Donetsk, Ukraine: Who Gets What, When and How?

Pro-West vs. Pro-Russia Ukraine

In April 2014, the city of Donetsk, Ukraine declared itself the Donetsk People’s Republic- an independent state. The referendum for their independence passed on May 11th, although it was not recognized by Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, or the West. Within Ukraine, there has been debate since 1991 over whether they should be stronger allies with the West or stronger allies with Russia. Those in support of Donetsk independence are enraged by the fact that the current Ukrainian government has become such strong allies with the West. They want to resort back to being more closely allied to Russia. (BBC News) Every Ukrainian has varying opinions, wants something different for their country. Some people want to remain a cohesive nation and ally with the West, some want to remain a cohesive nation and ally with Russia, while some areas in the eastern part of Ukraine want to break apart completely and become a part of Russia. So this leads to the question that Harold Lasswell has defined as the essence of politics:  Who gets what they want, when will they get it and how will they go about getting it?

Protest in Donetsk, Ukraine

In many situations, the answer to this question is simple: “The strong do as they please, and the weak suffer as they must.” The stronger state, person or group will get what they want, when they want it, without much trouble because the weaker states know that they do not stand a chance, and there is no reason for them to waste their time, energy and resources for a lost cause.

However, the real issue comes about when it is unclear which side has the upper hand, which side is the strongest. It is at this point when the bargaining process becomes more difficult. States need to negotiate, debate, sacrifice, fight and attack in order to gain the upper hand. They must weigh their costs and benefits, their strengths and weaknesses and decide how to go about getting what they want and how to prove that they are stronger than their opponent.

The people of Donetsk want the right to decide who can control them, the right to be autonomous. The Ukrainian government wants to remain a cohesive unit. They fear losing Donetsk because this increases the possibility of losing power and control over the country. There is no compromise that will please both parties. One side has to win and one side has to lose. Therefore, in order to decide who gets what they want, they need to resort to bargaining. Neither the current Ukrainian government nor the Pro-Russian rebels are willing to make concessions because they both believe that they are stronger. Although one side must be stronger, this is hard to determine since they do not have all of the information regarding their opponent’s resources, willingness to fight and strength. They resort to violence and protest in order to prove their dominance and to discover which party is the strongest. They believe that the benefits they would receive from winning the war are greater than the sacrifices and losses they would experience during the war.

The fighting is still occurring in the region today. In order to end the fighting and come to an agreement, the information issues need to be resolved and the stronger side needs to be made known. Until then, both the Pro-Western Ukrainian government and the Pro-Russian rebels will need to keep balancing their options and decide what is best for their respective sides. It could be days, it could be months, it could be years until this issue is resolved. The question of who gets what, when and how is still an unsolved mystery in Ukraine.