John Kerry Makes the U.S. Case Against Russia Over Downed Plane

The secretary of State made the Obama administration’s pitch over the plane crash in Ukraine across TV on Sunday morning.

Secretary of State John Kerry leaves Coburg Palais after his bilateral meeting with Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on the second straight day of talks over Tehran's nuclear program in Vienna, on July 14, 2014. 
National Journal
Matt Berman and Dustin Volz
Matt Berman Dustin Volz
July 20, 2014, 5:49 a.m.

In a full run of the Sunday morn­ing news show gaunt­let, Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry at­temp­ted to push the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­vel­op­ing line on Rus­sia after last week’s MH17 crash: Everything is on the table. Ex­cept troops.

On Fox News Sunday, Kerry said that the in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to the crash has been “ser­i­ously com­prom­ised” by “drunk­en sep­ar­at­ist sol­diers” who have been re­mov­ing bod­ies and evid­ence from the scene “un­ce­re­mo­ni­ously.”

Pro-Rus­si­an sep­ar­at­ist mi­li­tia­men have taken cus­tody of about 200 of the 298 bod­ies found at the wreck­age site of Fight 17, ac­cord­ing to Ukrain­i­an of­fi­cials. Kerry con­demned the be­ha­vi­or and again poin­ted the fin­ger at Putin.

“What’s hap­pen­ing is really grot­esque, and It’s con­trary to everything Rus­sia and Putin said they would do,” Kerry told NBC’s Dav­id Gregory. “The sep­ar­at­ists are in con­trol.”

“This is a fun­da­ment­al mo­ment of truth for Rus­sia, for Mr. Putin,” Kerry told Fox host Chris Wal­lace.

Kerry came just short of pla­cing dir­ect re­spons­ib­il­ity for the downed pas­sen­ger plane on Putin and Rus­sia. “Culp­ab­il­ity is a tra­di­tion­al term,” he told CNN’s Candy Crow­ley, “and people can make their own judg­ments about what happened here.” Kerry told Fox News that U.S. in­tel­li­gence has made no fi­nal con­clu­sions, but they “know to a cer­tainty” that a “ma­jor con­voy,” which in­cluded tanks and ar­til­lery, crossed from Rus­sia in­to the hands of sep­ar­at­ists with­in the last month.

“At the mo­ment of the shoot­down, we de­tec­ted a launch from that area” con­trolled by sep­ar­at­ists, Kerry said on CNN. He told Fox News that “we have voices we have over­heard of sep­ar­at­ists in Rus­si­an brag­ging about the shoot­down and then sub­sequently tak­ing down on so­cial me­dia.”

Kerry sug­ges­ted on CBS that “there’s an enorm­ous amount of evid­ence … that points to  the in­volve­ment of Rus­sia” in giv­ing pro-Rus­sia sep­ar­at­ists in Ukraine the kinds of weapons that shot down the Malay­si­an Air­lines flight and the train­ing to use them.

The case could get stronger be­fore long. “The in­vest­ig­a­tion is go­ing to draw con­clu­sions that are quote, ‘defin­it­ive,’ ” Kerry said on CBS’ Face the Na­tion. “What we have is a lot of evid­ence that points in the dir­ec­tion that raises very, very ser­i­ous ques­tions.”

So with evid­ence pil­ing up, what does the U.S. in­tend to do? “The pres­id­ent is pre­pared to take ad­di­tion­al steps, and we are dis­cuss­ing with the Ukrain­i­ans right now what they need, what else we can do, and I don’t think any­thing ex­cept Amer­ic­an troops go­ing there, oth­er things are on the table,” Kerry told Fox News. “I don’t think any­body in Amer­ica is talk­ing about put­ting troops in there, nobody is talk­ing about mil­it­ary,” he said on CNN. Kerry sug­ges­ted on mul­tiple shows that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion still has pos­sible ad­di­tion­al sanc­tions at its dis­pos­al.

“We’re in con­ver­sa­tion now with our European coun­ter­parts,” Kerry told CBS’s Bob Schief­fer. “We hope this is a wake-up call for some coun­tries in Europe that have been re­luct­ant to move.”

Kerry’s not the only one mak­ing the rounds Sunday and hit­ting hard against Rus­sia. Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­wo­man Di­anne Fein­stein told CNN that she be­lieves the U.S.-Rus­sia re­la­tion­ship is now at cold war levels.

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