Civilian Airliner Shot Down Over Ukraine

As those reading this post know by now a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 was shot down over Ukraine near the Russian border.

My condolences to all those killed in this tragedy,

Who’s Responsible

It is currently unknown who shot the plane down: the Russians, the Russian backed insurgents, or the Ukrainians. All have access to weapons capable of taking down the airliner.

While Ukraine has anti-aircraft weapons as well, but has no reason to be firing them at large planes since the rebels have no such aircraft at their disposal. Hence, I am more dismissive of the idea that the Ukrainian military shot down the plane, as Russia claims

Given recent activities in the area (namely the rebels shooting at and shooting down Ukrainian aircraft) I believe it was in fact the insurgents using Russian supplied equipment like the Buk missile system, which does have the capacity to reach the cruise altitude the Malaysian Airliner was said to be at. I also base this on the rebels own claims on a social networking site of shooting down an aircraft around the same time as MH-17 went down, post which later were deleted once it became clear a civilian airliner had been shot down.

So at this point, I blame the insurgent separatists and, ultimately, Vladimir Putin for instigating the military crisis in Ukraine through the invasion of Crimea and Ukraine, supplying rebels with weapons, and fomenting his pan-Slavic ethnocentric ultra-nationalism in the region.

What Should Be Done

Regardless of who is responsible for the attack, every effort (including military means if need be) should be made in ending the rebels assaults in Ukraine and bring those responsible for killing hundreds of innocent passengers on the plane to justice. I know that isn’t likely, given Putin is already spinning the blame to everyone else but his own disastrous policy in the region. If it turns out the Russian (or even Ukrainian) military is directly involved in attack, there needs to be some serious repercussions. Repercussions along the lines of a ban on all travel to and from the offender nation (or their sponsor), an world wide embargo on products, a rapid deployment of EU and NATO forces to all nations to form a buffer between the conflicting sides, stripping away of all international economic and sporting events, and so forth. In other words, no more weak willed verbal rebukes but tangible punishments that hurt those committing these acts.

What Will Be Done

Sadly, with our current president whose early thought this event was: “It looks like it may be a terrible tragedy”, I suspect nothing. I think Obama was channeling George W. there. “May be”? Seriously? Regardless of how the plane went down it is a tragedy.

Obama has shown himself to be spineless in the past in a whole manner of violence and conflicts erupting across the face of the planet so I expect little to nothing to be done.

Obama Afghan Speech

The Associated Press: Text of President Obama’s speech on Afghanistan

Overall a decent speech (I guess considering he drones on incessently most of the time), though blaming the previous administration is idiotic considering Obama’s waffling and delay in even making a decision about troops to Afghanistan. Sure Bush screwed up some, but Wonderboy hasn’t exactly done anything great either so…yeah.

To sum up the speech: 30,000 troops to Afghanistan and then start withdrawing in some 18 months or thereabouts. That’s all I really need to know, the rest is short shrift.

As an aside: The cynic in me notes a political ploy: trying to bring home troops from Iraq and Afghanistan before the 2012 elections. I honestly doubt that is going to happen even with SOFA in Iraq, but I could very well be wrong on that. And if it does happen will it be at the cost of Iraq and Afghanistan failing.

Futher summing up:

  • “Legitimizing” Afghan President Karzai again after weeks of basically doing the opposite. Kinda like with Honduras’ new President that Chavez and his Bolivarian buddies are having cows about now that their man Zelaya has no legal recourse under any Honduran law to regain power.
  • “we must rebuild our strength here at home,” Then stop taxing the citizenry to death, bailing out corporations, imposing socialist healthcare w/ prison sentences, trying to impose unions on the citizenry via CardCheck, crushing American businesses under the now questionable science of global warming via cap-and-trade and high taxes, destroying manufacturing, etc.
  • “our prosperity provides a foundation for our power.” See above.
  • “The nation I’m most interested in building is our own.” That’s the people’s job to do, not the government.
  • I bet the Corps of Cadets was bored out of their collective skulls. They look bored. Polite, mind you, but never the less bored.

Russia-Georgia Conflict

And the echoes of the Cold War continue…

Russia occupies parts Georgia | Reuters

It doesn’t look like any peace will hold with the apparent reports of Russian troops looting, sniping civilians, and further invading Georgian territory. Despite U.S. officials assurances, I fear the only way this will end is with a conflict involving the United States and NATO especially with Russia saying it will support Georgian separatists. (Or as the China Daily put it: Russia: Georgia can ‘forget’ regaining provinces.) While that is an unpalatable thought to me it’s better than repeating the mistakes of the past that eventually led to an even greater conflagration along the lines of World War II. It’s a pity really that the Russian government wastes its efforts on militarism.

And despite, or perhaps to spite, Russia’s behavior many former Warsaw and Soviet nations along with NATO appear to be taking a stronger stand against Russia: U.S., Poland sign missile shield deal | Politics | Reuters , NATO bars Russian ship from anti-terror patrol | Reuters, and Ukraine vows to implement orders on Russia fleet | International | Reuters are but some examples and not wholly indicative of unity amongst the allies.

RIA Novosti – World – S.Ossetia, Abkhazia to seek sovereignty under international law I honestly don’t see Georgia accepting S. Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent without some sort of protest unless Russia gives up North Ossetia as well, in essence turning Ossetia into a buffer state between Russia and Georgia. I doubt Georgia will accept any succession of Abkhazia, especially since it was given a special status as an autonomous region continuing a practice implemented by the Soviet Union. I expect were Georgia to accept it they would demand a number of things out of Russia in return. Whether Georgia would get it or not is another thing entirely.

All I do know is the Russian government needs to tread carefully with stirring up ethnic tensions in various regions like Dagestan as such tactics could be turned against them to ignite ethnic tensions in other regions of Russia particularly in the krais and okrugs with large non-Russian or non-Slavic minorities. The Serbs discovered using ethnic tensions to attain political and territorial gains to be disastrous as evidenced by Serbian actions in Yugoslavia leading to the break up of Yugoslavia and most recently Kosovo succeeding from Serbia.

On the news side, I have noticed a sudden and decidedly less virulent anti-west tone in online Russian news sources, though venom aimed at former Soviet states like Ukraine and Georgia remain intact. We’ll see how long that lasts with Poland signing the anti-missile shield deal with the U.S. and Ukraine making it clear they wont give the Russian Navy free reign in their ports and waterways with respect to military activity.

News round up

Note: Potential spoilers at bottom of page on Olympic results for West Coast and Hawaiian viewers.

Invisibility cloak one step closer, scientists say | U.S. | Reuters Very interesting stuff, in my opinion. But then I’ve been reading about proposed technology like this for about a decade.

NASA abandons plan to fly new spaceships by 2013 | Reuters This is to be expected given the lack of funding available for NASA. Given recent tensions with Russia and potential future unreliability as a result, I think plans to retire the shuttle fleet may need to be reviewed or the government will need to increase funding to NASA to fast track Orion. I doubt either option is palatable in Congress given the current economy and world turmoil. Neither is allowing Russia, with its currently anti-Western leanings, to have sole access to the ISS in the immediate future.

Northrop contract for U.S. patrol plane upheld | Politics | Reuters
Good to finally have that dispute settled. I, for one, am getting tired of complaints being filed simply because I company lost a contract. Yes, there is a need to ensure fairness but it’s annoying when protests seem to be made more for spite than anything else.

Boeing may not bid on $35 billion tanker deal: report | Politics | Reuters Interesting, if true, though I doubt any aircraft company capable of competing for a contract would simply bypass an opportunity given the current lean times for the aerospace industry.

Half of all Americans have poor eyesight: study | U.S. | Reuters
I believe it.

Bush could weaken Endangered Species Act – CNN.com
*sigh* Bush and his ilk just don’t get it. What good is business and
projects if there is no environment left in which to run their
businesses and projects. I think the little protection and caution the
EPA provides is a good thing. Removing that protection and letting
agencies biased in favor of projects is like putting the fox in charge
of the hen house. The fox and its cubs will be fat and sassy for a short time but
eventually will starve to death. This attitude that business and the
environment cannot coexist needs to be eliminated from political
thought.

Russian-Georgian War

Polish, Ukrainian, Baltic leaders to visit Georgia | Reuters Well they are the ones who face the greatest threat from Russia’s current belligerence given the West’s rather lackluster response to the invasion of Georgia.

Anti-Russia protests over invasion of Georgia:
Anti-Russian protest by pro-Georgians outside London embassy – Telegraph

Georgians hold anti-Russia protest – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

And Russia’s counter: Russians decry Western “propaganda” over crisis | Reuters My previous posts about the conflict shows the double standard Russia applies when it comes to “propaganda”. The article itself ends with some hilarious propaganda claims. Don’t want to be called an ‘aggressor’ and a ‘militant empire’ then maybe Russia should not have behaved as one by invading Georgia. The U.S. has taken its knocks over the years by the international media over just about everything, including Iraq and Afghanistan. What Russia has done makes the U.S. look positively kittenish.

Olympics

I’m pleased to see the continue success of the U.S. swim team, both men and women. Phelps is one step closer to reaching his goal.

The energy from the crowd at the women’s water polo match between the U.S. and China was pretty amazing, with the crowd being pretty vociferous for both teams. It was almost as interesting to observe as the game itself.

In Women’s Basketball, Team USA defeated China. Russia squeaked by the ROK.

Azerbaijan scored it’s first medal: a gold in men’s judo. I always like seeing the smaller contingents succeed.

World Conflict Today

Because, as much as we might want to allow the Olympics to erase the facts of what is going on in the world:

Russia-Georgia War

Global News Blog » Blog Archive » Cold War reheated as U.S. and Russia duke it out over Georgia | Blogs | Reuters.com

Russian military pushes into Georgia – CNN.com And this for me is the last straw, if true that Russian troops have invaded an indisputably Georgian city. Russia has crossed a final line in my view by now invading Georgia proper and has lost any slim credibility about only intending to “bring peace” to the South Ossetia region. It’s looking more and more like Russia is beginning an attempt to rebuild it’s Soviet empire.

Georgia and Russia claim ‘mass arrests’ – CNN.com

Russia calls for urgent meeting with NATO – China Daily

FOXNews.com – Russia Forces Move to Within 35 Miles of Tbilisi

RIA Novosti – World – U.S. military aircraft bring 800 Georgian troops home from Iraq

The Red Menace: Cyber Terrorists Attack Russian News Agency Not surprising given the Russian hackers (either civilians or government sanctioned) hacked Georgian sites shortly before the Russian invasion.

ITAR-TASS- Russia disappointed with UN Secretariat lack of understanding of Georgia-South Ossetian conflict

ITAR-TASS – Exercise of MMD antiaircraft battalions begins in Krasnodar Territory This could be relevant to the Russian-Georgian conflict as Krasnodar Krai borders both Ukraine and the Abkhazia region of Georgia. The exercises are scheduled to last until August 15.

Bloomberg.com: Worldwide – Russian Troops Launch Ground Offensive in Georgia (Update3)

Civil.GeCivil.Ge: Russia Says Senaki Takeover Part of Peacemaking Operation

Civil.Ge: ‘Russia Occupies Significant Part of Georgia’ – Saakashvili

Georgia to sue Russia in Hague International Criminal Court : Ukraine News by UNIAN This may explain another part of Russia’s invasion of Georgia if it is true Georgia has evidence of Russian attempts of genocide against Georgians in Abkhazia in 1992, especially given Russia’s sudden claims of Georgian genocide against Ossetians.

No servicemen of Ukrainian Armed Forces stay in Georgia : Ukraine News by UNIAN This further shatters Russian claims of mercenaries from Ukraine.

Ukraine may never feel safe any more – expert : Ukraine News by UNIAN

Side note: I was trying to access both Georgian and Russian news sites that I had viewed earlier shortly before posting here but now could not reach a number of them (including Civil Georgia, Izvestia, ITAR-TASS, and Novosti). I am assuming it’s the ongoing cyberspace war between Russian and Georgian hackers and their respective supporters and perhaps intentional cutting of internet access to prevent information from becoming internationally known.

ETA: Izvestia availability is erratic, presumably due to Georgian hackers.

ETA 2: Civil Georgia is now operating at the following site: Civil.ge due to DDOS attacks, presumably by Russian hackers.

China

Blasts kill two in China’s restive Xinjiang: report | Reuters

China investigating terrorist links in Xinjiang attack | International |
Reuters

China’s Uighur rebels switch to suicide bombs – Times Online

Russian-Georgia War

South Ossetia – GlobalSecurity.org

Personally I consider the Georgians and the Russian to be complete morons for starting this war over some equally moronic losers, the Ossetian separatists. That said , I do feel Georgia has the right to defend its territorial integrity, including South Ossetia (which despite what the Ossetians and Russians think or want is internationally recognized as Georgian territory) from illegal separatists established only by the questionable presence of Russian “peacekeepers”. However, Georgia was too strong in its approach to removing the separatists choosing a military confrontation instead of taking their demands to the security council and U.N. for negotiations to have Russia remove its troops and allow Georgia to regain control over it’s territory. The Russians were even more over reactionary by pouring troops into South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Though I do find myself wondering why so many Russian troops were on the Georgian border in the first place.

In the end, the Russians, Georgians, and Ossetians are at fault for this conflict and the destruction it brought. I suspect however the conflict was inevitable. Russia has been supporting the Ossetian and Abkhazian separatists, is furious at the expansion of NATO and its loss of influence in the region, the independent political and economic moves of not only Georgia but the Caucuses as a whole away from Russian influence towards Europe. The Georgians, in turn, let the fear of Russian domination (and/or perhaps some bravado at the notion of being a future NATO nation) and influence in Ossetia and the legitimate concern over their territorial integrity get the better of them and reacted haphazardly, and the Ossetians put much of this into motion for supposedly protecting their culture and people by using terroristic and insurgent tactics to achieve their goals.

I am more now than ever concerned that Russia is intent on taking control not only South Ossetia, but all of Georgia proper and perhaps even other regions and nations, like Abkhazia and Ukraine given recent unproven or unverifiable claims and accusations as well as the apparent Russian unwillingness to agree to any sort of ceasefire . Among Russian claims and activities are:

  1. Georgia was/is committing “complete genocide” but anecdotal evidence doesn’t support this.
  2. Reports of deploying Russian troops to Abkhazia (which has nothing to do with Ossetia if the Russians are merely “defending” Ossetians as they claim). [1]
  3. Refusal to acknowledge Ukraine’s port neutrality per International law and claims Ukraine supplied the weapons Georgia used to shoot down a Russian fighter. [1]
  4. Claims of mercenaries (vz.ru, in Russian) from Ukraine, other Baltic states, and foreigners used in attack, as well as claims of an American prisoner. No evidence of “mercenaries” what so ever, especially since the article itself claims the person captured is a NATO instructor (hence casting further doubt on the mercenary claim). Also forgetful of the fact that the USSR and it’s subsequent former soviet states were multi ethnic and included blacks and Asians. I know this because for a short time I lived with a Korean family that had moved to the USSR and become citizens and one of the families closest friends was 3rd generation black.

[1] ВЗГЛЯД / Абхазский фронт и киевский мотив (vz.ru, Trans.: Abkhazian front and the Kiev motive)

My quick summary: It’s a grand international foreign conspiracy involving Georgia, Ukraine, and the USA to commit genocide against Russia and “Russians” and therefor Russia is justified in invading Georgia to establish “peace”.

Summary: Abhazia has declared martial law, has Russian ships at its coast, Russia accuses Ukraine of supplying “illegal” weapons (but never expresses what made the weapons illegal) to Georgia to counter Ukraine’s threat to refuse port access as a neutral nation, Abkhazia wants more Russian “peacekeepers”, Russia accuses US and Ukraine of supplying sniper weapons to be used in Ossetia on civilians, Ukraine “recklessly armed to the teeth” the Georgian army and encouraged ethnic cleansing of S. Ossetia, and the laughable claim (assuming my translation is accurate):

«Поставки украинского оружия в Грузию с благословения Белого дома были давно согласованы и направлены на подготовку варварского нападения на мирный южноосетинский город»

The deliveries of Ukrainian weapons into Georgia with the blessings of the White House were long ago agreed on and directed toward the preparation for a barbarous attack on a peaceful South Ossetian city.

Too bad none of the claims have any evidence as yet and rely on claims mostly made by Ossetian separatists and their Russian supporters. In other words, what a bunch of outdated Cold War era propagandist drivel. There nay have been some genuine facts in there somewhere underneath all the political manure.

So it’s starting to sound suspiciously like implausible accusations and innuendo to justify a Russian invasion of a nation that will soon be joining NATO under the guise of protecting “Russians”. Hmm. Sounds familiar no?

My hope is that international pressure will help end the hostilities and come to some sort of reasonable solution, since those involved seem unable or unwilling to do so. Whether that will happen? I’m doubting it given the previous lack of will the international community has shown in a number of previous conflicts until it they got out of hand (the Yugoslavia breakup and subsequent Balkans War, East Timor, Darfur, etc.).

The Russian Georgian Conflict

Russia forces on edge of South Ossetia capital: website | International | Reuters

So in essence we have a war now. Wonderful. /sarcasm

Why is that so many wars and conflicts seem to be heralded by the of the Olympic games? It just seems a bit ironic, and the timing of this conflict suspicious.

Hopefully the dimwits involved will realize the uselessness of the conflict and end it quickly with Russia withdrawing back to its borders, Georgia’s recognized territorial boundaries restored, and peace, however uneasy or fractious, is restored before too many lives are lost too late. Perhaps even talks with the Ossetians to see what they really want, not what their Russian or Georgian backed proxies want.

It really does surprise me that the Russians have at this time apparently forgotten the old proverb: Худо́й мир лу́чше до́брой ссоры. (Trans. A bad peace is better than a good quarrel.) Especially considering the situation over the past decade or so in the Ossetia region of Georgia has been relatively calm and peaceful when compared to other regions like Chechnya. But then as another saying goes: Кому́ война́, а кому́ мать родна́. That’s pretty much true in all wars and conflicts and if those in power make a profit on such conflict they have no impetus to end that conflict.

Unfortunately this conflict has been building for years between Georgia, a former Soviet state determined to keep it’s nation free of perceived Russian interference and domination and Russia, using less that clear reasoning on the invasion/support of Ossetia aside from perhaps some notion that Ossetian area is Russian and has been granting Russian citizenship to Ossetians.

U.S. political leaders reaction:

McCain calls on Russia to withdraw from Georgia | Politics | Reuters

Bush and Putin discuss Georgia fighting | Politics | Reuters
US calls for cease-fire in Georgia | The Sun |News

Obama apparently supported the administration position but I have yet to find a separate article clearly stating as much at this time.

The Russian view point:

(Opinion) The two-faced, underhanded foreign policy of Georgia – Pravda.Ru

Biased much? But then it is an op-ed piece. The title alone is a clear indicator.

Russian tanks enter South Ossetia to oust Georgian troops – Pravda.Ru

Pro-Russian obviously, but less vitriolic the the previous piece.

South Ossetia Conflict Escalates – The Moscow Times

About as neutral as it gets in Russia these days. Still pro-Russian, but not enthusiastically so.

Interesting side effect:

Bloomberg.com: Worldwide- Ruble, Russian Stocks Fall as Putin Says Georgia ‘War” Started

Saakashvili First on Bloomberg TV: ‘Full Scale Russian Invasion’: Financial News – Yahoo! Finance

What makes me fear this is simply a Russian invasion of Georgia proper is the many reports noting attacks on Georgia proper, including non-military targets near the Georgian capitol of Tbilisi. I doubt most of the world remembers the riots in Tbilisi in 1989 when the Soviets sent tanks in to break up a peaceful pro-democracy rally but I do. I wasn’t in Tbilisi for the unwarranted crackdown but I remember well the stories of the other students who were there and the exchange directors informing us we could possibly be evacuated from the USSR. Hopefully the Russian invasion of Georgia isn’t turned into some sort of occupation (ala Chechnya) but recent Russian government leadership hasn’t shown much reason or restraint when it comes the that region.