Russia's escalation of hostilities in Ukraine this week, just as a cease-fire in Syria was kicking in, was as cynical as it was predictable.
We've seen this movie before, after all -- albeit in reverse.
When Russia intervened in Syria's civil war back in September, it was accompanied by a de-escalation in Donbas.
Moscow's bait-and-switch tactics illustrate that Ukraine and Syria are two fronts in one war Vladimir Putin's regime is waging on the West and on the rules-based post-Cold War international order.
Putin wants a world where might makes right; One divided into spheres of influence in which great powers decide the fates of small nations.
And he wants to make the world safe for dictators -- whether they be Ukraine's Viktor Yanukovych or Syria's Bashar al-Assad.
As Kadri Liik of the European Council on Foreign Relations wrote recently, "he wants to win his ideological debate with the West, by showing that democratic regime change and humanitarian interventions sow chaos."
In Ukraine, he is trying to demonstrate his mastery over the former Soviet space. And in Syria he is trying to lay claim to the mantle of world power.
And any de-escalation on one of these fronts, will invariably be accompanied by an escalation on the other.
Putin is at war with the West, and he is not going to stop until he gets what he wants -- or until he is defeated.
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