MH17: Cui bono and who knew?
(Not "Who knew" in the idiomatic, "Nobody could have predicted" sense, although that too, but "Who knew what when?") The Saker has a nicely rigorous post:
Well here at least the reply is unambiguous: only the junta in Kiev could have benefited from this tragedy. For the Russians and the Novorussians, this is something between a real pain and a disaster. Just when the Novorussians were winning without any overt help from Moscow and just when Moscow was gradually successful in denouncing the human costs of Poroshenko's murderous policies - suddenly the entire planet focuses just on one downed aircraft and the imperial corporate media blames it all on Russia. As for Poroshenko, this disaster is God-sent: not only has everybody forgotten that much promised "surprise" turned out to be a disaster, he can now kill scores of Novorussians with no risks of that being reported in the corporate media. Not only that, but that gives the Ukies a golden excuse to ask for ""protection" from their "aggressive and threatening neighbor". Again, the only party who can benefit from this disaster is the junta.
So, in summary, we have this list of candidates:
1) A deliberate or mistaken Russian attack: superlatively unlikely
2) A mistaken Ukrainian attack: most unlikely
3) A deliberate Ukrainian attack: most likely
4) A mistaken Novorussian attack: possible
5) A deliberate Novorussian attack: most unlikely
I don't know about you, but to me #3 is the one blinking red.
Now let's look at some of the crazy rumors which we have heard today.
a) one or two Ukie military aircraft shadowing MH17 before it was shot down.
b) at least one parachute after MH17 was shot down.
c) an air-to-air attack.
d) an attempt as shooting down Putin's aircraft.
I don't know if any of these above are true, but what I do notice is that all of them, if true, only 'fit' scenario #3: a deliberate Ukie attack. Nobody claimed that MH17 was shadowed by Russian fighters and the Novorussians don't have any anyway (they only have one Su-25). If somebody was shot down (the parachutes) then it was most definitely not a Russian Air Force aircraft. Ditto for an air-to-air attack. As for shooting down Putin's aircraft, this seems far fetched to me, even for the crazy freak show in power in Kiev. However, I would not put that kind of trick passed Uncle Sam who can always blame it on the Ukies. What is sure is that the US wants Putin dead. So maybe?
The current version of the Novorussians is an interesting one: they say that a Ukie Su-25 shot down MH17 and that they then shot down the Ukie Su-25. Actually, this is not the most unlikely possibility. Of course, this also means that if the Novorussians attempted to shoot down a Ukie Su-25 they might have missed and the missile might have continued towards the MH17 especially if its radar had gone active. So a Novorussian mistake is still a "possible", at least in my mind. If, and this is a big IF, this was a Novorussian mistake, I don't feel that we can blame them very much. The one undeniable fact is that this disaster happened in Ukrainian ATC space and they, the Ukie ATC, had the primary responsibility to keep MH17 in a safe air corridor and not the Novorussians who had neither the technical means nor the legal obligation to do so. Also, just a few days ago the Ukies had announced that they were closing the airspace over the combat zone to an altitude of 9600m (if I remember correctly). If the Novorussians heard this, they could have easily concluded that MH17 was a military recon flight flying towards Donestk from Dnepropetrovsk. Besides, I am not at all sure that the radar on the Buk M1 can differentiate between 9'600m and 10'000m or, if it can, that the operator would have been aware of the difference this could mean.
Again, keep in mind my caveat above. I am not, repeat, not a specialist of air defenses. But I did do some air defense and monitoring work in my past, and on the basis of that experience and of what I have heard so far is here my guess:
I would say that at this point in time I am 90% in favor of the deliberate Ukie attack theory. The remaining 10% I would give to the mistaken Novorussian attack version. I am more than willing to change my mind if I get new facts.
Not sure I agree with the ratios, but I agree with the possibilities. (The media chatter, assuming for the moment that it's driven at least in part by disinformation campaigns by the various intelligence services, is far more sophisticated than that around Bush's WMDs. And, treating again the narrative as if it were purely artificial, holding Putin responsible for the actions of his putative proxies is far more elegant than saying "Putin did it.")
Stuff we should look for
First, the black boxes. Even when hit, most pilots have the time to say something and that something is usually recorded and radioed. Depending on the frequency used, that "something" should have been heard by PLENTY of receivers, not only the Ukie ATC. But at the very least, we should have the voice and data recorders from the last minutes of MH17.
Second, Russian radar tracks. That is a problem. The Russian military is one of the worst offenders in terms of secrecy and short of a direct order by Putin, they are likely to be most uncooperative. Still, these guys probably have it all: ATC chatter, pilot messages, transporter signal, exact location of the missile(s) launched, point of impact, etc. As I said, they most likely had a 20/20 vision of the air space over Donetsk.
The trick is to get them to share it, especially with the corporate media and the "independent" experts all already clamoring that the Russians are tampering with the flight recorders. Still, things are changing in Russia, possibly after the PR disaster following the Soviet shooting down of KAL 007 (which most definitely was a US spy mission and deliberate provocation), they are more willing to share data. A spokesman for the Russian Air Force has already disclosed that they had recorded the signals of a Ukie BukM1 battery surveillance radar at the moment of the tragedy. He even identified the exact Ukie unit involved. Hopefully, as this scandal snowballs, the Kremlin will order the Russian Air Force to make more data public. Not to convince Uncle Sam and his EU minions, of course, but at least to convince the rest of the planet.
Speaking of Uncle Sam and his EU minions. They also know.
The US and NATO maintains a 24/7 surveillance of Ukie and Russian air space at least to the Urals, possibly even on the other side (though I am not sure). I bet you that Obama was told who done it within 2 hours of the tragedy happening. That info was probably shared with the Echelon countries, but not with the rest of NATO, but even they probably know thanks to their own intelligence capability (Banderastan is chock-full of EU spies not a single one of which was ever caught by the Ukie SBU since independence!).
I like this institutional perspective; reasoning from what's almost a capability/maturity model of the forces involved, and combining that with technical analysis of the weaponry. Brings some social science and some hard science to bear on the issues. I find that much more attractive than reasoning from tweets and YouTubes since (as we know from the NSA's catalog, IIRC) these are infinitely game-able, fake clear to the bone (as we say over and over again in Syria).
So, read the whole thing; you'll see I quoted for focus on the two topics in the headline.