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Malaysia Air Flight 17
Russia Hawks Seize the Moment in Europe

Early reports out of Europe indicate that the Malaysia Air disaster is creating a consensus on Russia in Brussels—at least somewhat. The Financial Times:

“It can only accelerate the European move towards sanctions against Russia,” said one diplomat from a central European country. “It will be easier to get agreement on additional measures.”

Although diplomats said the timing of the new sanctions could be speeded up, it remained unclear whether they would target a wider range of groups because of the incident.

“It might have an impact on speed but not yet on substance,” said another EU diplomat involved in the talks.

Added a third diplomat: “The hawks are energised and the majority is getting pulled along.”

The FT goes on to report, however, that some Ukrainian leaders may be getting too excited as to how much the tide has turned. Yulia Tymoshenko reportedly issued a call for sweeping “phase three” sanctions and for NATO to come to Ukraine’s aid.

That level of involvement and commitment just isn’t very likely to happen. As Adam Garfinkle wrote last night, this tragedy presents many opportunities for hawkish leaders to extract concessions from fence-straddling skeptics not convinced that Russia is playing a malign role in the conflict:

Want stronger EU support for sanctions against the Putin regime so that we allies can remain in Transatlantic coalition and be more effective at the same time? This is a great time to bang that drum. Want the French to cancel the odious Mistral order? Bang, bang, bang.

But beyond that, there are real hard limits to how far the West will go.

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  • Breif2

    In order to save everyone some time, I offer the following:

    We shouldn’t do a single darn thing before we have proof beyond any conceivable doubt. Besides which, this was nothing but an airplane malfunction. Besides which, it was an honest mistake by some lone operator. Besides which, one can hardly blame the poor beleagered insurgents for having an itchy trigger finger. Besides which, we’re talking about native freedom fighters opposing a Nazi regime, not Russian forces. Besides which, Malaysian Airline asked for it by flying in that area. Besides which, US/EU/NATO share in the culpability for having dared opposed Putin on the Ukraine. Besides which, the plane was on a spying mission. Besides which, the plane was shot down by the Ukrainian government forces at the behest of their CIA masters.

  • Nevis07

    This didn’t need to happen. But when you let red lines be crosses all day long, you’re opponents feel empowered. Now there is even greater risk of a large scale war. A bit scarey.

  • S.C. Schwarz

    How will action on this help the democrats retain the Senate? Answer: Not at all Therefore we will get some empty rhetoric from Obama but nothing will really change.

    And the Europeans, you ask? Less than nothing.

  • gabrielsyme

    While Putin has consistently outmanoeuvred the West over the past few years, it is unclear what his end game is here. Perhaps Putin has anticipated and planned for the defeat or withdrawl of the insurgency. Putin wants Russia not only to feel a sense of its own power and potency (which the Crimean seizure showed) but also a sense of isolation and persecution, which the defeat of the insurgents may help generate.

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