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21 July 2014

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David Habakkuk

CP,

Thanks for this.

At the moment, I remain agnostic on this one.

A recent report on the FT presents what it is suggested is compelling evidence now in the possession of Western authorities establishing the insurgents' guilt. Most of it consists of claims which have already been presented, with the supposedly clinching supporting evidence still not being produced, or of evidence which over which questions have been raised. Apparently new transcripts of conversations released by the Ukrainian authorities have been produced, but the questions raised about the old ones are not mentioned.

What I had not heard before is the following:

‘Meanwhile, images from social media of the missile flare as it was launched at MH17 show it rising vertically upwards. Military analysts say that given the altitude, direction of travel and crash site of MH17, such a rocket trail points to a launch site in the Torez-Snizhne area, and rules out the possibility of a launch from a distance further away by Ukrainian military forces, as was earlier claimed by Russian defence officials. A launch from an S300 anti-aircraft weapon, for example – the only system the Ukrainian military possesses with the range to have hit MH17 – would have looked very different, they say.’

(See http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/a1dcc628-1010-11e4-90c7-00144feabdc0.html?siteedition=uk#axzz3869LeLvE .)

Has anyone seen these ‘images from social media’? It could very well be that this is compelling evidence. But then again we were told there was compelling evidence that the Ghouta rockets could only have come from territory held by the Syrian government.

Meanwhile, Robert Parry has put up a follow-up story on his site to the one to which TTG linked.

(See http://consortiumnews.com/2014/07/20/what-did-us-spy-satellites-see-in-ukraine/ .)

One query. Would satellite cameras have sufficiently fine resolution to make it plausible to guess that specks lying around a site were beer bottles?

According to a BBC report some time back:

‘Ukraine’s SBU security service has confiscated recordings of conversations between Ukrainian air traffic control officers and the crew of the doomed airliner, a source in Kiev has told Interfax news agency.’

(See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-28360784 .)

Obviously, what a ‘source in Kiev’ tells Interfax cannot be treated as reliable evidence. However, it would seem imperative that the recordings are made public asap – particularly as that might help clarify if there is indeed anything suspect about this flight, by contrast to earlier ones by the same airline, going straight over the combat zone.

If the recordings were confiscated, that might – or might not – give grounds for suspicion. Likewise, insurgents getting in the way of OSCE observers proves precisely nothing – the April incident involving the detention of such observers suggests that it is perfectly possible that they would have been regarded as spies.

It is reported that on 14 June an Antonov AN-26 military transport plane was shot down at an altitude of 21,000 feet. This does indeed seem compelling evidence that the insurgents had Buk missiles, either sourced from Ukrainian arsenals or supplied by Russia. If they had been supplied by Russia, one would expect that they might be covertly withdrawn in short order, irrespective of whether or not one of them was responsible for the destruction of MH17.

(See http://www.vox.com/2014/7/18/5914139/ukrainian-rebels-shot-down-two-planes-in-the-last-month .)

Likewise, the fact that Strelkov/Girkin and others though that MH17 was another Antonov and were jubilant about its destruction in itself proves nothing, unless one is confident that insurgent command and control is a lot better than I suspect it is.

confusedponderer

Mr. Habakkuk,
I am undecided what to think of this also.

I think that the odds of Russian armed forces having done this are nil. Ukrainian armed forces or separatists appear to me equally likely.

I think that is also the reason for this 'government assessment' now.

The intel people probably felt that it is too early to tell, which ran against the political imperative of needing a paper, now, blaming Russia, to have some momentum with which to move Europe on sanctions agauinst Russia. Not necessarily anything more nefarious that idiot policy there IMO.

What is clear to me is that there is plenty of lying abound, and that the Ukrainian security apparatus is not a reliable source of information.

The US are not interested in an investigation of fact. They IMO want to use this incident to push Europe into supporting US santions, and all else they don't care about.

I also expect in the future a frivolous and political lawsuit in the US aimed at Russia for multi-million compensation for MH-17.

But what I in DC see is the same pattern of behaviour as with Ghouta, the same rushing to judgement. But for that to manifest, opportunistic exploitation is a plausible explanation.

Anna-Marina

Weaponry producers need to sell. Oil corporations need more deposits. Empire wants a unipolar world. There is no place for diplomacy. The swiftness the presstitude fell down on its knees on the orders of warmongers is stunning.

Fred

On my commute in to work this morning I tuned in the NPR. I was treated to Fiona Hill repeating the disproven allegation that the Russian’s assisted President Assad in using chemical weapons in Syria. She stated that Putin was successful in “changing the narrative” of who used chemical weapons to ‘placing Russia’ in charge of having them - all of Syria’s chemical weapons - removed. Neither the host nor the other guest, Cokie Roberts, made any effort to point out the falsehoods in Ms. Hill’s comments. For shame! Are those two so fearful of their employment that they refuse to correct the facts in such a matter? Steve Inskeep even went so far as to say if that if President Putin were to do as Obama said “Man up” he would probably take off his shirt? Is that the level of professional conduct of NPR’s host of “Morning Addition” Ha, ha, ha; wasn’t that funny! The President of the Russian Federation is going to take of his shirt? Why giggles all around! You’ll be the hit of the cocktail circuit with that one! Here we are on the edge of war in a country that has never been an ally of the United States nor of any vital national interest to the Republic and the pride of Morehead State makes a third rate frat boy joke.

God help us.

ISL

Dear Mr Habakkuk,

Currently, World view 3 commercially provides 31 cm panchromatic resolution.

http://www.digitalglobe.com/about-us/content-collection#worldview-3

Cynthia

Sec. Kerry was on CNN yesterday and characterized the pro-Russian soldiers at the crash site as "drunken separatists." Yes, they are separatist, but evidence is needed to back up the claim that they were drunk. What evidence does he have that they were drunk? Was a sobriety test done on them to prove they were drunk? Kerry with his supposed "expertise in international diplomacy" should know better than to accuse anyone, especially someone from another country, of being drunk without any evidence to back it up. My guess is that he characterized them as "drunken separatists" because of the age-old stereotype that Russians are all a bunch of drunks. Injecting cartoonist stereotypes into a propaganda campaign to make it stick just going to show how desperate the man is to, once again, sell a flat-out lie to the American people!

Benjamin Netanyahu was also on CNN yesterday and stated specifically that "6 million" Israelis are under attack from rockets being fired from Gaza. Yes, he's kinda right, there are about 6 million Israelis living in Israel, but that's only true if you don't include the million and half or so Arabs also living in Israel. So why did he selectively choose to mention "6 million" Israelis? He did this so that American viewers would conjure up ghastly images of the Jewish Holocaust in Nazi Germany and then apply them to what's going on in Israel today. Only a butchering war criminal with a twistedly evil mind could cook up such vile and dishonest propaganda! The irony in all this is perfectly transparent: it is not the Jews but the Palestinians being gassed in the concentration camp, and it is the Jews that are gassing the Palestinians, just as the Nazis did it to the Jews over 70 years ago.

jon

CP, you ask us not to swallow US or EU propaganda, and excellent sentiment. By the same token, we should also not be swallowing Russian propaganda, or that from any other source. So it is more than disturbing to hear Russian propaganda passed along as fact. Perhaps we might as well latch on the the rebel claim that MH17 was filled full of dead civilian spies, in order to discredit the rebels?

There seem to be a number of open questions about who fired the missile, where had the missiles originated, under what circumstances and authority the missile was fired, and to what degree was the Russian government involved in providing these weapons, training, and perhaps personnel to the rebels? We may have information, if the crash investigation team can recover sufficient remains of the missile. We may be able to lay this to rest if the involved parties are forthcoming about their actions.

To me, the simplest, least inflammatory explanation is that the rebels captured the missiles on their ow, that they possessed trained operators within their ranks, and that the missile was fired with insufficient, time, care or supporting technical means to be able to properly identify that their target was a passenger jet.

Should it prove that Russia supplied the missiles, or that they trained missile operators, or that they provided intelligence or guidance that led to the missile being fired, or that Russian personnel staffed the missile launcher, or that the Russian government or military had any role in targeting or bringing down the plane, those would make the geopolitical consequences vastly more serious. I don't believe that there are any facts in evidence at this point to support any of that speculation. And I don't believe that Putin is stupid, or that there would be an intentional targeting of a civilian airliner. But mistakes do happen in conflicts, which lead to tragedy.

There is scant possibility that Ukrainian government forces fired the missile, simply from the position of their lines and the range of the missile. There is a greater potential that the missile could have been fired from Russian territory, but the missile would have been operating near the limits of its range, and we might also expect Russian forces to have more extensive training and greater technical ability to identify a civilian jet. That leaves rebel forces, who had said that they possessed the missiles, who had been seen to place a launcher in the area where the kill shot originated, and from where a missile launcher was later observed being transported towards Russia. Rebels have also taken the care to remove posts from their web sites and to restrict access to the crash site. Rebels are also reported to have removed portions of the plane wreckage.

There are many facts that are known, and others will be coming to light soon. Until we have sufficient facts, it behooves parties on all sides, and of all points of view, to behave calmly and in a measured fashion, to avoid inflammatory remarks and precipitous action. With care, this horrible event could help provide the means to defuse the crisis in the Ukraine.

pbj

I have yet to see videos of the missile trail going up. Is there always one? Wouldn't it have been visible to thousands of people? Eyewitnesses?

confusedponderer

jon,
"Should it prove that Russia supplied the missiles ..."

You haven't been listening. Ukraine's entire arsenal is Russian made. When the rebels got their hands on a Buk, they could have simply taken it from one of the Ukrainian bases they took.

The Rebels don't need Russia at all to get their hands on such a system, or fire it. The entire episode could have easily happened without any Russian involvement at all.

And that leaves out that obviously, the Ukrainian armed forces do have Buks already, if they didn't lose or sell them.

"... or that they trained missile operators, or that they provided intelligence or guidance that led to the missile being fired, or that Russian personnel staffed the missile launcher, or that the Russian government or military had any role in targeting or bringing down the plane,"

That's a lot of big IFs and PERHAPSes that you line up there.

As for the 'that they trained missile operators' - they just may have done that, back in the day, given that many of the rebels are veterans of the Russian armed forces and that the USSR/Russia had conscription. Likewise, Ukraine had conscription until October 2013. That is why separatists probably wouldn't need Russian soldiers to man these launchers.

And re: "that the Russian government or military had any role in targeting or bringing down the plane" Why do you think that is plausible enough for your lineup?

You end with:

"those would make the geopolitical consequences vastly more serious"

Well, obviously it would, but given that "There are many facts that are known, and others will be coming to light soon." it is way to early to judge with confidence now.

Here's an IF of mine:

What if Russia was not involved, and not the rebels, and it turned out the Ukrainian armed forces acted negligent or worse - would that for you undermine the case for US copoperation with Kiev?

Matthew

Jon: Thought experiment. What are the "consequences" if the Ukrainians military shot down this plane? If the consequences are nil, then the cynicism is complete.

William R. Cumming

What NATO and EU nation-states possess Russian MPADs or other Ground to Air missiles?

David Habakkuk

pbj,

Precisely one of the things puzzling me is that if people had recorded the missile going up and hitting the plane, I would have expected this to appear on social media almost immediately. Also, if recordings exist with good enough resolution to show the missile going up, one would expect them to have good enough resolution to give a clear picture of the plane coming down. So far, however, I have not seen such recordings.

Of course, I could have missed material which is available. And if it has appeared belatedly, there could have been all kinds of reasons for the delay. But we very badly need to see these videos, and have expert comment on them. They may indeed be a 'smoking gun' establishing that the insurgents are guilty. If they are not, they could be a 'smoking gun' establishing that this really is Ghouta redux.

Denis

OK . . . here's the latest: Monday morning. Putin goes on spin-offense.

All of a sudden Putin is telling us via RT that there was a Ukrainian Su-25 gaining altitude on MH17 and within 3-5km. The Su-25 carries R-60 air-to-air missiles w/ a 12 km range.

http://rt.com/news/174412-malaysia-plane-russia-ukraine/

After Ghouta I don't believe Obama/Kerry anymore than I believe Putin. But then I don't believe Putin anymore than I believe Obama/Kerry.

I'm just glad neither of the Clintons are in this spin-fest.

David Habakkuk

Fred,

Back in the Eighties, when the Foreign Policy program at Brookings was run by John Steinbruner, their Soviet experts included some notable figures. Before going into the CIA in 1957, and on to the Foreign Service in 1961, Ambassador Raymond Garthoff had pioneered the academic study of Soviet military strategy. In the course of twenty-five years in the Royal Navy, starting as a midshipman in May 1942, his colleague Michael MccGwire had become that institution's most important expert on its Soviet counterpart. Also among those working there was Bruce Blair, who had become one of the world’s leading experts on nuclear command and control, as a result of an interest developed when he was a Minuteman launch control officer in the early Seventies.

Today Brookings has Russia ‘experts’ like Fiona Hill, and the successor to Steinbruner is Martin J. Indyk.

confusedponderer

Iirc Germany has SA-18 from Volksarmee stocks, but they may have by now used them up in training exercises. The Ozelot launchers of the airborne forces can fire SA-18 and Stinger missiles.

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiesel_2_Ozelot

Likeweise, the former Warsaw Pact members of NATO must have such weapons.

confusedponderer

"I'm just glad neither of the Clintons are in this spin-fest. "

The Amazons are; they were Hillary Clinton's proteges. No comfort there.

Tyler

It seems like the US media always finds a new low to sink to. We're one news cycle away from the talking heads demanding to know if Putin was the one who pushed the button and launched the missile that blasted the plane full of orphans and puppies out of the sky.

David Habakkuk

ISL,

Thanks for that. However, I am not certain precisely what it means. I just measured a 500ml beer bottle – a standard East European size – and it came out at 22cms tall. What – if anything – would be show up if the max resolution was 31cm?

David Habakkuk

jon,

‘So it is more than disturbing to hear Russian propaganda passed along as fact. Perhaps we might as well latch on the rebel claim that MH17 was filled full of dead civilian spies, in order to discredit the rebels?’

Who has passed this on as fact? We do know that jubilant messages – including one by Strelkov/Girkin – about the supposed shooting down of another Antonov transport were then posted and then deleted. It also seems that Strelkov/Girkin posted the preposterous story to which you refer.

Have you any evidence that the story has been endorsed in any way by the Russian authorities, disseminated at their instigation, or credulously accepted by people in the West?

‘There is scant possibility that Ukrainian government forces fired the missile, simply from the position of their lines and the range of the missile.’

In the case of the Ghouta atrocity we were told that there was no possibility that the missiles in question could have been fired by the anti-government forces.

And it turned out not only was the intelligence wrong, but that very many of those disseminating it – including the British JIC – are likely to have known that it was false.

I trust I do not need to provide you with links to the reporting of Seymour Hersh or the analyses by Theodor Postol.

David Habakkuk

denis,

As I have said, at the moment I remain agnostic about this incident.

If however one asks who is more credible, I can only refer you back to a previous allegation by Putin, that the sniper shootings in the Maidan back in February were a false flag operation.

Immediately after he – rather tentatively – suggested that this was possible, RT published the recording of the Estonian Foreign Minister, Urmas Paet, suggesting to Baroness Ashton, the EU 'High Representative' for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, that this was likely to have been the case.

This conclusion was later endorsed by an investigation by the ‘Monitor’ programme of the German channel WRD.

(For the Paet/Ashton conversation, see http://rt.com/news/ashton-maidan-snipers-estonia-946/; for the original German version of the WRD programme, see http://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/maidan-schuesse102.html; for an English translation of the transcript, see https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=725705100783621&id=161448950542575 .)

It was clear at that time that there should have been a fully independent investigation into the claims and counter-claims about the incident. As far as I am aware, no such investigation has taken place, nor has one been demanded by Western governments.

Hopefully, we will now see Western governments vociferously demanding a fully independent investigation into the claims and counter-claims about this current incident.

Nightsticker

Col Lang,

I remember the last time a civilian
airliner was blasted from the sky by
a SAM in July. That was 1988 when the USS
Vicennes shot down Iranian Airlines flight
655 killing all persons aboard.Interestingly,
the US government response was quite different.
There was a lot of "fog of war", "technical error"
"they shouldn't have been there" etc type talk
The CO was awarded a Legion of Merit w/V, if
not specifically for the shootdown, at least for the
period of duty that included the shootdown. As I
was told by a USN friend, several persons also
received the Combat Action Ribbon.

Nightsticker
USMC 1965-1972
FBI 1972-1996

turcopolier

nightsticker

I was on the JCS board that investigated the attack on USS Stark. That captain was crucified by the navy so the Vincennes guy was really keyed up. pl

Norbert M Salamon

A Russian URL, sorry forgot which, asked for US to provide pictures from the US satellite over Ukraine area related to the crash site.

Fred

David,

Yes, the sad decline of an institution. Like Harvard living on reputation. To paraphrase a line from Tyler on the prior thread:

“ is stuffed with college kids who want to show off how smart they are by quoting rather than doing something."

Dubhaltach

A question for all:

Has anyone seen any pictures or had any indication that they exist in which a contrail is visible?

Dubhaltach

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