Will Malaysia Airlines crash be traced to a Russian-made missile?

Reuters

An Emergencies Ministry member walks at the site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 17, 2014. The Malaysian airliner Flight MH17 was brought down over eastern Ukraine, killing all 295 people aboard.

Article Highlights

  • Russia and its proxies have tried to establish a de-facto no-fly zone over the rebel-controlled territory in east Ukraine.

    Tweet This

  • A professional military is less likely to mix up a civilian aircraft for a military transport plane than irregular troops.

    Tweet This

  • If the MH-17 Crash is traced to a Russian-made missile the international outrage is likely to lead to more sanctions.​

    Tweet This

In the thick fog of war hanging over eastern Ukraine it is only possible at this point to establish the perimeter of the known and then to evaluate the potential culpability on a more-likely to less-likely scale.

We know that Russia and its proxies have tried to establish a de-facto no-fly zone over the rebel-controlled territory in east-south Ukraine. And while initially only low-flying helicopters and planes reachable by shoulder-fired missiles were downed, the targetable range seems to have increased to an altitude that can only be reached by sophisticated surface-to-air missiles, as evidenced by the Ukrainian military AN-26 cargo aircraft that was brought down on Monday.

The self-proclaimed military commander of the pro-Russian separatists Col. Igor Strelkov allegedly alluded to the no-fly zone when, following the crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, he appears to have written on the Russian equivalent of Facebook, Vkontakte, that “we have just shot down an AN-26 airplane…Haven’t we warned them – don't fly in our sky.”

If this post is authentic, the reference to the downing of the AN-26 could be a clue: a sophisticated surface-to-air missile system in the hands of non-professionals unable to distinguish between civilian aircraft and a military transport plane. Of course, both the Russian and Ukrainian professional military could have made the same mistake (in fact, in 2001, a Ukrainian missile mistakenly shot down a Russian passenger jet headed for Russia from Israel), but the professional military are less likely to make such a mistake than irregular troops.

A transfer of such a system from Russia would be consistent with a broader pattern. Desperate, for domestic political reasons, not to allow the defeat of its proxies in Ukraine, Moscow has moved other heavy equipment across the border, including tanks, armored personal carriers and BM-21 Grad multiple launch rocket system. The latter was reportedly deployed last week against a Ukrainian border check point in the Luhansk Oblast, killing up to 30 and wounding nearly 100 Ukrainian soldiers.

In announcing sanctions against Russia on Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama stressed the “flow of [Russian] fighters and weapons across the border.” If the disaster is traced to a Russian-made missile, whether fired from the Russian or Ukrainian side of the border, international outrage is likely to lead – and quickly – to more and more serious sanctions against Russia.​

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Leon
Aron

What's new on AEI

AEI Election Watch 2014: What will happen and why it matters
image A nation divided by marriage
image Teaching reform
image Socialist party pushing $20 minimum wage defends $13-an-hour job listing
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 20
    MON
  • 21
    TUE
  • 22
    WED
  • 23
    THU
  • 24
    FRI
Monday, October 20, 2014 | 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Warfare beneath the waves: The undersea domain in Asia

We welcome you to join us for a panel discussion of the undersea military competition occurring in Asia and what it means for the United States and its allies.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014 | 8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
AEI Election Watch 2014: What will happen and why it matters

AEI’s Election Watch is back! Please join us for two sessions of the longest-running election program in Washington, DC. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 | 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
What now for the Common Core?

We welcome you to join us at AEI for a discussion of what’s next for the Common Core.

Event Registration is Closed
Thursday, October 23, 2014 | 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Brazil’s presidential election: Real challenges, real choices

Please join AEI for a discussion examining each candidate’s platform and prospects for victory and the impact that a possible shift toward free-market policies in Brazil might have on South America as a whole.

Event Registration is Closed
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.