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by
Bridget Johnson

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July 18, 2014 - 12:15 pm

Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters today that more than 24 hours after a passenger airliner was downed with a Russian-made surface-to-air missile they don’t have any operational theories on what was behind the takedown.

“I don’t think we have a working theory at this point… I mean, this just happened yesterday,” Kirby said. “There’s teams of investigators now trying to get to the site and pore through this. And I mean, we just have to let them do their job.”

It was one of the few press briefings on the Malaysia Airlines attack at which questions were taken, as press secretary Josh Earnest’s daily briefing was canceled by the White House around noontime.

“We see strong evidence that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was hit by a surface-to-air missile at an altitude of about 33,000 feet and that the missile was launched from a location near the border that is controlled by Russian separatists. This incident obviously occurred in the context of a conflict fueled by Russian support for Ukrainian — or for these Russian separatists and that support has — and that support has included arms, materiel and training,” Kirby said.

“As we investigate who did this and why, this terrible tragedy underscores for Russia to take immediate and concrete steps to deescalate the crisis in Ukraine and support the Ukrainian government’s plan for a ceasefire and peace settlement.”

Kirby said they see see “no hint that Russian support for the separatists has ceased.”

“In fact, we believe that Russia continues to provide them with heavy weapons and other military equipment, financing as well. And they continue to allow these Russian fighters to enter Ukraine freely,” he said. “There have been — as you know, we’ve acknowledged that some tanks, some personnel vehicles have — have made their way across the border. It is a — it has been a steady, concerted campaign by Russia’s military to continue to support and resource, advise these separatists.”

Kirby said they didn’t have any specific information corroborating reports that a Buk system was seen being hustled back across the Russian border missing two missiles.

“The missile itself, the SA-11, which is the one we believe was used to down Flight 17, is a sophisticated piece of technology,” the admiral said. “And it is — it — it strains credulity to think that — that it could be used by separatists without at least some measure of Russian support and technical assistance.”

“I don’t have an indication now that a system was brought over. And we don’t exactly know who is responsible for firing that missile, or with — or with what assistance. What I’m saying is that that system is fairly sophisticated,” Kirby added. “…Nobody is suggesting that the Russian military advice and assistance has not somehow crossed the border. It is just unclear exactly how much and when and who. That is what the investigators are going to look at and that is what we need to let them do.”

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel conferred by phone today with Malaysian Minister of Defense Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, whose step-grandmother was among the passengers killed.

Kirby said they’re still keeping an eye on “roughly still about 10,000 to 12,000″ Russian troops at the Ukrainian border.

“And it fluctuates a little bit from week to week, but the point is that it has been a — over time, a steady increase of these combined arms tactical battalions across the border on the Russian side, but to the southeast of Ukraine. And they are close to the border. In many cases, closer than those forces who were more aligned right on the east. If you remember we had, you know, tens of thousands that were along the eastern border with Ukraine, but not as close as these units appear to be,” he said.

“All they’re doing is further escalating tension. It’s difficult to know what the intent is. That’s a question you should ask the Russian ministry of defense. But they’re there. They’re growing in size week by week, and they continue to just do nothing more than escalate the tension.”

He said various government agencies would likely be participating in an international investigation of the takedown, but “I have no expectation right now that there’ll be a DOD representative on this team.”

Kirby said the Pentagon continue to review Ukrainian requests for military assistance.

So far, they’ve received MREs, radios, body armor, individual first aid kits, sleeping mats, and uniform items to battle Putin’s army and militia.

“Over the next few months, additional items will start moving through the procurement process to include night vision goggles, thermal imagers, Kevlar helmets, explosive ordnance disposal robots, and some additional radios. And there’s been some other equipment given to Ukraine’s border guards — barbed wire, alarm systems, excavators, trucks, generators, that kind of thing — communications gear,” he said. “…I think I’ve said it before that they have requested a lot of material, some of it lethal in nature. But the focus has been and remains on the non-lethal side of the assistance.”

When asked if they were withholding lethal aid to avoid stoking tensions with Russia, Kirby replied, “Look, I mean, I’m not going to get into hypothetical here. The concern is that the territorial integrity of Ukraine has been violated and continues to be violated by its neighbor in Russia and that needs to stop.”

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

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Top Rated Comments   
Funny how those 'Ukrainian separatists' were heard over an intercepted radio broadcast reporting to some military colonel in Russia - and speaking in Russian - not Ukrainian - that they had 'screwed up' big time. This little 'nugget' has been all over the news today. It would seem entirely plausible that some Russian well trained in SS-11 surface to air missiles was at the trigger.

You Russian by any chance?

13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Howdy JoeNobody
I deny the Russian separatists -- really revanchists -- have a legitimate claim to engage in warfare against Ukraine, so attacking a Ukrainian aircraft wouldn't be legitimate to begin with. Attacking an aircraft without knowing what it was is obviously far worse.
I doubt that Putin wanted a civilian aircraft destroyed but he'd be peachy with the idea of downing a Ukrainian aircraft and killing its crew.
So now I'm going all Godwin here -- this does smack of the Sudetenland and 1938.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
shorter DOD: "As t looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have no theory as to what kind of animal it is."
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (26)
All Comments   (26)
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The general idea seems to be, based on reports yesterday and today, that Russian "advisors" have been involved with pro-Russian separatists.

That said, it seems clear, although they are denying responsibility, that they did shoot down the Malaysian flight, but it seems to have been in error. They thought it was a Ukrainian military transport. They should admit it and express deep regret. This is what we did when we shot down an Iranian airliner with 290 aboard in 1988.

The Russians, in their Soviet Union manifestation, did deliberately shoot down two Korean airliners in the Cold War years -- deliberately, not accidentally, so I wouldn't put it past them, but in this case there doesn't seem to be a rationale for their having done it on purpose.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, the Ukrainians shot down civilian airliner over Black Sea back in 2001 - in botched training exercise. So it may be separatists, it may be "advisers", or it may be Ukrainian army trying to down a (supposed) Russian military aircraft.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
While I don't think our intelligence services are infallible by any means, the consensus seems to be a missile fired from separatist-controlled territory. This is supported by the audio tapes of pro-Russian operatives celebrating the shoot down of a Ukrainian military transport.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
"“I don’t think we have a working theory at this point… I mean, this just happened yesterday,” Kirby said. “There’s teams of advisers now trying to figure out the best spin to put on this to keep the President from looking like a fool. And I mean, we just have to let them do their job.”



There, I fixed it for him!

13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
We The People know what really happened and it starts in the Oval Office and ends in The Oval Office. See, if it "looks like a duck, walks like a duck and even quacks like a duck - must be a duck!"
Obama/Putin's so called "Re-set Button" can be summarized as follows: Putin- has geopolitical ambitions, Obama - has domestic agenda ambitions. Simple!
Putin, a tin-horned dictator(with geopolitical ambitions) and Obama a wannabe Tin-Horned dictator busy with a "domestic agenda" "transforming" America and Americans before 2016. Now does America get the true picture of this Obama administration? Pray. Amen. God Bless America.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
DoD knows exactly what happened; they simply aren't allowed to speak the truth.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
So there was no immediate Youtube video they could blame it on for the constituent-livestock American voters to lap up?
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Will the pentagon please tell the American people how they are protecting them from an illegal alien invasion at the southern American border.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hillary Clinton must be very proud of her Russian Reset button. Lest she forgets - and I'm sure she'd like to - if she is the democrat choice for POTUS in 2016 republicans should run that 'special moment' every chance they get. Great job - ya old cow!

13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Republicans probably won't- and in a way I can't blame them for not wanting any part of the Presidency considering how much things have worsened over the past five and a half years. Too bad making the Democraps/Progressives own their mess is tied to giving them another go at dismantling the country economically through further burdening its handout programs and an engineered invasion of foreigners to help that end.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
They're not "Russian" separatists - they're Ukrainian. You're being confused by the media slant. Also, it's a bit of a stretch to say that it's "incompetent" Russians shooting these missiles. If you recall, it's was a bunch of rag-tag Ukrainians who stole an entire rocket launcher from a Ukrainian military base. They're now trying to figure out how to use it. The big problem for them (now that they know how to shoot it) is to learn to identify airplanes at 30,000' without any ATC assistance. If you keep the facts straight, the entire picture becomes (more) clear.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Funny how those 'Ukrainian separatists' were heard over an intercepted radio broadcast reporting to some military colonel in Russia - and speaking in Russian - not Ukrainian - that they had 'screwed up' big time. This little 'nugget' has been all over the news today. It would seem entirely plausible that some Russian well trained in SS-11 surface to air missiles was at the trigger.

You Russian by any chance?

13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Paleo, you've been drinking the Obama's Kool-aid again! Most Ukrainians speak Russian and you haven't a clue who they were talking to, other than what CNN has reported. If you were in the military you'd know that one of these missile systems is like 3 Abrams tanks and requires a team of experienced experts to launch. It's even likely the west Ukrainians launched the missile as a false-flag in order to rope us in even deeper. Anything is possible. That said, there's no way that Russia would give one of these units to a bunch of inexperienced cowboys.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
I guess you missed recent history, where fully outfitted men in uniform with no national insignias suddenly appeared in Crimea, apparently out of thin air.

Not too long after, residents of Crimea "voted" to secede.

So no, the Russians probably didn't hand over an SA-11. They probably sent it fully manned, with a logistics and maintenance support tail attached as well.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Apparently the weapons system in question is common to the Ukrainian military. Common, speaking hypothetically, you mean to tell me if Americans had a civil war today, only Northern soldiers would have training on the M104 Patriot battery that just happened to be captured from Union troops by Confederates in Kansas a week before the shoot down of that United 747 in route to SFO from Dulles? I know, it was the Canadians doing the shoot down, pissed off over the cancelation of that oil pipe line from Alberta to Texas.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ms. Johnson,

The American government is very well aware who fire the weapon that downed flight MH-17 and from where it was launched.

Pres. Obama could simply have asked the NRO if their Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) satellites picked up a missile launch at that location, date and time.

Similarly, the President could have asked the NSA if their sigint satellites picked up the SA-11 missile radar telemetry at that location, date and time.

See these links for technical explainations of these spy satellites --

http://fas.org/spp/military/program/sigint/androart.htm

http://spacetoday.org/Satellites/YugoWarSats.html

http://www.globalsecurity.org/space/systems/imint.htm

Knowledge of those American intelligence "Nsational Technical Means" allows us all to evaluate the current American government in terms of what it says it knows versus what it really knows.

And we all know which reporters to look to -- Bill Gertz for one -- in order to give us that delta between those positions to evaluate.

Now -- as for background on and capabilities of the BUK missile in a form far better than the cable news shows -- please see the "Air Power Australia" web site, which has the development history of the Buk as of 2009.


See:

Self Propelled Air Defence System / SA-11/17 Gadfly/Grizzly
Technical Report APA-TR-2009-0706
by Dr Carlo Kopp, AFAIAA, SMIEEE, PEng
July 2009

http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-9K37-Buk.html


Of which see text clipped below --


Novator 9M37-1/9M38/9M38M1 and DNPP 9M317E Surface to Air Missile


The Novator 9M37-1/9M38/9M38M1 Gadfly and DNPP 9M317E Grizzly missiles are direct equivalents in basic design to the US Raytheon RIM-66 Standard family of naval missiles. The Russian missiles are slightly larger, by 17% in length and in diameter, with all missiles within ~3% of each other in launch weight. Range performance of the Russian missiles is similar to the RIM-66B, and lesser than the RIM-66C, although this may in part reflect control laws employed. The 9M317E Grizzly missile employs a very different, higher span and shorter chord configuration, cruciform wing design compared to the earlier missiles.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
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