Russia’s Putin Risks Further Isolation In Wake Of Malaysian Airlines Crash

For the last few years, the US and European community has hesitated to impose penalties on Russia for its support of Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad and for stoking fires in Ukraine, but things may change after a surface-to-air missile took down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 killing all on board.

Reporting from Kiev, Time magazine’s Simon Shuster says the obstinate behavior by Russian President Vladimir Putin in the aftermath of the downing of the jet is certain to further isolate the leader.

In fact, Putin and his government have dug in their heels and blamed Ukraine for the tragedy.

Shuster says that Russia’s response “suggests that it will not stand by and watch the insurgency falter, regardless of how much evidence arises” of ties between the separatists who allegedly shot down MH17 and Russia.

“Russian state television has already begun defending the rebels from blame, offering theories on the culpability of Ukraine’s armed forces. Once that message is chosen as the official line, the Kremlin will be wary of veering away from it. Many top officials have already locked themselves into a position, well before all the circumstances became clear. Sergei Naryshkin, the speaker of the Russian parliament and one of Putin’s oldest and closest allies, even accused Kiev of “criminal negligence” on Friday for allowing the Malaysia Airlines flight to pass over the region where “the Ukrainian army uses armored vehicles, heavy artillery, warplanes and launch rocket systems against their citizens.”

James Kirchick is one of many who are arguing more avidly for strong action against Russia, including arming Ukraine.

“It is long past time that the United States and its NATO allies supply the Ukrainian military with the lethal aid it has long requested, so that it can at least defend itself and its airspace from Russia. NATO should deploy more troops to Poland and the Baltic states, which are understandably nervous about Russian designs on their territory and quietly doubt the Alliance’s Article 5 commitment stipulating that an attack on one is an attack on all. Sectoral sanctions that could cripple the Russian economy are also long overdue. And, if Russian involvement in this attack is conclusively demonstrated, Russia should be added to the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism,” writes the Daily Beast contributor.

David Kramer makes a similar argument in The American Interest. Kramer lays the entirety of the blame for the crisis in Ukraine at Putin’s feet, saying that “Putin has been doing his best to destabilize Ukraine by sending in forces and arms, including tanks, and cutting off energy supplies” for months.

Asking what will spur action if the killing of hundreds of civilians does not,  Kramer says Western leaders “should not wait for that investigation to conclude before taking action.”

He continues: “First, on top of the targeted sanctions announced by the U.S. on Wednesday against some key Russian enterprises, it is time for full-scale sectoral sanctions on Russia’s banking, energy, defense, mining, and technology sectors. The Europeans should follow suit, but the U.S. should be prepared to go it alone if the EU continues to drag its feet—and these measures should be announced immediately,” he suggests.

 

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