Ukraine Could Soon Get Much Worse

Friday, July 18, 2014
By Paul Martin

Brett LoGiurato
BusinessInsider.com
Jul. 18, 2014

Nearly 24 hours later, there’s a consensus about the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17: It’s a game-changer for the conflict in Ukraine.

The crash, which Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called “a terrorist act,” thrust the conflict to the forefront of a loaded plate of international crises. And it dramatically increases the stakes for all the players involved — for Russia, Ukraine, the U.S., and the E.U. But as usual, it all comes down to how far one man wants to take things: Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Right now, the world is in mourning, but it will quickly enter the anger stage, and that is dangerous for Russia,” said Garrett Khoury, the director of research at The Eastern Project. “As usual, though, in the end it comes down to Putin. He’s shown he can push, inflame, and escalate. Can he now show an ability to deescalate?”

There are two schools of thought as to how Putin could handle this. The bullish case is presented by Khoury and others, who theorize the development could finally push Putin to disown the pro-Russian separatists.

The bearish case, on the other hand, comes from people like Eurasia Group president Ian Bremmer and Potomac Research group national security analyst Lt. Gen. Dan Christman, who argue the incident will only push him further.

“The question,” Foreign Policy Initiative Eurasia analyst Hannah Thoburn told Business Insider, “is whether Putin thinks he’s gone too far, so he really reigns the separatists in — or he’s really boxed himself into a corner and he lashes out.

“I’m fearful that the latter is the more likely one,” he said.

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