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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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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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NATO

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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With Ukraine’s economy on the brink of economic collapse, the IMF is readying itself for yet another outsize loan. But rather than the IMF risking its credibility, Western allies should provide Ukraine with financial support.

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The existing sanctions are useful for causing “galloping inflation” in the country’s everyday economy and “gradually” raising political pressure on Putin. But they are not enough. The idea is to make the fighting in Ukraine unbearable at home because Putin is afraid that this conflict becomes a domestic political issue.”

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The only thing that could get Putin out of Ukraine quickly is the Ukrainian army beginning to push back and eventually recovering the territory.

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Nato has accused Russia of “sharply” escalating the crisis in Ukraine in recent days by sending even more of its own troops into the country. The United States and the European Union are considering new sanctions against Russia.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a forum dedicated to the civil society in Moscow, January 15, 2015. REUTERS/Alexei Nikolsky/RIA Novosti/Kremlin

The renewal of fighting in Eastern Ukraine should come as no surprise. The U.S. and Western Europe should expect even more extensive Russia-directed attacks.

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