[This is the headline over an article by Brian Whitmore published yesterday on the Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty website. It reads in part:]
The Kremlin released an odd video statement early on July 21 in which a visibly haggard Vladimir Putin blamed Kyiv for the disaster, called for negotiations to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine, and warned that "nobody has the right to use this tragedy to achieve selfish political ends." (...)
"Although the Crimean and Ukrainian operations have shown how effective even seemingly crude information warfare can be in distracting, bamboozling, and blunting Western concern, it is hard to see how Moscow can spin this one away," Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russia's security services at New York University and co-host of the Power Vertical Podcast, wrote in Foreign Policy.
On last week's podcast, a recurring theme was that Putin had crossed something that Kirill Kobrin, co-editor of the Moscow-based history magazine Neprikosnovenny zapas, called "the Lockerbie line," in reference to the terrorist attack that downed Pan American Flight 103 in 1988.
That is, that, like Muammar Qaddafi then, the Russian president may have crossed the psychological point where it becomes very difficult -- if not impossible -- to even pretend that he is a respectable leader anymore.
"It is going to be very difficult not to regard Putin's Russia as essentially an aggressive, subversive, and destabilizing nation after this. This one plane becomes symbolic of so much more," Galeotti said on the podcast.
"I do think that Russia's position in the world will have changed irrevocably. I do think people will be thinking of Putin and the Putin regime as a problem. And the inclination is going to be: What do we do about this problem?"
Others, like Washington Post columnist and author Anne Applebaum, have picked up on the Lockerbie metaphor.
"When the Libyan government brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, the West closed ranks and isolated the Libyan regime," Applebaum wrote in a recent column.
[A much closer analogy than Lockerbie to the MH17 tragedy is, of course, the shooting down of Iran Air flight 655 by the USS Vincennes on 3 July 1988. But for some reason American commentators never seem to mention that incident (and mainstream British and European commentators very rarely do, either). Funny, that.]