It’s hugely embarrassing that a leading NATO member believes that a US-provided missile system was used by Ukraine to shoot down a Russian plane full of its own POWs, which raises tough questions that both would prefer not to answer.
The Associated Press reported on Friday that France concluded that a US Patriot missile downed the Russian IL-76 plane last month that was carrying over five dozen Ukrainian POWs at the time. Their source also added that this American-provided system surreptitiously crept close to the border in the run-up to the attack and then only turned its radar on “just long enough to hit them.” This aligns with Russia’s official findings and can be interpreted as independent confirmation of the former’s veracity.
It’s already astounding enough that fellow NATO member France would undercut the bloc’s American leader like that, but it’s even more surprising because this happened in the aftermath of Russia dealing a powerful blow to France’s prestige in Ukraine by killing dozens of its mercenaries there. Paris therefore wasn’t expected to do Moscow a soft power favor by backing its claims about this attack, even if only indirectly via the Associated Press and national media prior to that, which leads to questions of its intent.
RT reported that a French missile was initially thought to have been responsible for what happened even though that theory has since been dispelled, but it might have been these suspicions that prompted Paris to thoroughly investigate the matter and leak its findings to the press to protect its reputation. After all, the country had yet to fully recover from the aforementioned blow that Russia dealt to its prestige, so policymakers probably didn’t want another one to follow so soon thereafter.
With this in mind, it therefore appears as though France prioritized its soft power interests over those of its American ally by wagering that it’s better to throw the latter under the bus in order to protect its own reputation than to suffer a second blow to its prestige, let alone for something that it didn’t even do. It’ll now be much more difficult for Ukraine, the US, and the Western media to pin the blame on Russia like Kiev has ridiculously sought to do, which reshapes the narrative dynamics of this attack.
Up until now, the conspiracy theory that Russia shot down its own plane for whatever reason – whether due to incompetence or some false flag scheme – was still lent false credence by the press since it hadn’t been challenged by anyone that the West deems credible. That just changed though after what that French source just told the Associated Press, thus putting more pressure on Kiev to admit its culpability, which could take the form of Zelensky pinning the blame on Zaluzhny as the pretext for firing him.
Regardless of whatever happens on that front, the importance of France informally confirming Russia’s official findings about this attack is that it deals a powerful blow to American and Ukrainian prestige similar in spirit to what Russia just dealt France, albeit in a different way. It’s hugely embarrassing that a leading NATO member believes that a US-provided missile system was used by Ukraine to shoot down a Russian plane full of its own POWs, which raises tough questions that both would prefer not to answer.