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The Vicious Art of Swapping Words for Deeds, or Who Will Hold Mr. Putin Accountable?

Ismail Akin Bostanci via Getty Images

While some celebrate the cooling of Kremlin's incriminating rhetoric towards Ukraine, the bloodshed in Donbas continues. Pundits are fooled, willingly or not, by the smoke and mirrors, such as Russian Duma revoking the use of force authorization law, as they forget to focus on the hard evidence. The cognitive dissonance of the Kremlin's deeds vs. proclamation is deafening. What good is the de-authorization of the military intervention, when mercenaries organized and paid by the Kremlin are the key fighting force in Eastern Ukraine? When endless supplies of sophisticated weaponry is floating through the border and is later used to shut down planes? What difference does it make that the words "junta" or "fascist regime" are used less frequently in the Kremlin's propaganda, but the death toll is rising as a direct consequence of Putin's actions, notwithstanding plausible deniability.

Drawing conclusions from the rhetoric and neglecting to reconcile them with reality on the ground, some in the Western media are treading murky waters of connivance.

As much as I wish for the Kremlin to reverse its course of aggression, it is clearly not the case. Nothing whatsoever has changed in terms of Russia's belligerence even as we seek solace in the slight toning down on the rhetoric. It is of course easier and oftentimes more convenience to "be seduced" by Mr. Putin's words, since it offers a great excuse to the leaders of the Free World for continued inaction. Kicking the can down the road, however, does not solve the problem; if anything it makes it worse.

NATO's Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that Russia is playing a "double game" -- funding and arming separatists and simultaneously demanding restrain from the government of Ukraine. "There's no doubt that Russia is heavily engaged in destabilizing eastern Ukraine, and they continue their activities," said Mr. Rasmussen in an interview with the New York Times. The "hybrid war" combines military action, covert operations, and an active program of misinformation to weaken Ukraine and leave the eastern part of the country under Russian influence.

Evaluating the recent proposal by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel to hold talks with separatists through the prism of objective reality, rather than Putin's narrative, reveals the absurdity of it. Fray Merkel has since clarified her statement and is now supporting the three-party talks, which is a step in the right direction. The situation, however, is emblematic of how the Western leaders are often focused on what Putin says rather than what he does.

If we were dealing with a political force that was raising legitimate concerns on behalf of the particular demographic, or even a genuine separatist movement with an articulated agenda, we would have already settled the dispute through dialogue many times over. In reality, however, the leaders of the "separatist movement" are all Russian nationals, the tanks and rocket launchers are all supplied by Russia, and it is clear that their agenda is to undermine the government and destabilize Ukraine. Those terrorists are looting local businesses, abducting citizens, using dirty tactics of torture, placing snipers in the residential areas, and inflicting civilian casualties to then blame Ukrainian forces. The popular support in the local population, if there was any, is vanishing before our eyes. The Kremlin proxies -- whether we call them separatists, rebels, or terrorists -- are executing Putin's orders, and negotiating with them is as useful as appealing to a gun bullet, rather than dealing with the person who fired the shot.

The conflict in Eastern Ukraine has reached the stage where words are no longer important, because the actions speak for themselves. We witnessed Kremlin's duplicity in Crimea where Putin has denied the most blatant of facts -- presence of the Russian troops there -- until he took his words back patronizing and mocking everyone who found it convenient to buy into his rhetoric and ignore the facts. We can't afford to fall into the same trap again, and we have to screen the lies out and watch the Kremlin's actions!

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