After more than two years of war in eastern Ukraine, we continue to pretend; we continue to play make believe.

We continue to pretend that what is happening in the Donbas is a civil war, when in fact it is the result of a Russian invasion.

We continue to pretend that Russia is a mediator in the conflict when it is in fact the aggressor.

And we continue to pretend that it is the responsibility of both sides to de-escalate the fighting, when only one side is escalating.

We continue to pretend that the Minsk ceasefire deal — which Ukraine signed practically with a gun to its head — is anything but dead in the water.

The pretending was on full display this past weekend when German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called on Russia and Ukraine to observe the Minsk agreement.

And the pretending will be on display next week in China when Vladimir Putin meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande — but without Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko – to discuss the conflict.

Now the problem here isn’t that everybody is delusional.

In fact, everybody knows exactly what is happening here.

But the problem is one of geopolitical blackmail.

Russia is clearly intent on keeping this conflict simmering until it gets what it wants — a pliant and obedient Ukraine that is essentially Moscow’s client state.

And it uses periodic threats of escalation to get the West to play along.

And so everybody pretends. And in pretending, everybody plays the Kremlin’s game.

By Brian Whitmore, RFE/RL