As the West and Russia stubbornly push their interests in Ukraine, with both sides using jingoistic language and adopting aggressive postures, the real victims of this conflict are forgotten: Ukrainians. In any democracy, it’s the people who have the ultimate say, but in this conflict, the stakes are so high that the rivals have taken positions from which they are not ready to retreat. It’s the case of a revolution going out of the control of those who started the revolution. Ukrainians started this revolution a few months ago to assert their authority and force the pro-Russian government then to listen to the majority voice on the issue of closer relations with Europe, but what followed was an unprecedented fury from Moscow. It’s unlikely that ordinary Ukrainians expected this kind of a situation and are now silent spectators of developments taking place over their heads.
It’s unfortunate that the current crisis has divided Ukrainians. A week ago militants seized government buildings in three eastern Ukrainian cities in an escalation of the stalemate. The fact that some Ukrainians still owe allegiance to Russia is complicating the situation on the ground. More than the actions of Moscow, it’s this division in the Ukrainian society that is causing more tension.
US Secretary of State John F Kerry dubbed the seizure of government buildings “an illegal and illegitimate effort” by Russia to “create a contrived crisis with paid operatives.” Washington threatened that the United States would respond with sanctions against Russia’s mining, energy and banking sectors. But later, the Obama administration failed to take any action, other than against a few minor figures in occupied Crimea. Group of Seven finance ministers meeting in Washington on Thursday also could not agree on any measures.
Despite all the stern warnings issued by the US and other European countries, Vladimir Putin has been unfazed. He has made it abundantly clear that Moscow is not ready to sacrifice its interests over Ukraine. The sanctions announced so far by the West have failed to deter Putin from resorting to more drastic actions. This shows that the government in Kiev and its European and US allies will not find it easy to escape from the clutches of Moscow. For weeks President Obama has been saying that a military intervention in eastern Ukraine would prompt US sanctions far more consequential than the measures taken against a handful of Vladimir Putin’s cronies and one bank on March 20.
The crisis is likely to continue for some time before a solution is found. President Obama is unlikely to do anything drastic that will aggravate the situation. It will not be easy to coerce Russia, and so a wait-and-watch approach will be far more rewarding than any hasty action•