​Malaysia Air Flight 17: What if Russia is directly involved?

A woman lays flowers near a sign reading "Putin kills children" in front of the Dutch Embassy in Kiev, July 18, 2014.


On the "CBS Evening News" the other night, I was making the point that there was so much turmoil in so many places, that you could make the argument the world was more unstable today than it had been at the height of the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

The next day, the airliner was shot down.

Someone asked me if I could remember a time when the country faced so many complex problems at once. Well, of course I can. The good news -- if there is any these days -- is that the country has survived many crises.

The United States of America is a tough old bird.

Still, that hardly lessens the danger of these days: the shooting down of an airliner; the kidnapping of innocents that has set Israel aflame; the fragmenting of Iraq, which has received almost no attention this week -- events in each of these places are events that could trigger wider wars.

Overnight, we found out more about the downing of that airliner. But the question now is, what should the United States do if we find the Russians are directly responsible?

First, we must not draw red lines we are unable, or unwilling, to enforce.

But we must convey to the Russian leader -- in public and private, in ways he can understand -- that such behavior endangers our national interests and security, and cannot be tolerated, and what penalty he can expect if it continues.

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    Bob Schieffer is a CBS News political contributor and former anchor of "Face The Nation," which he moderated for 24 years before retiring in 2015.