Republican Sen. John McCain is already saying there will be "profound repercussions" if the Malaysian passenger airliner that crashed in Ukraine near the Russian border was shot down by Russia or Russian separatists.
The plane crashed Thursday with 280 passengers and 15 crew aboard the flight. McCain emphasized the hypothetical nature of his comments, which he made on both CNN and MSNBC Thursday.
"Thus far, we really don't know what caused it," McCain said. "But the fact is they were able to, quote, separatists, were able to shoot down an aircraft at 21,000 feet shows that there was capabilities. I do not want to leap to any conclusions because we, as you mentioned, it could be an explosion, it could be all kinds of reasons."
The Arizona senator then said if it was a missile which brought the plane down, the United States would be in a position to arm the Ukrainian government.
"But if it was a missile that took this plane down, then it has to be a very sophisticated weapons system. And the Ukrainians do not have that capability. So if it is the case, we're going to have to act and act in the most stringent fashion including real sanctions, including giving the Ukrainians the ability to defend themselves, which we have not done so far."
McCain said if there was involvement from Russia or Russian separatists then the incident would also open the door to sanctions and it be just "the beginning."
"If, if — I keep emphasizing if — it was a missile that was launched, either by Russia, or the quote separatists which in my view are indivisible it would have the most profound repercussions. It would open the the gates for us assisting...finally...giving the Ukrainians some defensive weapons, sanctions that would be imposed as a result of that. That would be the beginning."
The facts of what happened in the incident are still not known.