The immediate hours after the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 brought far more questions than answers.
But one thing was clear: The deaths of nearly 300 people will put new pressure on the White House and European leaders to address the conflict in Ukraine and confront Russian President Vladimir Putin.
President Barack Obama tried on Wednesday — just hours before the plane went down — to get out in front of the chaos in the region by announcing tougher sanctions against Russian entities. But the tragedy shows there is a long way to go.
“Given its continued provocations in Ukraine … I have approved a new set of sanctions on some of Russia’s largest companies and financial institutions,” Obama told reporters Wednesday in a hastily announced press room speech. “Russia must halt the flow of weapons and fighters across the border into Ukraine.”
If Russia or Ukrainian separatists are responsible for the apparent shoot-down, tougher sanctions against Russia are almost certain to be forthcoming from the Obama administration and Europe, analysts said Thursday. European leaders, especially, will have to face their reluctance to deal with potential blowback — including the possibility that Russia will retaliate by restricting or cutting off energy supplies crucial to countries like Germany.