In wake of MH-17 tragedy, US-Russia relations approach Cold-War levels

Published: Jul 22, 2014 03:18am EDT
By Rick Rinker, Political Editor for Konsume Politics

Please Note: This article was updated Jul 22, 2014 @ 03:18am EDT


Just one day after President Obama announced additional sanctions against Russia an apparent case of mistaken identity has claimed the lives of 298 civilians, including six prominent AIDS researchers and a family member of the Malaysian Prime Minister.

Details are still emerging, though it appears that Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH-17) was mistaken for a Ukrainian Antonov plane, which is used to transport military equipment as it approached the Russian-Ukrainian border.

Intercepted phone calls appear to show the Russian separatists talking about downing a Ukrainian plane, and then realizing that it was in fact a civilian passenger jet. Russian separatists also bragged in social media posts, implicating them in the downing of the Malaysian airliner, before deleting the posts after it came to light that it was MH-1.


Screenshot of deleted post by Russian separatists.

A BUK (SA-11) missile system is believed to have been fired at the doomed airliner, with media reports of such a system being photographed in the area just hours before the attack. US Intelligence also confirms that Russia provided the separatists with anti-aircraft missile systems, capable of reaching 72,000 feet.

Russian state media has claimed that the airliner was shot down by Ukrainian forces because they believed it to be a jet in which Vladimir Putin was aboard. American credibility is also questioned by many Russians as U.S. Intelligence was shown to be fatally flawed in the lead up to the war in Iraq.

Eastern Ukraine is largely under the control of armed Russian partisans who are armed, trained and directed by Moscow. This is a significant challenge for international investigators who have been repeatedly denied access to the crash site for several days while evidence has been removed from the crash site, including bodies, passports and the planes black box recorders.

Intercepted phone calls indicate that the black boxes were retrieved by the separatists and were requested by, and en-route to, Moscow. However by this afternoon the Malaysian Prime Minister announced the Russian Separatists will indeed turn over the black boxes to his country.

For his part, Ukraine’s Prime Minister has declared a demilitarized zone around the crash site to allow the international community to conduct an investigation. As of Monday afternoon, however, full access has still not been granted by Moscow.

As international journalists enter Ukraine to report on this story, the Russian propaganda machine is hard at work. While it appears that Putin’s reputation and Russian credibility are being heavily tarnished by this disaster, it is Russia’s response to the situation that is sparking outrage in the international community.

As the tug of war continues to play out between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, for the first time in recent months, it may be Obama who is slowly gaining the upper hand. European nations who were previously reluctant to impose sanctions on Russia now appear to be more open to such options, namely Italy and France.

Europe is heavily dependent on Russian oil for energy; many European nations are reluctant to impose sanctions of any kind against Russia for fear of retaliation. Much of the oil that flows from Russia into Europe travels through pipelines in the Ukraine.

As Vladimir Putin struggles to assert Russia’s dominance and re-emerge as a world super-power, President Obama is employing a carrot and stick approach to keep this from happening. Using political and financial channels to lure Putin into its desired course of action, while using the threat of sanctions and international isolation as a deterrent. The Ukraine conflict is becoming more a proxy war than a mere diplomatic crisis.


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