MH17: A new world war may not be so far-fetched

NOT since the end of the Cold War in 1985 has the world sat and waited, sweating on the potential for reaction between two world powers.

The shooting down of MH17 near the Ukraine-Russian border has heightened diplomatic sensitivities, and the world spotlight is trained on Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama.

The hand either will play is anyone's guess so far. But world political analysts reckon this is a chess move which is almost impossible to predict.

University of Queensland international relations senior lecturer Dr Matt McDonald said a lot of how this would play out came down to basically two things: How Putin wanted to re-assert Russia's relevance in a post Cold War world and the degree to which he would pressure separatist rebels (Pro-Russia, who have a strong hold on the territory where the plane crashed) to do what the rest of the world considered to be the right - such as allowing full access to the wreckage.

"This is, one of the most serious east-west confrontations since the end of the Cold War," Dr McDonald said.

"It is incredibly difficult to ascertain how this could develop. But there is clearly a danger of it escalating."

Social media has been abuzz with musings and concerns about the involvement of the Rebels and the Ukrainian military.

At the same time, more was being made of the almost immediate apportioning of blame by those on either side of the eastern Ukrainian conflict.

"The separatist rebels would be very concerned they risked losing Russian support, if they were seen to be responsible for this," Mr McDonald said.

"Any loss of support from Russia could mean they lose their strong position; it's not that long ago the Ukrainian Military were in a strong position and there is a risk that could be regained."

It's because of this, that Putin's decision, and just how much support of the rebels he maintains or pulls back, will be carefully watched at a world level.

So while social media banter might be throwing around the idea of a dawn of a third world war like a world political footy, it might not be as far fetched a concept as we might think (or hope).

"There is a very troubling dimension to this," Dr McDonald said.

"Simply (based upon) the scale of political might and the involvement of two world powers.''

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