On 17 July 2014, Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 crashed while flying over eastern Ukraine. While the specific details of the crash remain unclear, it is believed that the commercial airliner was struck by a surface-to-air antiaircraft missile of Russian origin, presumably fired by pro-Russian separatists in the conflict-stricken area near Donetsk. While the tragedy represents a considerable escalation in violence and casualties resulting from the conflict, it also highlights the fatal effects that can stem from irresponsible arms transfers.
The Malaysian Airlines disaster also exemplifies the complexities of the international trade in conventional weapons. In today’s globalized environment, weapons are more accessible to a large number of different actors, through both legitimate and illegitimate means. Conventional arms include weapons used lawfully by national governments for national defense and security, by police, for sport and hunting activities, and even for personal security. As such, conventional arms, unlike nuclear weapons, are legitimately traded commodities on open markets.
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