Editorial: Initial thoughts on the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

July 18, 2014
Aviation security expert Billie Vincent shares his views on the tragedy that claimed the lives of nearly people

The shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, a Boeing 777 civil airliner, on Thursday, July 17 in the eastern Ukraine is a major tragedy by any standard of judgment.  Elements of the U.S. intelligence community have publicly verified that a missile radar system on-the-ground in the Eastern Ukraine
was tracking an aviation target at the time of this tragedy.  These same U.S. intelligence sources have also confirmed that there was a significant thermal event in the area of the MH17’s flight position at the time of the incident.  

The only military systems in the area capable of shooting down MH17 at its cruising altitude of 33,000 feet was reportedly controlled by an insurgent group fighting for separation from the Ukraine; or under the control of the Russians about 30 miles east of the location of this tragedy. Russian President Vladimir Putin has reportedly been the source encouraging much of the dissent by the Ukraine separatists seeking to become a part of the Russian nation.  The Russians have also reportedly provided these Ukrainian separatist forces with sophisticated weaponry including tanks and heavy weapons.  One Ukrainian source has also stated on TV that these separatist forces gained control over a sophisticated anti-aircraft missile system when they overran a military base in eastern Ukraine in late June or early July 2014.

Very shortly after the Shoot-down a claim was made by a prominent Russian leaning separatist on social media that: "We have just shot down an AN-26 plane in the Torez region, it is lying somewhere near the Progress mine. We have warned emphatically: Do not fly in our sky." This claim was quickly removed when it was discovered that the actual targeted airplane was a Malaysian 777 airliner.

There is an axiom that Murphy's Law is always operative, i.e. anything that can go wrong will happen.  A corollary to that Law is Mrs. Murphy's Law, i.e. anything that can go wrong will happen - particularly when Mr. Murphy is out-of-town.  Once the forces for separation from the Ukraine within Crimea, and subsequently in the eastern Ukraine, were set into motion by President Putin and his associates, the matter of control over these forces became problematic.  In other words, President Putin was "figuratively out-of-town" in control over the separatist's actions. Once set in motion no one was in overall control of the day-to-day actions of the separatists.

The result was the shoot-down of a civilian airliner and the tragic deaths of 298 people. The consequences of the destruction of a major civil airliner, the tragic deaths of 298 people, and the obvious perpetrators of this tragedy will weigh heavily on President Putin. It is a "major game changer" that will be roundly condemned by the rest of the world.  President Putin's time and energies over the next several months will be consumed in damage control.

His claims will be a repeated refrain of "we didn't do it, it was the Ukrainians, etc."  Finally, when unable to stand the overwhelming weight of the evidence that the separatists were responsible for taking down MH-17, and the condemnation of the world becomes so great, Putin will offer an admission: "Russia was not involved, it was a legitimate act of defense by the Separatists, i.e. the Ukraine should never have allowed civilian airplanes to over-fly the disputed war zone, etc." 

Putin will never escape this debacle that he set in motion with his encouragement of the Ukraine separatists for the rest of his life – both public and private.  The further consequences of this tragedy will neutralize President Putin's influence in the Ukraine separatist's actions to join the Russian nation.