Friday, July 18, 2014

Tragedy on Top of Crisis May Strengthen Stand Against Russia in U.S. and Europe

By PETER BAKER and MICHAEL D. SHEAR, NYT
JULY 17, 2014

WASHINGTON — The downing of a commercial Boeing 777 in the Ukrainian war zone on Thursday inflamed an already volatile international crisis and may bolster President Obama’s efforts to isolate Russia if evidence points to complicity by Moscow’s separatist allies.

Mr. Obama was careful not to offer any judgments in his only public comments on the crash. But Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said bluntly that the aircraft with 298 people on board was “blown out of the sky,” and the White House late Thursday issued a statement linking the crash to a crisis “fueled by Russian support for the separatists.”

If investigators are able to confirm suspicions that the Malaysia Airlines jet was brought down by a surface-to-air missile fired by pro-Russian rebels who mistook it for a military aircraft, American officials expressed hope that the tragedy will underscore their case that Moscow has been violating Ukrainian sovereignty. While Mr. Obama imposed new sanctions on Russia just a day before, Europeans refused to adopt measures as stringent out of fear of jeopardizing their own economic ties.

The Obama administration already has additional sanctions prepared that could be put into effect quickly if Mr. Obama so chooses. “The question is does this finally move the Europeans across that threshold,” said a senior administration official, who insisted on anonymity to speak more candidly. “I don’t know, but how could it not?”

European officials were cautious in their initial reactions, seeking time and information before jumping to possible consequences, and were reluctant to assign blame. But most of the passengers were Europeans. The majority of them, 154 in all, were from the Netherlands, where the flight originated, which could increase pressure on European governments to respond.

(More here.)

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