ANALYSIS – Vladimir Putin is reported to have remarked that it must be tough to lose to men that were once farmers and miners as Ukraine’s troops pull out of Debaltseve. But that tells you everything about the nature of the enemy that opposed Kiev’s European leaning government and how hard they were prepared to fight for territory that is going to become ‘New Russia’. Europe and Nato never really understood what Crimea and the Russian speaking lands of Ukraine meant to the regime in Moscow. On a practical level, every modern nation needs an airport and transport links to function – that’s why Donetsk airport is in ruins and Debaltseve would have been flattened, much like Grozny, had President Petro Poroshenko not pulled back his men. And on a higher more historical level, for Putin and the men backing him, Russia’s history is an ongoing phenomenon stretching back more than six hundred years – it was built on the conquests of Vikings and has continued to this day through Chechnya, Georgia and now Ukraine. That’s why today’s appeal to the Russian backed rebels to pull back from all of Ukraine’s sovereign land – including Crimea – and to honour the second broken truce will fall on deaf ears. For Europe, in Moscow’s eyes, is weak and unable to stand up for itself without Washington – that was the perception formed during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s when American bombing saved Nato from the kind of defeat it has suffered today in east Ukraine. And as for Washington who has played the role of outside superpower its diplomacy has completely failed to convince Russia to alter course and as a consequence it has learned much like the European powers did in the Crimean war of the 1855 that there are limits to what it can achieve – even if it is a superpower that is currently planning a three-year war against ISIS that recognises no geographical limits.