It’s sad (if perhaps unsurprising) to see how many have instantly piled onto Russia in the wake of the MH17 crash. Including, regrettably, Prime Minister Abbott here in Australia.
Russia and the separatists have much to lose and nothing to gain by such an act. If either is responsible, it’s therefore near certain it was a mistake. Given Russia’s sophisticated command and control capacity and disciplined military, they’re most unlikely to have shot it down.
On the face of it, the odds point to the Ukrainian separatists. It seems they acquired some Buk surface-to-air (SAM) missile systems when they overran a Ukrainian military base some weeks ago. If so, providing they either had or acquired the necessary skills to operate it, it’s easy enough to imagine them shooting down MH17 by mistake. The plane was, after all, apparently flying only slightly above the exclusion zone (up to 32,000 feet) and could have been taken for a Ukrainian military aircraft. These are hardly normal times. Indeed, it’s impossible not to puzzle over the decision to fly directly over an area of raging conflict where planes have been shot down in recent weeks. The risk/reward equation wouldn’t seem to be terribly favourable.
In any case, this is not the time to be assigning blame. The first order of business should to quietly acknowledge the tragedy and then encourage the objective pursuit of how (and why) it happened. Ideally with Russia’s active cooperation, something they immediately offered.
There is another party with a capacity to down MH 17 of course, and that’s the Ukrainian military. In their case, given the separatists don’t have an air force, blaming them also means saying they meant to do it. I dislike conspiracy theories but in fairness we need to acknowledge it’s not possible yet to rule them out.
Finally, many have noted that Russia and the US both probably have the technological capacity to identify how MH17 was downed and the source of its destruction. If so, perhaps the next few days will bring out some hard evidence. One can only hope “politics” will be put aside for long enough to get at the truth behind this senseless tragedy.