Ukraine, a Russian country on the Russian border with the Russian Navy stationed at Sevastopol, contains Russia's main pipeline furnishing natural gas to Europe.

Ukraine has furnished military supplies to Russia and has had strong economic ties to Russia.

Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania joined NATO, and Ukraine became the only country between NATO and Russia.

The United States was determined to have Ukraine join NATO. Our first step was to break the economic ties between Ukraine and Russia by having Ukraine join the European Union.

The United States dispatched 49 entities of the National Endowment for Democracy to stir dissension while calling it "spreading democracy."

NED is not a private endowment. It is funded by Congress. Many times NED has gotten the U.S. in trouble, and some senators have been trying to get rid of NED for years.

Necessarily, President Putin moved to protect Russia's interest. He joined the contest by having Ukraine join the Russian Federation. When Putin offered Ukraine a $15 billion economic package, the president of Ukraine opted for Russia - which promptly caused his overthrow, even though he had been been democratically elected by a million-vote margin.

No doubt NED minions were involved.

Crimea joined Russia, and pro-Russian Ukrainians in East Ukraine, hoping to join Russia, rebelled. When the newly elected government in Kiev started bombing cities in East Ukraine, Putin furnished missiles, and as Secretary of State Kerry said, (CNN, July 20) militants "knocked down 12 planes in the last month or so."

East Ukraine is a war zone. British Airways and Qantas have been flying hundreds of miles around East Ukraine (The Wall Street Journal, July 20) to avoid a war zone.

Malaysian Flight 17 should have known from its government or airline that the downing of planes was occurring and that East Ukraine, a war zone, should be avoided.

As The Wall Street Journal headlined (July 24): "Wrong Place, Wrong Time: Flight 17 Flew Into War Zone."

Flying into a war zone was the first mistake.

In a war zone that you are defending, if your side is not flying, you better knock down anything flying before it spots or strafes or bombs you.

No doubt militants in East Ukraine shot down Flight 17. They bragged about it and, learning their mistake, tried to cover it up. Downing Flight 17 was the second mistake.

Now we keep investigating what we already know - the downing of Flight 17 was caused by two mistakes.

We try to cover up our culpability. If Putin had traveled thousands of miles to the U.S. border to have Canada or Mexico leave NAFTA and join the Russian Federation, we would be jumping all over President Obama to have him protect U.S. interests.

When Putin moves to protect Russia's interests, we engage in a broad cover-up.

We try to place the blame, shouting: "Russian missiles! Russian trainers!" when we have U.S. missiles and U.S. trainers deployed around the world. We deploy 200,000 GIs to countries the world around and are not responsible for what the country does.

For example, we furnish Israel weapons but we are not responsible for Israel going into Gaza. We don't mention going thousands of miles to a Russian country on Russia's border.

We don't mention NATO.

We don't mention 49 entities of NED stirring dissension for years.

We don't mention the overthrow of a democratically elected government. We don't mention a war zone.

We just demonize Putin to cover up the fact that we started the fight.

Ernest F. Hollings, a Democrat, served as governor of South Carolina from 1959-63 and in the U.S. Senate from 1966-2005.