If a missile launched by Russia or Russian-backed separatists brought down Malaysian Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine, it would have "profound repercussions," Sen. John McCain told CNN's "Wolf."
McCain stressed that "we really don't know" what caused the flight carrying 295 passengers and crew to fall from the sky as it flew 33,000 feet over Ukraine near the Russian border.
The plane was on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, when it crashed on Thursday.
"If it was a missile that was launched, either by Russia or the separatists, which, in my view, are indivisible, this would have the most profound repercussions," the Arizona Republican said Thursday.
"If it is the case, then we're going to have to act, and act in the most stringent fashions, including real sanctions — including giving the Ukrainians the ability to defend themselves, which we have not done so far," he added.
If a missile hit the jetliner, McCain said it would have to have been a "very sophisticated weapons system." He said Ukrainians could not have launched such a weapon because they "do not have that capability."
McCain said pro-Russian separatists had shot down several aircraft in "the last few weeks," one at 21,000 feet. However, he said it was "impossible to assume" Russian President Vladimir Putin would think this would have anything but "the most negative effects."
"It would open the gates for our assisting, finally, the Ukrainians, giving them some defensive weapons. The sanctions that would be imposed as a result of that — that would just be the beginning," McCain said.
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