Given that MH17 was report­edly flying at 33,000 feet when it was shot down, such an attack would indeed rep­re­sent a major feat for a non­state actor. There are his­tor­ical prece­dents for civilian air­craft being shot down by mis­siles, but one reason it’s a rel­a­tively rare occur­rence is that the nec­es­sary capa­bil­i­ties tend to be under the con­trol of gov­ern­ments. “There aren’t that many insur­gent groups that have that kind of a capa­bility,” says Max Abrahms, a ter­rorism spe­cialist and pro­fessor of polit­ical sci­ence at North­eastern University.

But in this case, it actu­ally makes sense” that an insur­gent group shot down the plane, he says. States may as a gen­eral rule have better weapons than insur­gent groups, but “really that power asym­metry goes out the window when the non­state actor has strong backing from a gov­ern­ment. Par­tic­u­larly from a gov­ern­ment as weaponized as Russia.”

Read the article at The Atlantic →