That’s Feaver’s read of the tragedy:
[I]f Ukraine is at fault, then Obama’s options of response are more limited: mainly reinvigorating efforts at negotiation. If Russia or pro-Russian forces are at fault, we will likely see much greater pressure to ratchet up sanctions even more significantly than has happened thus far, albeit in conjunction with reinvigorated efforts along the diplomatic track. Moreover, if Russia or pro-Russian forces are at fault, this puts Putin on the defensive to the point where a meaningful retreat is plausible — not a retreat from Crimea, which appears to be lost, but a retreat on Eastern Ukrainian pressure points — provided that Obama does in fact re-engage at a level commensurate with the stakes.
Ioffe agrees that this is major:
Make no mistake: this is a really, really, really big deal. This is the first downing of a civilian jetliner in this conflict and, if it was the rebels who brought it down, all kinds of ugly things follow. For one thing, what seemed to be gelling into a frozen local conflict has now broken into a new phase, one that directly threatens European security. The plane, let’s recall, was flying from Amsterdam.
For another, U.S. officials have long been saying that there’s only one place that rebels can get this kind of heavy, sophisticated weaponry: Russia. This is why a fresh round of sanctions was announced yesterday. Now, the U.S. and a long-reluctant Europe may be forced to do more and implement less surgical and more painful sanctions.
This also seems to prove that Russia has lost control of the rebels, who have been complaining for some time of being abandoned by President Vladimir Putin.
(Photo: A picture taken on July 17, 2014 shows bodies amongst the wreckages of the Malaysian airliner carrying 295 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur after it crashed, near the town of Shaktarsk, in rebel-held east Ukraine. By Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images)