walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
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Malaysia Air Flight 17
Is This a Game Changer?

Though facts on the downing of the Malaysian Airlines flight over eastern Ukraine remain hard to pin down, the event could easily end up being a game-changer. While it’s impossible to rule out that the Ukrainian or Russian militaries are responsible for the tragedy, the rebels have been the ones bringing down Ukrainian military aircraft throughout the course of the conflict—with a marked uptick in attacks just this week.

Radio chatter leaked by Kiev, purportedly between rebel commanders and their Russian intelligence handlers, seems to indicate that rebels brought down the plane thinking it belonged to the Ukrainian military:

(Click over to the Interpreter for a translation.)

It goes without saying that this is unverified material, but if it is true, it suggests that while the Russian military is intimately involved with the rebels, they don’t have full command of the situation on the ground.

Putin cannot be happy about this latest turn of events. After all, things were going more or less according to plan up to now. Yesterday’s reasonably robust round of U.S. sanctions was accompanied by a set of comparatively meek European ones consisting mostly of a moratorium on development aid. Putin was doing his best to portray himself as a responsible statesman, in contrast to the reckless Western interests that goaded Kiev into civil war, going so far as to say that his door was always open for further negotiations. With the fog of war descending over eastern Ukraine, it was starting to look like he would be able to keep the region on a low simmer while the world was distracted by hotter conflicts elsewhere.

As of right now, that looks less likely. While it’s always dangerous to underestimate the divisions in Europe, if any kind of definitive intelligence linking Russia to this tragedy emerges, it will be much harder for skeptical Europeans to remain straddling the fence.

[Note: Walter Russell Mead is en route from the UK to NYC as we write. We are sure to have more from him on these developments tomorrow.]

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  • FriendlyGoat

    Yes. This is probably a game changer.

  • Corlyss

    Since we know the first 3 reports are always wrong, I’d like to see the evidence from an investigation first, mostly because we learned from recent experience (Malaysian flight 370) that Malaysians may not be the most competent pilots, not to mention the utter fecklessness of Malaysian officials to explain anything or be responsive to outside investigations.

    • Loader2000

      Maybe the Malaysian pilot accidentally hit the self destruct button.

      • Corlyss

        Remember the most likely reason for the 370 crash was catistrophic loss of pressurization in the cabin, followed by rapid death of crew and passengers, just like what happened to that golfer a few years ago. I suppose intelligence has proof positive that a missile did the deed in this case.

        • Loader2000

          According the eyewitnesses I saw interviewed yesterday, the plane came down in 2 big pieces and 1000’s of smaller pieces with individual body parts and organs raining down over a wide area. It is possible that a large explosion could have originated within the plane itself to cause such damage. However, it is unlikely that rapid depressurization due to a relatively small hole due to a malfunction (for example, an emergency exit ripping off) would cause individual corpses to break up that extensively and over a wide area unless the fuel in the plane itself exploded before the jet hit the ground, and as a result of the jet loosing control.

          • Corlyss

            Oh, yeah. I know that about rapid depressurization. My point was when you have pilots of questionable experience, crap happens. It seems more likely than not that the plane was shot down, but we’ll never know with the Russians controlling the territory and the evidence, esp. if it was indeed shot down. They could blame it on swamp gas and no one could dispute it conclusively.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    I don’t expect much from the Europeans they really are a Paper Tiger, and Obama is the weakest President ever so he isn’t going to do anything either. So just How is the game changed?

  • lukelea

    This is a joke, right?

    • Corlyss

      Well, this result is what you get when you give big boy toys to the juveniles. It’s one reason Khrushchev never gave Castro any important buttons – the guy was a self-destructive paranoid fool.

  • Anthony

    “The crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is a game changer – a game changer in that it drags in the outside world but it’s hard to see what the consequences of this could be.” (Julia Loffe – TNR)

  • John Tyler

    The Europeans need Russian oil and gas and Obama hates and wishes to destroy the USA far more than does Putin.
    Putin knows all this – EVERYBODY knows this; nothing will change . Putin is in the drivers seat, the Europeans are in the back seat just chattering away and Obama is stuffed in the car’s trunk, bound and gagged with duct tape because Putin does not give a s**t what Obama does and the Europeans have finally (!!!) figured out that Obama is a worthless, lazy, petulant, immature, arrogant, narcissistic spoiled child who talks out his anus.
    Putin’s agents have funded the “greens” of Europe to agitate (successfully so) against fracking and for shutting down their nuclear plants; so Putin has the europeans in dire need of his oil and gas. The Europeans are totally screwed. As for Obama, his influence in the world is on par with that of the president of the Dominican Republic.
    Putin is batting 1000 and will continue to do so.

    • FriendlyGoat

      Actually, the Europeans have just figured out that they own Putin as a problem and we don’t for any reason in particular.

      • Corlyss

        Don’t know how you figure that since Doofus was so absolutely convinced that bully-boy Imperialistic war mongering America was wholly responsible for the Cold Wr that he was going to give Russia everything a US policy reset possibly could manage without actually ceding American land to them (ceding land is the policy reserved for the permanently aggrieved Latinos).

  • knave27

    The western media and US officials had already made their verdict before anything was known about the crash. The fact that the US looked immediately with its usual disregard about the facts to blame Russia and Hillary Clinton talked about how the Europeans who doubted Russia being the aggressor in Ukraine will now have to “make up their mind” and “work closer with the US” clearly shows that this was another false flag carried out by the US and the Kiev regime to isolate and put pressure on Russia and persuade the wobbly Europeans that following America ( to its fast-approaching end) is the only way.

  • Felix Keverich

    Has anyone considered the possibility that Ukrainians shot down the plane, expecting that the West would propably blame Russia? This wouldn’t be the first time Ukrainian military has shot down a civilian airliner…

    • Diws

      Have you considered that we might all be invisibly ruled by a flying spaghetti monster?

      Certainly it is difficult to prove a negative, but there is no evidence to support this assumption, and emerging evidence that the separatists shot down the airliner. It’s not definitive yet, but between the above intercept, Strelkov posting, the separatists’ bragging that they now had a BUK-M2 (the latter 2 since taken down, further proof of guilt), the TASS reporting; certainly everything us pointing that way right now.

    • Loader2000

      It is possible and I don’t rule it out. However, given that the rebels were shooting down transport aircraft that were about the same size as the airliner, and wouldn’t be able to easily tell the difference on the radar, it is very plausible that it was a rebel accident. If the Ukrainians had shot down the plan, they couldn’t be 100% sure that their missile wasn’t being tracked or that forensics wouldn’t determine the direction the missile came from. The same is true for the rebels. That is way this most almost certainly an accident. Neither side in their right mind would have deliberately targeted a commercial airliner.

    • Corlyss

      Where would they have gotten their hands on a Buk missile battery? Intel documented the fact that the proRussian rebels did obtain one and combined with the other fact that the proRussian leader bragged about shooting down a big plane just minutes after the plane went down, seems like pretty strong circumstantial evidence to me.

  • Duperray

    Ridiculous assumptions: How come a Kiev military air liner cruising at 33 000 feet be an active Kiev plane? The time its lands, it would be hundreds of kilometers out of Ukraine territory….! Fantasmagorics.
    Why Kiev has installed an air defense Division nearby? Equipped with long range missiles? The “rebels” have no high altitude AirForce. I could be as evil as Walter by saying that Kiev deliberately selected to shoot down a foreign civilian plane in order to accuse Russia, hundred of kilometers away? So far nobody can deny this hypothesis.

  • Ann in L.A.

    Europe will want this out of the news and forgotten within a week or two. The basic problem in Russian-European relations remains: Europe is heavily dependent on Russian gas supplies. They will do nothing to jeopardize the flow. They will spend the next week, maybe two, speaking stridently about how terrible this was and how they’re really going to get mad this time. Speeches will be spoken; editorials will be written; phone calls will be made; “summits” will be held.

    After that, it will all fade away. Europe can’t have it any other way.

    • Ann in L.A.

      If there is anything that will change because of this, look to Malaysia. The second airliner going down so soon after the loss of 370 will rock Malaysian politics.

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