Obama Rules Out Military Response in Ukraine

President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

President Obama on Friday ruled out a military response to the shoot down of a Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine while charging that Russian President Vladimir Putin was partially responsible for the tragedy that killed 298.

"He (Putin) has the most control over that situation, and so far, at least, he has not exercised it," Obama said at the White House on Friday.

Obama said that U.S. troops would not become involved and the U.S. would rely on sanctions against Russia to bring about a ceasefire and peaceful resolution to the standoff with separatists in eastern Ukraine.

"We don't see a U.S. military role beyond what we've already been doing in working with our NATO partners and some of the Baltic States, giving them reassurances that we are prepared to do whatever is required to meet our alliance obligations," Obama said.

Obama called the shoot down of Malaysian Flight MH-17 "an outrage of unspeakable proportions." He said that at least one American was among the dead and identified him as Quinn Lucas Schansman, who also held Dutch citizenship.

"Evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile that was launched from an area that is controlled by Russian-backed separatists inside of Ukraine," Obama said.

At a later Pentagon briefing, Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said the missile was likely a Russian-made, surface-to-air missile called the Buk system in Russia and the SA-11 Gadfly by NATO.

The SA-11 "is one which we believe was used," Kirby said. "It would strain credulity to say they (the separatists) could do this without some level of Russian assistance."

The U.S. has supplied Ukraine with non-lethal assistance, mostly MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), but has yet to follow through on Ukraine's repeated requests for arms. Kirby said the requests were still being reviewed.

At an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power gave the most detailed U.S. version of events said leading up to the shoot down.

Power said that a Western journalist in eastern Ukraine had spotted pro-Russia separatists manning an SA-11 at a site near where the plane went down just before MH-17 disappeared from the radar.

Power said that because of the flight's high altitude, shorter-range missile systems had been ruled out. Separatists had posted videos and boasts online about downing a Ukrainian plane, Power said, but those posts were later deleted.

"Because of the technical complexity of the SA-11, it is unlikely that the separatists could effectively operate the system without assistance from knowledgeable personnel," Power said. "Thus we cannot rule out technical assistance from Russian personnel in operating the systems."

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at richard.sisk@monster.com

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Ukraine Russia Barack Obama