Russia and MH17; Where're the consequences?

In the aftermath of the Malaysian Flight MH17 shoot-down, as we spend the third day of questions and debate as to who’s to blame, the information war is in full tilt. And as expected, Putin’s propaganda machine has launched an all-out and furious effort to blame Ukraine, the CIA, the U.S. and or Western Europe, as well as anyone who criticizes Russia. Further, Moscow has cast the net to solicit those sympathetic in international media outlets supportive of is activities and successes in Crimea and the Ukraine to justify his position and rationale.  In fact, Moscow editors have allegedly been busted editing a Wikipedia entry on the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 disaster to blame Ukraine.  Further, the Kremlin has even sought-out numerous conspiracy theorists’ ideas to support its wild yarns -- many of which have already been contrived and crafted into tabloid journal vignettes.  


The true story however is simple: the Russian mercenaries, having celebrated their downing of two Ukrainian Air Force planes earlier in the week, were ready for another triumph. They set their focus on an incoming aircraft that they assumed to be a Ukrainian military transport and shot it down. Within a few minutes, the pro-Russian separatist authorities and their Kremlin handlers knew they had shot-down a civilian airliner, and they did not seem that shaken. As the Russian Colonel retorted: “Well the plane must have carried spies.  We are in a war after all.” 


Will Russian’s complicit downing of the Flt 17 and the loss of almost three hundred innocent lives make a difference in Russia’s war against Ukraine? The answer is no.  Moscow, as noted, will try to convince the world this was not Russia’s fault, hence the reason for the major propaganda effort.  Putin’s strategic goal is already in its implementation phase; he need’s Ukraine, and at the very least eastern Ukraine, to rebuild the former Russian Empire – it’s part of his strategic “Eurasia Plan” and Ukraine is the center piece of that strategy. The accidental murder of 300 civilians by ethnic-Russian insurgents in Ukraine is merely an insignificant distraction for Putin.


In the meantime, quite soon, perhaps today, before Putin again wins the information war, two things need to happen. The West and the rest world, led by the U.S., needs to buck-up and take action.  While Putin controls Russia almost single handedly he must be held personally responsible for what his operatives and agents did in Ukraine.  A strategically choreographed full force of national power (political, diplomatic, economic and military) needs to be placed on Putin’s neck.  And by military this means arming Ukraine with appropriate compliment of military capability and equipment to repulse and remove Russia’s loyal people’s militias marauding in east Ukraine. Putin may claim that ethnic Russians living in Ukraine want to be governed under Mother Russia.  That’s not how it works. Ukraine is a sovereign country, period.  They are welcome to move back to Russia if they desire to be governed by a Russian government.

Secondly, in order to justify the previous mentioned actions, Americans and the rest of the world needs to show a unified outrage and anger over this barbaric event and act of terror.

James M. “Jim” Waurishuk is a retired USAF Colonel and a 30-years career senior intelligence and political-military affairs officer -- with expertise in strategic intelligence, international strategic studies and policy, and asymmetric warfare. He has served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence for HQ NATO Air Command in Germany, as Deputy Director for Intelligence for U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) during the peak of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and the War on Terrorism fr0m 2004-2007. He is a former White House National Security Council staffer and former Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, Washington, DC.  He lives in Tampa. Florida.