more military training and an increase in shipments of advanced arms to Ukraine's fledgling security forces, something the White House has been reluctant to offer for fear of escalating the conflict.

The airliner tragedy could also lead to a new push in Europe to rescind arms embargoes that were implemented in the dying days of Ukraine's former pro-Russian Ukrainian government that fell last year, U.S. government sources said.

"There should be serious consequences if we find out that it was either Russian agents, Russian equipment or Russians directly that was responsible for the downing of this airliner," New Hampshire Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte said in a speech on the Senate floor.

The Netherlands declared a day of national mourning for its 154 dead. Twenty-eight passengers were Malaysian, 27 Australian, 12 Indonesian, nine British, four German, four Belgian, three Filipino and one Canadian. All 15 crew were Malaysian.

While the downing of the Malaysian plane is shaping up as defining moment in the crisis, some analysts caution against overstating its impact on already-dismal U.S.-Russia relations.
"It's a very big deal no matter what," said Matthew Rojansky, a Russia expert at the Wilson Center think-tank in Washington.

But he said this should not be viewed as a "watershed moment" like the Soviet Union's downing of a Korean airlines passenger jet in 1983 at the height of the Cold War.

"There is still a lot of uncertainty about what happened," he said. "That means plenty of deniability for Putin even if the attack is traced back to separatist rebels."

A second U.S. official said Thursday's tragedy "could lead to a moment of pullback" by the opposing sides in the Ukraine conflict, paving the way for talks and possibly a compromise.

The international reaction to Thursday's tragedy "could go two ways," the official said. It could cause countries to understand the growing danger of the Ukraine conflict, or prompt them to "put their heads in the sand".

 

 

Reuters