Plane crash could be a game changer in global response to crisis in Ukraine

By Cecile Feuillatre ,AFP

PARIS — The apparent downing of a Malaysian passenger jet and the loss of nearly 300 lives could be a game changer in the Ukraine crisis, piling pressure on key players, Russia foremost. The shock tragedy, which President Barack Obama described as a “wake-up call” for Europe on Russia, has brought painful proximity to a conflict that for many was until Thursday a faraway and localized standoff. “After the crash of the Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur flight in the region of Donbass, the conflict will probably appear less distant to the people of Europe,” said German analyst Holger Schmieding. The crash claimed the lives of 298 people, including nearly 100 Dutch nationals, renowned AIDS researchers en route to an international conference, and European and Asian holiday makers and civilians with no relationship to Ukraine or Russia. Obama said the plane was downed by a surface-to-air missile shot from territory held by pro-Russian separatists.

Analysts say it has forced Europeans to see the Ukraine conflict as a threat to the greater region — and that they could ratchet up pressure on Moscow. “Eastern Ukraine has become a cancer as far as European security is concerned,” said Thomas Gomart of the French Institute of International Relations. Now Western states are forced to realize that “what’s happening in eastern Ukraine is a kind of war and no longer just a local conflict,” said Camille Grand, the head of Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research. Confirmation of the missile hypothesis “will harden relations between the West and the Russians even more,” said Grand, adding: “The separatists cannot arm themselves alone.” Since the start of the Ukraine crisis four months ago, U.S., Europeans and Ukrainian authorities have accused Moscow of providing the rebels with arms and materiel.