Self-help is the best help. Having realized that no Typhoon jet is waiting to be spotted on its horizon, Ukraine has thrown down the gauntlet and announced that it is beginning its “anti-terrorist” operation in the Donetsk region. For the past 10 days, Ukraine has been watching a repeat of a sequence that happened in Crimea recently. Heavily armed men in military fatigues took over government buildings in Donetsk, and they were soon joined by pro-Russia locals who raised the banner of revolt against Ukraine. The demand for a referendum to decide on secession from Ukraine quickly followed. Instead of standing by while Russia gobbled up another part of its territory, Ukraine has decided to put up a fight, no matter how feeble. Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, has said that his government will not spare “terrorists” for inciting violence, but he has also qualified the statement by insisting that the operation will be responsible and cautious. The attempt is to reach out to the people of the region who have also been promised a referendum on May 25, but one to decide what kind of Ukraine they would want to live in. Clearly, the effort is to offset the advantage Russia could have in the event of a violent government operation that would give Russia the excuse to play saviour, as in the case of Crimea. At the same time, it is Ukraine’s attempt to somehow assuage the feelings of the people of a region that holds as much as 10 per cent of the country’s population and is heavily industrialized. The transitional government surely realizes the folly of banning Russian as second language of the country immediately after taking over — a step that fed into the grouse and misgivings of the restive Russian-speaking population in the east and south.
The people of the Donetsk region will, however, be convinced of Ukraine’s good intentions only when Russia ceases to play upon their sensitivities. That task is more easily said than done, as the United States of America would have realized. With the European Union unwilling to impose more sanctions against Russia, and the US reluctant to get stuck in another military operation, Ukraine now has to depend entirely on the West’s diplomatic talents to stave off Russia. A four-power meet has been scheduled for April 17, perhaps the first of many more to come. But given how talks have helped Syria, Ukraine should go back to trusting its own instincts and abilities.