By Brian Whitmore
February 09, 2016
As the shaky Minsk cease-fire agreement nears its first anniversary, Russia clearly smells blood in Ukraine.
Pro-Moscow separatists have increased their attacks in Donbas in recent weeks. Kyiv officials are reporting 71 attacks a day in the vicinity of Donetsk, Horlivka, and Mariupol.
Yesterday, Vladimir Putin ordered snap military drills involving ground troops and airborne forces near the Ukrainian borders.
And according to a report in Novaya Gazeta, separatists in eastern Ukraine are threatening to execute prisoners of war.
Meanwhile, a government crisis in Kyiv has paralyzed decision making and the military is struggling to find replacements for 40,000 soldiers who will be decommissioned in March.
And to top is all off, Western resolve to continue supporting Ukraine is clearly fading.
Denmark's Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen told Reuters last week that it would be difficult for Europe to maintain unity on extending sanctions against Russia if Ukraine doesn't step up reforms.
This, of course, all plays right into Putin's hands.
Putin's strategy in Ukraine has long been to keep the conflict simmering, wait for political dysfunction to set in in Kyiv, and hope for the onset of Ukraine fatigue in the West.
The Kremlin leader has been ruthless. He's been duplicitous. And he's been patient.
And it appears that his strategy is finally working.