No, Vladimir Putin doesn't want a peace deal – though he'll happily sign one. No, he won't respect international borders – though he's always ready to promise to. No, he doesn't want to admit his troops have invaded Ukraine – though his entire propaganda machine has for months been seeking to convince his own citizens that he should, because Ukraine is ostensibly run by neo-Nazis. No, he isn't done lying. No, he can't be trusted. And no – he isn't going to stop.
This weekend, the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, the regions of Eastern Ukraine that are by force being pulled into the orbit of Moscow, held a vote. It was held at gunpoint, without a voters list or international monitors; amazingly, the candidates at war with the recognized government of Ukraine won. Mr. Putin's Russia said it would "respect" the results. This despite the fact that the ceasefire agreed in September by Russia promised the separatists would hold no vote except one in December to reintegrate them into Ukraine – not take them out of it.
It looks like a slow-motion replay of what happened in Crimea. It's the same script of covert soldiers and sham elections, only this time carried out with far more violence. The invasion dressed up as a civil war has claimed more than 4,000 lives so far.
The West has made it clear that it won't be directly going to war with Moscow over Ukraine. That's not an unreasonable position; nobody wants a nuclear-armed World War III. But the West should be doing more to support Ukraine militarily and economically. We don't want to fight; the Ukrainians have no other choice.
And above all, NATO has to be ready for a future in which Mr. Putin may one day use the same technique to carve off territory from other neighbouring states. NATO forces that during the Cold War stood ready on the former front line, in West Germany? They should in future be based in Romania, Poland and the Baltic States. These countries have known prosperity, peace and democracy since the fall of Mr. Putin's beloved Soviet Union. They don't deserve to suffer Ukraine's fate.