With all the blizzards and gunmen in Paris, it seems we all sort of forgot about what's still happening in the Ukraine.
Yeah, remember that whole thing where soldiers who look Russian, speak Russian, use Russian gear and weapons, yet Moscow says are not Russian, were terrorizing Ukraine's east and taking over airports? That's still happening.
Sure, there was a cease fire. Both sides accused the other of violating it for months, until eventually the fighting just resumed. Over the weekend, Russian leader Vladimir Putin met with Germany's Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande of France to talk about brokering a peace deal between Ukraine and the Russian-backed rebels.
That conversation doesn't look promising, but more concerning is the language Hollande used when speaking to the press. He said that if the talks did not produce anything concrete, then war seems inevitable.
Hollande also indicated that part of the discussion was about a potential ceasefire deal where Russia would stop supporting rebels in exchange for "greater autonomy" for eastern areas of Ukraine. That's where things get a little World War II-ish.
Most probably don't remember since they, more than likely, were not alive at the time, but in the late 1930s British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain took a similar policy to Adolf Hitler. He was part of the Munich Agreement that handed Germany eastern parts of Czechoslovakia in exchange for not starting a war. Those annexed areas also contained organized groups of people who identified themselves as German.
Needless to say, that plan didn't quite play out as expected. It's like when I take my dog, Cooper, out for a walk and he sees a squirrel that he's convinced he can catch. When I stop, he knows he can go no further and stops pulling; however, if I let the leash up just a little bit, he moves closer no matter how often I tell him to stay.
Putin has been at the end of his leash for a while now, and it started with the annexation of Crimea. There were protests around the globe, coupled with sanctions that have damaged the Russian economy, but he's still pulling.
Unlike the World War II buildup, Putin hasn't expressed any clear desire to go on a pan-European military tour like Nazi Germany did. He has gained support of the Russian public by promising to restore the country to Soviet Union-era glory. While this sounds like a desire to take back all the former territories, it doesn't necessarily mean the same thing.
But offering even parts of old Soviet land in exchange for peace is not the way to solve this crisis. Remember, this all began because the Ukraine wanted to enter the Western European sphere of influence, and Putin didn't like that at all. He wants Russia to control Eastern Europe economically, and if not, then possibly by other means.
He'll do what it takes to achieve this goal and go as far as the world will let him. War can be avoided, but not by giving Putin more room to move. The leash must stay tight.