The loss of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 is by far the biggest single tragedy yet in the Ukraine conflict. As one would expect, there is much confusion as to what happened and who is responsible.
Both Ukraine and Russia have the military hardware that could bring down an aircraft at 33,000 feet, but why would do this when international measures would be taken if it transpired that a national government had committed such an act. The fact is that, from the ground, it is almost impossible to differentiate between a military and civilian aircraft at such an altitude. The Ukrainian government is concerned that the pro-Russian rebels may have got hold of the surface-to-air weapons when the rebels raided their former bases several months ago. They have decalred the loss of the civilian aircraft as an “act of terrorism”.
The way that Russia has dealt with this crisis has been to consistently act in their own self-interest, by providing tactical support in the form of paramilitary special services to take Crimea and to foment unrest and rebellion elsewhere. This latest twist is likely to affect Russian international relations badly as in the world’s eyes there is only one person who is evidently in the driving seat – President Vladimir Putin.