The Latest on the Downed Jetliner in Ukraine

 

malaysian airlines crash july 2014_1405612997366_6875150_ver1.0_320_240Over at Commentary, Max Boot puts together the pieces of the puzzle that have so far emerged. His conclusion? Pro-Russian separatists are probably responsible — and that the United States must speak out soon and forcefully.

An excerpt:

On September 1, 1983, Soviet fighter aircraft shot down Korean Air Lines flight 007 which had inadvertently entered Soviet airspace on its way from Anchorage to Seoul. All 269 people on board were killed. President Reagan swiftly condemned “this crime against humanity,” which only redoubled his desire to bring down the “evil empire” (as he had called the Soviet Union earlier that year).

We can only hope for similar moral clarity today from the U.S. and Europe in the aftermath of the equally outrageous shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight 17 over Ukraine with 295 people on board including more than 20 American citizens. The exact circumstances remain murky, but there is a strong circumstantial case, based on what we already know, that this was the work of pro-Russian separatist rebels who had been provided by the Kremlin with an advanced Buk anti-aircraft missile system. As Julia Ioffe of the New Republic notes, “there are now screenshots floating around the Russian-language internet from what seems to be the Facebook page of Igor Strelkov, a rebel leader in eastern Ukraine, showing plumes of smoke and bragging about shooting down a Ukrainian military Antonov plane shortly before MaH 17 fell. ‘Don’t fly in our skies,’ he reportedly wrote. If that’s true, it would seem rebels downed the jetliner, having mistaken it for a Ukrainian military jet.”

Which leads, of course, to a question:

If Max is right — if pro-Russian separatists shot down the jetliner using Russian weaponry — how should the President of the United States respond?

There are 29 comments.

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  1. AIG Member
    AIG
    @AIG

    The problem is that the Buk missile system was…probably…captured from Ukrainian army stocks left over in their territory. Not supplied by Russia. On the other hand, its likley the operators of the system were Russian regulars, since I doubt the terrorists in Donetsk would have been able to find qualified people of their own to operate these missiles, or their radars. But that can’t really be proven.

    On the other hand, we’ve known for quite some time that Russia is actively involved in supporting the terrorists: Russian UAVs have been used to support them (2 have been shot down by Ukrainian forces so far), Russian forces have opened fire from their side of the border, and Russian military equipment has been transferred to them. Its just that no one in our State Department has paid any attention.

    What should be the response? Much harder sanctions. Pressure the Euros for much harder sanctions. Financially blockade them. Tell Putin the sanctions will only be lifted if he brings the terrorists responsible to justice, stops supporting the terrorists, stops providing them with shelter in Russia. 

    Treat Russia the way it wants to be treated.

    • #1
  2. Marion Evans Member
    Marion Evans
    @MarionEvans

    As long as oil is trading at $100 per barrel, we are going to have problems with Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, etc. Oil receipts help them finance all these wars. We need oil at $50. The rest is just wishful thinking and talk talk. Remember that the Soviet Union broke up after (or because) oil crashed in the mid 1980s.

    • #2
  3. DrewInWisconsin Coolidge
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    The President has already responded with the expected tone-deafness he is famous for:

    Quoth our golden-tongued orator: “It looks like it may be a terrible tragedy.”

    And then he scurried off to another photo-op.

    • #3
  4. MikeHs Member
    MikeHs
    @MikeHs

    Looking forward to the inevitable strongly worded Jen Psaki tweet:
    # :(

    https://twitter.com/statedeptspox/status/448944053741031424/photo/1

    • #4
  5. Marion Evans Member
    Marion Evans
    @MarionEvans

    MikeHs:

    Looking forward to the inevitable strongly worded Jen Psaki tweet: # :( https://twitter.com/statedeptspox/status/448944053741031424/photo/1

     Woo that hashtag must be very intimidating to foes, reassuring to allies.

    • #5
  6. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    I am not understanding the motivation here.

    • #6
  7. SteveSc Member
    SteveSc
    @SteveSc

    That assumes he will respond at all…  Isn’t he going on a record breaking vacation?

    • #7
  8. MikeHs Member
    MikeHs
    @MikeHs

    EThompson:

    I am not understanding the motivation here.

    Simple as, Dumb*ss Russian separatists + anti-aircraft missiles = “tragedy”

    • #8
  9. DrewInWisconsin Coolidge
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    SteveSc:

    That assumes he will respond at all… Isn’t he going on a record breaking vacation?

     And he’s never let a crisis cause a vacation to go to waste. 

    • #9
  10. user_529671 Member
    user_529671
    @

    Marion Evans:

    As long as oil is trading at $100 per barrel, we are going to have problems with Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, etc. Oil receipts help them finance all these wars. We need oil at $50. The rest is just wishful thinking and talk talk. Remember that the Soviet Union broke up after (or because) oil crashed in the mid 1980s.

     If we need $50 oil, we are screwed. The best you can now get is about $65. Anything lower will be closely followed by an actual shortage unless perhaps we start drilling shallow wells where it is now prohibited like off Florida. 

    • #10
  11. user_529671 Member
    user_529671
    @

    AIG makes a very salient point. You need a lot of training to use systems like a Buk or anything that can engage a 33,000 foot high target. If it’s separatists, they had to be former military with training on the system used.

    • #11
  12. flownover Member
    flownover
    @flownover

    Waiting for the response from POTUS………………………

    And neglecting that the real responsibility lies at our own doorstep as we draw another line in the sand when they pushed into Crimea. We gave them an inch and now they’re shooting civilian airliners out of the sky . Putin is a bad guy and only one country was capable of putting him in his place , once upon a time .

    Guess that means it’s fairy tale time. Which means the response will  resemble one .

    • #12
  13. Nick Stuart Member
    Nick Stuart
    @NickStuart

    Forgive black humor, but…

    Memes blaming Bush/Israel/ Climate Change coming in 3…2…1

    • #13
  14. MikeHs Member
    MikeHs
    @MikeHs

    Ooh, let’s just ignore that icky stuff all-together…
    (from Hot-Air) “Video: Shep Smith incredulous as State Department opens briefing … by ignoring Ukraine plane crash” http://hotair.com/archives/2014/07/17/video-shep-smith-incredulous-as-state-department-opens-briefing-by-ignoring-ukraine-plane-crash/

    • #14
  15. user_1938 Member
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    Eric Warren:

    AIG makes a very salient point. You need a lot of training to use systems like a Buk or anything that can engage a 33,000 foot high target. If it’s separatists, they had to be former military with training on the system used.

    This seems to be a crucial question, if it turns out that the missile trajectory originated in Ukraine rather than Russia.

    The passenger jet was flying over a war zone. So it’s believable that an amateur or poorly trained rebel might mistake an airliner for a military jet. If there was not already commercial air traffic passing through that area, it would be natural for any soldier to assume anything in that airspace is military.

    Again, it might be easy for a well-trained soldier to see the difference between a commercial jet and a military one. But would a relative amateur spot and understand the difference without particular training? 

    If this was the result of some amateur rebels, regardless of how the weapon was acquired, then the incident is akin to friendly fire. In which case, it would be strange to respond forcefully to this when we did not respond to Russia’s war in Ukraine to begin with. One might argue “better late than never”, but that seems a hard sell politically.

    If the missile trajectory originated in Russia, it’s a different ballgame. Likewise, if commercial traffic is strangely regular above that war zone.

    • #15
  16. Mendel Member
    Mendel
    @Mendel

    The response should be similar to 9/11: the aggrieved parties should demand that the assailants be delivered for punishment and that reparations be made for losses. Failing that, the territory should be occupied by force to prevent further violence.

    The problem is that the major aggrieved parties here are not the US but the EU (specifically the Netherlands), yet it seems they have been even quieter than the US or Malaysia so far on the issue. If the EU is not willing to defend against an attack on their borders against their own citizens, I’m not sure it’s worth coming to their assistance.

    • #16
  17. AIG Member
    AIG
    @AIG

    Aaron Miller: If there was not already commercial air traffic passing through that area, it would be natural for any soldier to assume anything in that airspace is military.

     There is civilian airline activity in the area (or there was, until now). So no, they can’t just shoot at anything moving in the air. 

    The missile came from the rebels. That much is for sure. 

    • #17
  18. doc molloy Member
    doc molloy
    @docmolloy

    “What difference – at this point, what difference does it make?” The Buk stops……….??

    • #18
  19. Roberto Member
    Roberto
    @Roberto

    AIG:

    Aaron Miller: If there was not already commercial air traffic passing through that area, it would be natural for any soldier to assume anything in that airspace is military.

    There is civilian airline activity in the area (or there was, until now). So no, they can’t just shoot at anything moving in the air.

    The missile came from the rebels. That much is for sure.

     No. That is the by far most likely possibility however that does not mean certain. 

    Was this action by Russian controlled insurgents in the Ukraine? Very likely. But we cannot ignore the possibility that some fresh Ukraine soldier panicked in a critical moment and did something stupid. 

    • #19
  20. user_529671 Member
    user_529671
    @

    I can all but guarantee that it wasn’t a fresh soldier. Let me give you some credentials and limitations of my knowledge.

    I was an Air Defense Officer in the US Army from ’88 to ’92. I was trained to be what was called a ShorAD or Short Range Air Defense Officer. At that time, it required a 6 month course for officer basic and weapons training on Vulcan, Stinger, and Chaparral. The simplest of these systems was a stinger which could be fired after a few weeks of training for a normal soldier. For officers (college boys), we could be expected to reliably engage a target with a Stinger after a couple days of training and practice. None of those systems could hit Flight 17 because it was too high.

    The closest system to the Buk in the US would be the Hawk. The Hawk course for officers took an extra 6 months. Much of that was just training you to operate the system. Enlisted soldiers of senior rank and many years of experience could also operate the system but were not given engagement authority. They needed permission to fire from an officer. Cont’d

    • #20
  21. user_529671 Member
    user_529671
    @

    I have never seen a Buk.

    Let’s assume the Buk, or as we called it, Grizzly, has been updated to be more user friendly than my 90’s Hawk. Let’s assume the radar interface is on a point and click interface which is also tied to the firing system.

    It reportedly takes 5 minutes from halt to operational for a Grizzly. You have to do a lot of stuff. Likely: stabilize the platform, fix the radar antennae, prep the missile, test the rocket diagnostics, and prep the area and track so that the crew and launcher are not destroyed by the launch. Even if you do all of that correctly -something will fail. You need experience to get past that. You don’t grab an engineer off the street and expect him to lead a team to do this with the manual. It will not happen. You will not get a target, you will not fire a missile.
    The crew was trained on the system in a military school.

    You are not looking for a green troop, you are looking for a “cowboy” with a crew trained by an army. Irresponsible? Sure, but definitely experienced.

    • #21
  22. Roberto Member
    Roberto
    @Roberto

    Eric Warren:

     Let me give you some credentials and limitations of my knowledge.

    I respect your competency in this area Mr. Warren however I disagree with your assessment. Your conflation of training procedures in our military with an impoverished nation in turmoil such as Ukraine do not appear justified in my estimation. I have difficulty believing the training of a US Army 14A is even remotely related to what is occurring in Ukraine. Let’s not forget bad luck as well.

    However this was rather tangential to my point. Recall Clausewitz’s axiom on warfare Thus, the object of war is to impose our will on our enemy. What happens when all of the West rushes to the defense of the Ukraine because of this deed and it later turns out to be some accident? What will that do to Ukraine?

    Putin was rather direct in invading Georgia, here he appears to prefer being rather sly. What if that plane was downed by Russian Spetsnaz impersonating a Ukrainian officer? Do not underestimate the power of propaganda. 

    If we rush to blame Russian militants, who undoubtedly did this deed, before the facts our known we may only be sabotaging ourselves.

    • #22
  23. user_529671 Member
    user_529671
    @

    I am not sure what you think I said. Your disagreement is preposterous. A spetznaz soldier is a well trained soldier, and would need specialized training on top of that to operate the Grizzly.

    I believe I have made a reasonable argument that the person firing the weapon was not an untrained or green troop. I do not believe I made an implication of whose side the shooter was from, or his country of origin.

    Your comment that the Ukrainians are poor is only more support for my argument. It’s very possible that all Grizzly operators of whatever nationality are trained in Russia as they may not export the training devices. Training on an actual platform with a low budget is nearly impossible because these systems constantly need parts replacements when operated. This halts training until the part is replaced. This costs money.

    Your Clausewitz comments seem silly. Not sure what point you are trying to make there, but Nothing ever written by Clausewitz has anything to do with my post. I don’t have most of those books anymore, but I would be really interested in a quote from the man on training requirements of missile troops.

    • #23
  24. user_3444 Coolidge
    user_3444
    @JosephStanko

    Eric Warren: Let’s assume the Buk, or as we called it, Grizzly, has been updated to be more user friendly than my 90′s Hawk. Let’s assume the radar interface is on a point and click interface which is also tied to the firing system.

    They said on my local news that the Buk was built in the 70’s by the Soviets, so I’m gonna’ guess it’s way less user friendly than your 90’s Hawk.

    • #24
  25. AIG Member
    AIG
    @AIG

    Roberto: But we cannot ignore the possibility that some fresh Ukraine soldier panicked in a critical moment and did something stupid. 

     Yes you can ignore that possibility because this aircraft was shot down about 80km from Ukrainian front lines. No Ukrainian system stationed in the area would have the range to engage an aircraft at 32,000 feet, at 80km range. 

    The Russian system, however, was about 5km from the shot down site, and according to numerous pictures on twitter, was operational at the time. 

    Plus the Russian rebels confirmed that they did shoot down “something” at that exact same time, and exact same spot. That’s hardly a “coincidence”. 

    • #25
  26. user_3444 Coolidge
    user_3444
    @JosephStanko

    EThompson:

    I am not understanding the motivation here.

    They thought it was a Ukrainian military jet, perhaps a cargo plane.

    • #26
  27. user_529671 Member
    user_529671
    @

    They have had at least two major upgrades since the Seventies. My 90’s version had a sixties interface, though a PC interface was an available upgrade Which likely shortened training by a lot. 

    ID of tracks is not always easy. If you are trigger happy, you can easily shoot a non threat. Even the Russians likely only allow an officer to make a firing decision. OTOH, a short range system allows delegation because you can visually ID your target and passenger traffic is generally out of range.

    • #27
  28. Roberto Member
    Roberto
    @Roberto

    Eric Warren: Not sure what point you are trying to make there…

    Mostly that I do not believe we have enough information at this time to come to a definitive conclusion. Early reports are often wrong and I wished to point out that there are other possibilities. 

    • #28
  29. user_13491 Member
    user_13491
    @DavidKreps

    Today at a press briefing Obama adds:  “This should snap everybody’s heads to attention.  We don’t have time for propaganda, we don’t have time for games, we need to know exactly what happened.”

    Just like the lack of propaganda and games in the week that followed Bengazi.

    • #29

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