As Ukraine burned again last weekend, Western leaders stubbornly stuck to their chosen path: No appeasement and no military action, just more economic sanctions against Russia. It's a sure-fire way to get more Ukrainians killed.

Even as U.S. President Barack Obama claimed in his State of the Union speech on Jan. 20 that Russia was "isolated," with "its economy in tatters," pro-Russian separatists — and probably some regular Russian units — pushed Ukrainian troops out of the ruined Donetsk airport after 200 days of what had been held up as a brave Ukrainian resistance. They then moved to encircle Ukrainian soldiers near Debaltseve and, last weekend, shelled the port city of Mariupol, killing 30 civilians.

To understand why the separatists and their Russian allies decided to end almost four months of relative passivity, it's helpful to try to imagine the situation from Russian President Vladimir Putin's point of view.