MOSCOW -- Will Syria become a second Afghanistan for Russia? Is it wise for Russia to intervene in that conflict? Rumors are circulating that Moscow is planning a face-saving maneuver whereby it gradually "hands over" the Donbass in fulfillment of the Minsk agreement while aiding the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition in Syria to get back on good terms with the West. The plan sounds good in theory, but it looks unfeasible in practice.
Whether this ceasefire or some future one proves durable, Ukraine must eventually make some very difficult decisions concerning its future. Above all, it must figure out a way of exiting the steel trap that has clamped down on its nether regions. The Crimean peninsula has already been sliced off. Should Ukraine sever another one of its own limbs in order to survive?
Jolted back to life by the screeching of iron, I quickly sat up in my bunk and glanced through the foggy window of my Soviet-era train at an ever-slowing blur of Cyrillic letters. In mere moments I would finally step into the mysterious capital of Belarus, the notorious "last dictatorship in Europe."