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After months of failed policy from the West, it is clear that economic sanctions and international condemnation alone are not enough to force Vladimir Putin to abandon his support of Ukrainian “separatists”. Such measures matter little to Putin in comparison to the ideological, geopolitical, and domestic political imperatives that push him to pursue a total victory in Ukraine. Unless the West can convince Putin that a belligerent policy towards Russia’s near abroad is not worth pursuing—by drastically increasing the domestic rather than international cost of his aggression—Moscow’s actions in Ukraine are likely to serve as a precedent for future confrontations with the West in the region.

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After 10 days of absence from the public spotlight, Vladimir Putin finally reappeared in an interview on Russian television, referring to the rumors that his health had worsened as “gossip.” In addition to the recent decline in oil prices, however – representing a major source of Russia’s revenue – the incident may be another reflection of the instability currently facing Russia and its top leader.

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For over 10 days, Russian President Vladimir Putin has not been seen in public, causing widespread speculation as to where he is. Moreover, his lack of a current media presence also serves as a reminder of the Cold War, when leaders of the Soviet Union would occasionally disappear in much similar ways.

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AEI Director of Russian Studies Leon Aron explains what Putin is seeking to achieve in Ukraine and the logic behind his aggressive policies.

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A little over six years ago, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton initiated a reset with Russia. But looking at recent developments, such as the continuing fighting in Ukraine and threat of additional sanctions, it seems that the situation has not improved much since then.

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A poster of Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead on Feb. 27, 2015, is seen during a march to commemorate him near St. Basil's Cathedral in central Moscow March 1, 2015. The poster reads, "Heroes don't die."

As a martyr and a symbol, in his death Boris Nemtsov will continue to be the same unbowed, unflinching presence and testament to liberty as he was in life.

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Although no historical parallel is ever precise, the West’s abandonment of the Spanish Republic in 1936 suggests some lessons for Ukraine today.

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President Barack Obama speaks during a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel following their meeting at the White House in Washington February 9, 2015.  Reuters

If President Obama finally does decide to send antitank weapons and other hardware the Ukrainians have pleaded for, it will be only the latest example of the administration’s too-little-too-late temporizing.

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Image Credit: Mykhaylo Palinchak / Shutterstock.com

The ceasefire agreement reached this week in Minsk might as well be titled “Ukraine’s Articles of Surrender.”

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Leon Aron New image

As the only one making important decisions in Russia today, does Putin not care about the sanctions? He is not and he does. His is a multiphased, well-calibrated endgame to destabilize Ukraine and to weaken the sanctions at the same time.

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With NATO’s shrinking military capabilities and the reduced US military presence in Europe, the alliance’s attempts to deter Russia from destabilizing NATO’s eastern front have been less than impressive.

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