My first thought this morning was “Fuck. This can’t be real”.
But it was. Almost 300 civilian lives lost after Malaysian Airlines flight MH-17 was shot out of the sky as in eastern Ukraine. Who shot the plane down remains unclear.
Immediately, I could hear Tony Abbott beating the war drums in my head.
I knew he would blame Russia. I knew the media circus would come out accusing Russia before long too. Fear sells, and what’s more scary than a Russian aggressor?
Who cares about establishing the facts first, right?
Strategically, it makes no sense for the separatists in Eastern Ukraine to shoot down this plane. There is no ‘strategic win’ for them in this situation. It also makes no sense for Russia, what could they possibly have won by blowing up this civilian aircraft?
On the other hand, despite the tragedy, I can clearly see a strategic victory for the new Kiev Government here. They now have a perfect reason for further military support from Western Governments, perhaps even an ‘intervention’.
But why would the Ukrainian Government want a Western military intervention on their own soil?
The current government are the representatives of the forces which toppled the previous, elected government of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in February this year.
Immediately after they seized power in Kiev, the secession movement in Russian speaking areas of Eastern Ukraine began their protests. Unfortunately this very quickly led to armed conflict with the pro-Western forces of the new Government.
Neither side was willing to give up control of Ukraine’s eastern ports, military bases, iron ore supplies, heavy manufacturing zones or Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant.
Kiev has not been able to seize these regions from the local Russian speaking populations, particularly in the self-declared Donetsk Republic.
That is why it wants an intervention, because Western governments recognise the Kiev Government as the Government of all of Ukraine, even though the local people of Donetsk, Luhansk and other areas have declared their independence.
Kiev believes that with an intervention, they will be able to seize control and enforce their rule upon the Russian speaking peoples of Eastern and South-Eastern Ukraine.
Now I’m not saying the Kiev government DID shoot down Malaysian Airlines flight MH-17, but they sure had motive.
Additionally, while the separatist forces HAVE shot down helicopters in Eastern Ukraine, there is no evidence they had the firepower, technology, or training to take down a plane flying at 30,000 feet of altitude.
Kiev’s forces on the other hand had recently moved at least 27 surface to air missiles, with launchers, into the region after two Russian fighter jets patrolling the border reportedly shot down a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jet.
So, not only did they have motive, but they also had opportunity.
But it may not have been a purposeful shooting. It wouldn’t be the first time the Ukrainian military accidentally took down a commercial airliner.
An ‘errant’ Ukrainian surface to air missile took down Siberian Airlines Flight SB 1812 over the Black Sea in 2001, killing all 88 people aboard, and that was during peace-time.
So this could all simply come down to a twitchy Ukrainian soldier, it could be a strategic military manoeuvre by Kiev, it could’ve been an accident by a twitchy separatist who seized a Ukrainian SAM launcher, or it could be an incomprehensibly bad strategic move by the separatists.
Time will tell.
But it’s DEFINITELY too early to be jumping to conclusions and blaming Russia.