Editorials

July 18, 2014

Editorial | Calling on Putin to put a stop to this war

The following editorial appeared Friday in The New York Times:

The following editorial appeared Friday in The New York Times:

Growing casualties on the ground, a major escalation of American sanctions against Russia, a military plane shot down and now the appalling destruction of a Malaysian jetliner with 298 people on board, shot by a surface-to-air missile.

The Ukrainian conflict has gone on far too long, and it has become far too dangerous.

There is one man who can stop it - President Vladimir Putin of Russia, by telling the Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine to end their insurgency and by stopping the flow of money and heavy weaponry to those groups.

But for all his mollifying words and gestures, Putin has only continued to stoke the flames by failing to shut down those pipelines, failing to support a cease-fire and avoiding serious, internationally mediated negotiations.

President Barack Obama was fully justified in announcing tough new sanctions; the European Union imposed its own less-stringent measures.

It may take a while to fully sort out exactly who is responsible for downing Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine, which Vice President Joe Biden said was “blown out of the sky.”

American officials said the plane was hit by a Russian-made missile. The pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine have denied that they were responsible.

However it happened, it is the worst catastrophe of an increasingly costly and brutal conflict that could and should have ended long ago. If Putin wanted to make a political point about Russian interests, he made it weeks ago.

His sole, cynical interest now is apparently to hurt and punish Ukraine. Putin and those who support him seem incapable of accepting that their model of government, with all its cronyism, corruption and bullying, is not the one many former Soviet subjects want.

The Russian leaders prefer not to accept that the CIA did not engineer the preference of many Ukrainians for what they see in the West. They prefer to proclaim that Russia is the victim of American designs and manipulation — a claim Putin invoked again in response to the new U.S. sanctions.

The new sanctions from Washington, which target some of Russia’s largest energy companies and banks and more of its senior officials, are not likely to change Putin’s mind. But they, along with lesser but still significant European sanctions, should make clear to him that the West will not back down.

And if that fails, how can the innocent victims in the Malaysian jetliner not impress on him that this useless contest must be ended now?

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