Plane crash could be Ukraine game changer

2014-07-18 22:47
People search for bodies at the site of the crash of a Malaysian airliner carrying 298 people in rebel-held east Ukraine. (AFP)

People search for bodies at the site of the crash of a Malaysian airliner carrying 298 people in rebel-held east Ukraine. (AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Paris - The apparent downing of a Malaysian passenger jet and the loss of nearly 300 lives could be a game changer in the Ukraine crisis, piling pressure on key players, especially Russia. 

The shock tragedy, which President Barack Obama described as a "wake-up call" for Europe on Russia, has brought painful proximity to a conflict which for many was until Thursday a faraway and localised standoff.

"After the crash of the Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur flight in the region of Donbass, the conflict will probably appear less distant to the people of Europe," said German analyst Holger Schmieding.

The crash claimed the lives of 298 people, including nearly 100 Dutch nationals, renowned Aids researchers en route to an international conference, and European and Asian holidaymakers and civilians with no relationship to Ukraine or Russia.

Obama said the plane was downed by a surface-to-air missile shot from territory held by pro-Russian separatists.

Analysts say it has forced Europeans to see the Ukraine conflict as a threat to the greater region - and that they could ratchet up pressure on Moscow.

"Eastern Ukraine has become a cancer as far as European security is concerned," said Thomas Gomart of the French Institute of International Relations.

Now Western states are forced to realise that "what's happening in eastern Ukraine is a kind of war and no longer just a local conflict", said Camille Grand, the head of Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research.

Confirmation of the missile hypothesis "will harden relations between the West and the Russians even more", said Grand, adding: "The separatists cannot arm themselves alone."

Since the start of the Ukraine crisis four months ago, US, Europeans and Ukrainian authorities have accused Moscow of providing the rebels with arms. 


Lack of tangible action from Russia, says Chris Weafer of the economic consultancy group Macro Advisory in Moscow, could push the West to bring Stage 3 sanctions - which could affect core economic relations.

These include the financial activities of Russian oligarchs in London's financial markets, a Mistral warship deal between France and Russia worth €1.2bn and substantial investment by German firms in Russia.

"We have previously assumed that Stage 3 sanctions, especially from the EU, were unlikely and nothing we have heard from the US or EU earlier this week changes that," Weafer said.

"But the Malaysian Airlines tragedy is a potential game changer. Either the event will push Russia towards greater isolationism as a response to the broadly based global criticism... or it will mark some sort of end, or the start of the end, of the most dangerous phase in the conflict in eastern Ukraine," he said.

Others say this will also lead to increased pressure on Ukraine's new President Petro Poroshenko who is trying to retake the east from the hands of the separatists.

Many are hoping that this will push both sides towards a meaningful dialogue.

"It is simply impossible to know what Russian President Vladimir Putin's long-term intentions are toward eastern Ukraine," said the Carnegie Europe think-tank in a blog.

"If, as many fear, Putin intends to spread instability and provoke his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, into going on the offensive in the region, then the casualties and refugees will increase. The losers will be many."

It said the "only glimmer of hope from the terrible plane crash is that it just might be a catalyst for serious negotiations".

In Kiev, independent political analyst Volodymy Fessenko said the disaster could actually be counter-productive as "it will impact on public opinion in Ukraine and make any negotiations with the separatists impossible in the future".

Read more on:    russia  |  ukraine  |  malaysia  |  air travel  |  mh17

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.