FLIGHT 17: What will it mean for Ukraine, U.S.? - KMSP-TV

FLIGHT 17: What will it mean for Ukraine, U.S.?

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While there are plenty of theories about who is responsible for shooting down the Malaysian Airlines flight near Russia's border with Ukraine, one expert says Americans can expect it to become a foreign policy issue.

Professor William Beeman, at the University of Minnesota, is an expert on the region. He told Fox 9 News he believes that -- at least for now -- the response from both the United States and Russia will be conservative. Until more information emerges, that is.

Beeman admits he believes Flight 17, which was struck with a surface-to-air missile, likely wasn't the intended target. In fact, he believes it was probably an accident.

"Whoever shot off the missile was intending it for another target entirely," he speculated.

His theory is a simple one, and it centers on the fact that the 295 people aboard the plane bound for Malaysia didn't have a horse in the race when it comes to the dispute in Ukraine.

"I can't imagine in my wildest dreams that either side would consider this to be in their best advantage," Beeman said.

The Ukrainian government and the pro-Russian separatists are currently engaged in civil war, and both sides have already started blaming each other for bringing down the passenger plane. Complicating matters, both sides do have missiles that could have caused the crash -- but from a strategic standpoint, Beeman says doing so just doesn't make sense.

"If it were a Russian airliner, maybe," he said. "If it were a European aircraft, perhaps -- but a Malaysian airliner?"

No one has claimed responsibility, and that has focus shifting to the response from the US and Russia. So far, both sides have taken a measured approach considering that the U.S. supports the Ukrainian government and the Russians back the separatists. According to Beeman, the only play the U.S. is likely to make could be more sanctions against Russia.

"Not only is our situation weak, the European Union's position is weak because Europe depends so heavily on Russia for its supply of gas," he said.

For now, Beeman says the best-case scenario in the Ukrainian conflict would be for both sides to sit back and ask themselves what they are doing and if it's worth it -- but in the worst case scenario, he imagines the blame game will cause the civil war to escalate in the region.

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