Both pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian government forces are denying any responsibility for downing the Malaysia Airlines jetliner carrying 295 passengers and crew. Multiple reports state the Boeing 777, traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, appeared to have broken up before impact, with the burning wreckage scattered over a wide area. All passengers are believed to have died.
At a press event in Delaware, President Obama said he has directed national security advisors to stay close contact with the Ukrainian government. Reuters reports that just yesterday, the U.S. administration tightened its sanctions against Russia over the ongoing fighting in Ukraine. Shortly thereafter, Ukraine claimed that Russian had downed one of its war planes.
Robert Hutchings is the chair of the LBJ School of Public Affairs and a former Chairmen of the U.S. Intelligence Council in Washington. He says now matter who shot the plane down, Russia bears ulimate responsibility.
"It may not have been intended to bring down a Malaysian airline, but it was certainly an intentional firing," Hutchings tells Texas Standard's David Brown. "This is an area of the world that is bristling with high powered weaponry – that's why it's so dangerous that weapons like that can get in the hands of people who have no business having access to them."
Russia, Hutchings says, provoked the Ukraine crisis and may now find itself the focus of the world condemnation. "This will unfold in the next days, but what is clear is that the crisis in Ukraine, provoked by Russia, is beginning to have wider ramifications," he says. "And a Russia that was being a problem mainly to its own citizens is now becoming a regional and global problem."
U.S.-Russia relations have grown tense during the Obama administration – and downright frosty since the Ukraine crisis began earlier this year, for which the U.S. blames Russia. Now, Hutchings says, "It ratchets up the consequences … Russia’s responsibility for instigating a problem like this – a regional instability and Russian nationalism – has unforeseen consequences in this region."
"We in the United States need to be careful," Hutchings urges. "The U.S. administration needs to be careful not to get so involved in a region so far from our shores that we become direct actors in the conflict. But the pressure on Russia has to increase, because this is now no longer just a Russian matter, no longer just a bilateral matter between Russia and Ukraine, this is a regional – even a global challenge – of the kind we thought we left behind in the Cold War. "