Slovyansk has fallen to the armed forces of the Kiev government. Were the state of Ukraine to be on an island in the North Atlantic, or the South Pacific, the natural thing to do would be for the newly-elected head of government, Petro Poroshenko, to order the army forward right to the edge of Ukrainian territory, wiping out the last of the remaining troops of the two breakaway districts, Donetsk and Lughansk.
Since, however, Ukraine is in fact right next to a large, well-armed Russian Republic, it would be very, very provocative, probably productive of a wider war, were he to do that which would be natural in isolation. Russian President Vladimir Putin is in a position to prolong indefinitely a cross-border guerrilla war. He could if he chose send in units of “volunteers,” as happened during the Mexican Revolution when in 1911 U.S. citizens went south to help against the dictator Porfirio Diaz.
Poroshenko ought rather at this point to renew the cease-fire he negotiated with Putin a week or two ago. Nothing would be more effective in generating the degree of trust that the Kiev government needs at this point to win the co-operation of the Russian government in arranging a negotiated end to the civil disorder. Ukraine has to address the distrust arising from the Odessa Massacre.
The United States, Germany, France, and the European Union ought to advise Poroshenko to extend an olive branch to the ethnic Russian population of the Eastern Ukraine. Just as Diaz once opined, “Poor Mexico! So far from God, so near to the United States,” so Ukraine must cope with the nearness of Russia. The best way to enlist Putin’s co-operation is to refrain from crushing the rebellion of ethnic Russians while it appears, superficially, the Kiev government has that within its power.
In fact, in real life, it does not. Choosing not to attempt it is simply the sensible option at this point.
Update 6 July 9 pm: Unfortunately, the Kiev government is doing the opposite.
However, senior Ukrainian security official Mykhaylo Koval said Luhansk and Donetsk would now be besieged until separatist forces there surrendered.
“There is a clear strategic plan, which has been approved. These cities will be completely blockaded,” he said.
“These measures will result in the separatists – let us call them bandits – being forced to lay down arms.”
Update 12 July pm: It gets worse