We still don't know exactly what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which according to U.S. officials was likely brought down by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile near the Ukraine-Russia border on Thursday. Suspicion immediately fell on Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine, though Russia has denied involvement and laid the blame at the Ukrainian government's doorstep.
But the killing of nearly 300 civilians from several different countries has turned the global klieg lights on a game of cat-and-mouse that Russia had been more than happy to play — and that could ultimately be responsible for a catastrophe that will ramp up pressure on President Vladimir Putin in ways he didn't foresee.
Putin has consistently called for a diplomatic solution to the conflict, while brazenly sending arms and armed forces to assist the rebels, extending an insurgency that has destabilized the government in Kiev. "It is a game for Putin," an anonymous Russian official told The New York Times. "He likes to say that he is a peacekeeper from one hand, while from the other he is sending the rebels arms. It is typical K.G.B."
So far, the U.S.'s European allies have been reluctant to following President Obama's lead in strengthening sanctions against Russia. With the deaths of Dutch and British civilians, among others, that could change. Furthermore, in this new environment, it will become far more difficult for Russia to continue supporting the rebels, who may soon find themselves left high and dry.
No one wanted this disaster to happen — perhaps none more than Putin himself.