A war has been raging for months now between the Ukrainian military and
Russian-backed separatists, and while the world has been watching and expressing
its outrage, it wasn’t until last week that the conflict directly impacted other
The latest and most globally devastating development was the downing of a
civilian plane, Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, as it was flying close to the
Russia-Ukraine border en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17.
All 298 passengers — over two-thirds of whom were from the Netherlands — were
killed. Also among the dead was a handful of AIDS researchers traveling to the
20th International AIDS Conference in Australia, some 28 families and 80
This morning, a Dutch forensics team began investigating the crash site
amidst heavy fighting between the Ukrainian army and rebel groups. Access to the
site has thus far been limited by the violence and by what many believe were
attempts to tamper with or destroy evidence from the crash.
Although Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko has ordered a ceasefire
surrounding the site, the rebels still appear to be in charge of access.
Numerous international reports claim that the integrity of the crash site has
been severely compromised.
The UN Security Council is set to vote later today on a resolution condemning
the downing of flight MH17 and demanding armed groups to refrain from muddling
with the investigation so that those responsible for the crash can be identified
and held accountable.
Teams have been dispatched to gather the bodies and transport them away from
the crash site by train to be identified and laid to rest, but rebels have
allegedly also blocked the departure of the trains.
Last night, US Secretary of State John Kerry placed blame for the tragedy on
the Russian-backed Ukrainian separatists.
Citing information gathered from surveillance, social media posts from
separatists bragging about the crash and voice recordings, Kerry was clear in
his assertion that Russian trained and armed separatists were responsible for
the terrible violence in Eastern Ukraine.
Most Western powers at least appear to be viewing the separatists as an
extension of Russian power and have accordingly tasked President Putin with the
obligation to step up and make an announcement about the downing of flight
The trail from the separatists to Russia is nothing new. But, what
is new is that the violence between rival groups in Ukraine has now
affected some 17 countries around the globe. What was once a horrible regional
battle has exploded into a global conflict.
If culpability is not determined and tensions do not de-escalate quickly, we
stand to face the largest international conflict in decades, one that has
ensnared impassioned leaders and their bereaved from nearly every corner of the
globe. If we are not careful, we are looking at World War III.
At this point, discussions of sanctions seem irrelevant. Discussions of what
led us to this point, however, are essential.
So, here’s a brief synopsis: After Ukraine’s President Yanukovych was ousted,
reorganization shifted to the Crimean Peninsula. In a move that sounds more like
risk than real-life, Russia’s President Putin then annexed Crimea.
Despite its violation of international and Ukrainian law, it’s a clear
encroachment on basic sovereignty. And, based on the invalid ruling by 100
United Nations General Assembly members, Crimea remains under the control of
Over the past six months, accusations of who is to blame for the unrest and
bloodshed have been leveled between Russia and the EU, Russia and the US and
Russia and Ukraine (see a pattern here?).
It’s pretty clear that Russia intervened in Ukraine’s sovereign affairs and
it’s also pretty clear that Crimea was only the beginning of Putin’s latest plan
for world domination.
Most of the world’s most major powers have a vested national interest in
ensuring that Putin does not run rampant through Eastern Europe, cherry-picking
territories as he sees fit.
Because the Western powers were largely untouched geopolitically, until last
week, the international response has been to slowly up the heat by increasing
international dialogue, sparking proposals for resolutions and increasing
The shooting down of a domestic flight carrying civilian passengers from more
than a dozen countries that weren’t involved with the conflict took the battle
to an entirely new level. It is no longer a matter of two countries at conflict.
It is now more like 19.
It is easy to advocate for non-involvement in foreign affairs, but
international security has now been compromised and hundreds of innocent people
from every corner of the globe have been murdered in a fight they were unaware
It is time for Putin to step up and apologize for the part he has played in
It is time the international community takes action against such tyranny, be
that via diplomatic isolation or economic seclusion.