MH 17 plane crash in Ukraine: How can an ever more unreliable Russia be contained?

The situation in and around Eastern Ukraine reached a climax last week, when the Malaysian Boeing 777, flight MH 17, was downed en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with 298 passengers and crew members, over the settlement of Torez, close to Donetsk and the Russian border. There is hardly a reasonable doubt that the plane was shot down by militia or Cossack groupings fighting for an independent Donbas, openly bragging their deed, inspired and supported by the Russian military. Increasingly it is becoming clear that Russia is moving away from being part of a solution for a new post-Cold War European order. Rather, it is major problem. Finally implementing level 3 sanctions and redistributing the 2018 World Cup will be debated now, once more.

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  1. Andrey Makarychev 4 years ago

    Russia can be contained most effectively by gradually losing its resources of international support. Three of them are crucial.
    First, the EU can (and should) use the finalization of three Association Agreements ultimately signed by Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, to keep engaging with the Europeanization process countries who are critical for the Eurasian Union project. The EU ought to increase the degree of cooperation with Kazakhstan, Belarus and Armenia, always keeping their options as open as possible.
    Second, Russia's BRICS partners have to comprehend that what Moscow is doing - blowing up the whole system of post-Cold War international order, annexing territories and igniting military rebellion in a neighboring country - is far from the long-term interests of China, India, Brazil and South Africa. These countries look for better integration into the existing structures of international relations on negotiated conditions, not for their demolition.
    Third, it will be increasingly difficult for Russian sympathizers in Europe (mostly far right, like in France, and far left, like in Italy) to publicly defend their de-facto alliance with the Kremlin, especially after the plane crash. Putin's popularity in most European countries is decreasing, and supporting him will hopefully not be a good asset for public politicians.

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  2. Alexei Voskressenski 4 years ago

    Accidents with planes are happening more often than before - this is a new and awful reality with which we must now live. Civilian planes may be shot down even in Europe, they may disappear without a trace. This is the second time a civilian plane has been shot down in Ukraine - the first was a Russian civilian plane in 2001. This passed practically unnoticed. However the latest downing is a real global tragedy: 298 innocent people from different countries died, and it is absolutely clear that they were innocent civilians.
    The tragedy will, without a doubt, have international consequences - this could not be a terrible mistake, they died because of somebody's evil intentions. An international commission to investigate how that happened must be called, this commission must be unbiased and must have the ability to conduct a thorough investigation, and investigators must be given safe access to the site. If access is denied or somehow hindered this must be known to everybody.
    The results of this credible international investigation should be presented to the international community by this credible commission. The results should be disseminated by credible and reliable international mass media. These results cannot be hidden from Russian or Ukrainian people. Let's wait for these results - no one will dare to defend those who did this awful act.

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  3. Noah Toly 4 years ago

    If there was anything left of Putin's credibility, it has been completely undermined by the downing of MH17 and the handling of the crash site. In the first hours following the plane's destruction, with almost 300 civilian lives lost and amid mounting evidence that Russia provided the missile system used to shoot down the civilian jet, Putin returned to the airwaves to denounce targeted economic sanctions against select members of Russian leadership. Putin showed contempt for the loss of life by issuing these complaints while family members grieved their losses. As the drama continued to unfold, Russia failed to ensure a safe environment for the recovery of bodies and the investigation of the scene. Indeed, separatists on the ground in eastern Ukraine, many of them reportedly Russian citizens, apparently interfered directly with the recovery and investigation, delaying the repatriation of victims and heaping dishonor upon the obscenity with which the victims and their families have already been treated.

    Unfortunately for Putin, this situation gives the impression that Russia is either complicit or powerless. If Russian forces were somehow involved in the downing of MH17 or the interference with recovery and investigation operations, then it is complicit. If Russia was not involved in the crash and the interference with recovery and investigation operations, and if its interests in decency and order in eastern Ukraine undergird a real commitment to the recovery and investigation operations, then Russia is evidently powerless to bring about the outcomes it desires. Either, way, Putin's credibility is threatened.

    Putin may take this as opportunity to shift public roles in the crisis by attempting to broker a cease-fire agreement or even to genuinely deescalate tensions, if he believes that doing so might actually increase his influence in the region. This seems unlikely.

    As for Europe and the United States, steps should be taken to further isolate the Russian-backed Ukrainian separatists and their Russian supporters. Europe will need the courage to face serious economic backlash from Russia, and the United States will need the wherewithal to support Europe in the midst of that backlash. Anything less would be an inappropriate response to Putin's cavalier posture. Anything less would disrespect the innocent civilians from all corners of the globe who have now paid the price for Russia's irresponsibility.

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  4. Dmitri Mitin 4 years ago

    It now appears that the earlier sanctions, narrowly designed to penalize Russia's political elite, have failed to impress their target audience. The Kremlin has interpreted these measures as signs of American indecisiveness and Europe's underlying reluctance to put substantive economic ties at risk. Moscow has been discounting the probability of an assertive Western response, at the same time overestimating its own capacity to keep the conflict in Ukraine simmering at manageable levels.

    Incentivizing Russia to discontinue support for the separatists requires a package of forceful and unified sanctions that would unequivocally indicate the West's readiness to bear painful economic consequences. Instead of going all in (which is a politically impractical option, to start with), it is imperative to implement a strategy of graduated pressure, where the earlier moves leave room for a settlement, but also establish credible tolerance for ratcheting up the pressure in case of non-compliance.

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