The Russians will be the “big losers” in the wake of the country’s role in the shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines jet, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said.
“The surface-to-air missile had to come from Russia, the training provided to operate the surface-to-air missile most likely came from Russia,” Hagel said in an interview in his Pentagon office on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend.
While it’s unclear whether the Russian leadership was aware beforehand of the missile use, “there’s no question that Russians are going to come out big losers” once the incident is fully investigated, Hagel said.
President Barack Obama yesterday said the U.S. has concluded that the missile was launched from insurgent-held territory in eastern Ukraine. All 298 people on board Malaysian Airline System Bhd. flight MH17 were killed.
The U.S. is intensifying pressure on Russia to end support for the Ukrainian rebels in the country’s eastern region. The United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting yesterday and agreed on the need for an impartial investigation into the jetliner disaster.
Russians “continue to isolate themselves in the world” as a result of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s policy of instigating “trouble in eastern Ukraine for months, encouraging the separatists, providing the separatists sophisticated military equipment,” Hagel said in the “Political Capital” interview.
Although facts are still being gathered on the July 17 plane crash, “this is a very serious international incident and the Russians are going to have to take some responsibility,” Hagel said.
Putin has denied Russian involvement in the fighting in Ukraine, which has morphed into Europe’s biggest crisis since the Cold War, and has said the government in Kiev bore responsibility for the crash because it wouldn’t have occurred without the strife with separatists.
On another matter, Hagel said he had just completed reviewing with Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a classified U.S. assessment of Iraqi security forces, which are reeling from a series of attacks by Sunni militants calling themselves the Islamic State.
The U.S. is now “looking at strike options at different buckets of targets,” Hagel said, without providing any details. “We could do more in the way of putting advisers in places” to help Iraqis battle the militants, he said.
Obama, who brought U.S. troops home from Iraq in 2011, has said they won’t return to ground combat there as militants battle the Iraqi Army. He hasn’t ruled out airstrikes, while pressing first for Iraq, led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, to assemble a more inclusive government.
This week’s election of Saleem al-Jibouri, a Sunni moderate, as speaker represents “some good news,” Hagel said. In the absence of a united government, it would be “pretty hard for the Iraqi forces” to maintain security, he said.
With conflicts in Syria extending to Iraq and the new Israel-Palestine conflict escalating into a ground war, Hagel said he was concerned that the entire region could be engulfed in a wider conflict.
“I think when you assess all of the Middle East and all that’s going on with Gaza or we were just talking about Iraq, what’s going on in Syria, what’s going on in Libya, Tunisia, Lebanon continues to unstable, it’s pretty serious,” Hagel said.
None of these conflicts can be addressed through military solutions, Hagel said.
“This is going to have to be worked through a political solution, bringing people together,” Hagel said. “It’s going to take a while. Any part of that complicated dimension in the Middle East is not going to get solved in a matter of a few months or even probably in a year or two.”