PAYING RESPECT: Military personnel carry a coffin belonging to one of the victims of the crash of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on July 23, in Eindhoven, Netherlands (XINHUA)
Zhang Yao, a researcher at Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, shared a similar view.
"Even if the militia is found to have fired the missile accidentally, Russia would be pressured to lessen its support for the pro-independence separatists," said Zhang. "The militia would then face isolation and condemnation by the international community, even losing bargaining power with the Ukrainian Government, who could then possibly attempt to retake the eastern states."
In a recent interview, former U.S. State Secretary Hilary Clinton suggested the West take more serious steps to support Ukrainian authorities and punish Russia if firm evidence proves Moscow's involvement in the air crash.
If pressured by the international community, Yang said, Russia could perhaps soften its tough stance over the crisis, thus strengthening the Ukrainian position.
But if the Ukrainian Government were later shown to have caused the tragedy, observers said, the Ukraine conflict would probably see a reversal.
Yang said, "If the Ukrainian Government is to blame, Russia is expected to significantly strengthen its support for the pro-independence militia while the West would temper its backing of Kiev in suppressing the separatists, shaking the ruling foundation of the government." Zhang also noted that the international community may then increase calls for settling the crisis through political negotiation, while the pro-independence militia may still demand more.
While conclusive results of the investigation may be slow to emerge, good signs for the Ukrainian crisis are on the horizon. According to reports from the INA on July 21, Putin claimed Russia will do everything possible to influence militia in the eastern Ukraine, urging the two sides to turn from military conflict to political dialogue.
A new geopolitical scenario
The MH17 incident has implications not just for the Ukrainian crisis, but also for regional and even international relations.
Moscow has been further isolated since the incident; President Putin has become a scapegoat; and Russia's strategic position in Europe has been marginalized. Russia will become even more alienated from the West-dominated international arena.
Since the outbreak of the Ukrainian crisis in February, the West has imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russia. Following the incident, the resumption of talks on a New Zealand-Russia free trade agreement is likely to be further postponed. The three major EU nations Britain, France and Germany, also threatened to start new sanctions if Russia does not cooperate over the incident.
Speaking at a recent National Security Council meeting, Putin warned that although there was no direct military threat to Russia's sovereignty, international elements were attempting to destabilize the country.
Putin also said Moscow saw clear signs of NATO beefing up its presence in Eastern Europe, warning that Russia will adequately and proportionally react to the "demonstrative" activity.
Some Chinese observers believe the new incident will further push Russia to turn to the Asia-Pacific region. In fact, Russia has already been exploring market actively in the region and enhancing cooperation with China, Japan and India in recent years.
For the Western countries, the incident has served to unite them more. The EU is now also teaming up to clash with Russia. With many of its member states relying on Russian gas, the EU had been reluctant to take a tough stance over the Ukrainian crisis. But as the dust settles from the crash of flight MH17, the EU's attitude toward Russia may yet undergo a threatening shift.
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Major Civilian Aviation Tragedies Involving Missiles
- Siberia Airlines Flight 1812
On October 4, 2001, a Siberia Airlines Flight 1812 Tu-154 flying from Tel Aviv, Israel, to Novosibirsk, Russia, exploded and plunged into the Black Sea, killing 78 people, most of them Israeli citizens. It was later determined the plane was hit by a Ukrainian missile during military training exercises.
- Iran Air Flight 655
On July 3, 1988, Iran Air Flight 655, an Airbus A300 B2-203, from Tehran, Iran, to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, was shot down by the U.S. Navy guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes, killing all 290 on board, including 66 children. The attack took place in Iranian airspace, on the flight's usual path, shortly before the Iran-Iraq War ended in August 1988. According to the U.S. Government, Vincennes incorrectly identified the passenger plane as an attacking fighter and shot it down.
- Korean Airlines Flight 007
On September 1, 1983, Korean Air Lines Flight 007, a Boeing 747-230B, was shot down by a Soviet Su-15 interceptor west of Sakhalin Island in the Sea of Japan. All 269 passengers and crew aboard were killed. An investigation conducted by the International Civil Aviation Organization in 1993 showed the pilots' inappropriate interaction with the autopilot controls probably caused the plane to go off its course.
- Aerolinee Itavia Flight 870
On June 27, 1980, Aerolinee Itavia Flight 870 suffered an explosion and crashed into the sea near the Italian island of Ustica. All 81 passengers and crew on board were killed. Italian prosecutors and the Parliament Commissions came to the conclusion that the DC-9 was mistakenly identified by French, U.S. and Italian fighters as an executive jet believed to be carrying then Libyan leader M. Qaddafi and shot down.
- Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114
On February 21, 1973, Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114, a Boeing 727-224, a regularly scheduled flight from Tripoli to Cairo via Benghazi, was shot down by Israeli fighter jets. Only four people among the total 112 passengers and crew members survived the incident.