The July 17 downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 and death of all 298 passengers on board is a heartbreaking catastrophe. It is also an international incident and a wake-up call for those who might wish to sit on the sidelines while thisviolent war continues to escalate. This tragedy requires a swift, measured response from the United States and the international community to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin to put an end to this fight.
If the needless deaths were not enough of a provocation, the response over the weekend has only escalated the situation. Russian media's attempts to twist the facts caused a veteran Russia TV reporter to resign in protest. And Ukrainian rebels continue to contaminate the crash site, removing evidence and resisting international efforts to launch a proper investigation and care for the bodies.
President Obama has placed the blame squarely on Putin, noting that this sort of weapons system requires "sophisticated equipment and sophisticated training — and that is coming from Russia."
Unfortunately, U.S. efforts to date to pressure the Russian president to end his support to the rebels and use his influence to stop the fighting in Ukraine have been met with more hand-wringing than action by American allies, who have been reluctantto follow through on previous rounds of economic sanctions targeting Russian oligarchs. More confounding still, France is on track to sell two amphibious warshipsto Russia.
As a result of this lack of unified resolve, Putin has acted with impunity. After annexing Crimea, Russia launched a creeping invasion of eastern Ukraine that has fueled an escalating civil war with a steady stream of lethal military aid to pro-Russian rebels. Shooting down this civilian airliner is a tragic consequence of this reckless behavior.