Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tragedy over eastern Ukraine war zone

It seems to be a fact now that Malaysian Airlines flight 17 was shot down by a missile launched from the separatist region of eastern Ukraine.  Much is yet to be determined and no rush to conclusions is constructive for anyone.  Here for the moment are what seem to be some facts.
 ---in this area only the Russian made Buk mobile launcher has the power and the capacity to reach a plane at this height.  One, at least, has apparently been seen in rebel hands.  Two Ukraine military aircraft have been shot down in the past week, a fighter jet and a large transport plane, but it is unclear whether either was flying at the 33,000 feet level of flight 17 or shot down by the identified Buk launcher, or perhaps launchers.
---flight 17 was flying just 1000 feet above the allowed level for flying in that area, an area which has been a widely used flying link between Europe and Asia.  Some major commercial airlines had decided on their own not to use that route, as for example British Airways only uses the route now once a week for a flight to Crimea, and otherwise does not use it for any of its many major Europe/Asia routes.  At least one major American carrier had decided not to use the route at all.
---that the tragedy happened within less than 24 hours after new U.S. sanctions on Russia is notable but hopefully not meaningful.  Conclusion on this to be determined.
---cell phone chatter between the Russian military and the separatists discussing the event has been provided by the Ukraine government, but it has yet to be validated.  If it is, it shows that the plane was shot down at the suggestion of the Russians by the separatists, but they thought they were shooting down a military aircraft.

At a minimum, this shows the danger of Russia putting extremely powerful military equipment into the hands of an uncoordinated group of separatists, ranging from dedicated local pro-Russia contingents, to actual members of the Russian military who have been slipped in as advisers and provocateurs, to outright trained anarchists and militias for hire from Chechnya and other regions.  What actually happened may soon be known, but Putin will make everything fit into whatever distorted tale he wants to spin.

Around six months ago Hillary Clinton made a comment that some journalists interpreted as comparing Putin to Hitler.  She said that she was misquoted.  From this perspective, if one would look for one person on earth today with the aspects of sociopathic megalomania, brutality, confidence, passion, and power that could evolve into something truly horrible, Putin may be the one.  Maybe he is "just a man who is misunderstood",  and that is what one would call a Western weakness in thinking.  He is certainly not yet a genocidal maniac like Hitler or Stalin, but he is certainly not a balanced individual that can be talked with rationally or trusted.  His reach for territory was the genesis of Clinton's supposed comment.  Hillary may have been misquoted, or maybe not.

As said at the outset, a rush to conclusions is not constructive.  A concern for the 295 slaughtered people and their families is appropriate.  The comment here may be inappropriate at this point.  That's to be decided by readers but getting out what few facts and observations that we do know seems fair.

With friends and family in the air many nights, who can imagine the depth of distress of those impacted by this.

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