Confused by Ukraine?

You're not alone.

This nasty little war in less than half a year of real fighting has cost more lives than the entire Northern Ireland conflict in three decades.

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Those deadly facts are clear enough - as are the horrific pictures of civilians cowering from shelling in basements.

The basics, of course, we know. This is a struggle between Kremlin-backed eastern "separatists" (perhaps irredentists would be a better word?) and a new government in the capital Kiev which looks more to the west than the east.

But let's not pretend many of us can get their heads around exactly what is going on. Or what needs to happen to end this conflict.

After all, this dispute - the first on our continent in the new era of war by social media and internet propaganda - is as complex as it is brutal.

But do Western powers really have a clear picture of the region?

Maybe military planners in Whitehall or the Pentagon have an idea of the facts on the ground. Maybe. They have spy satellites, of course. And, well, spies.

But just how good is their intel? Do we know what the endgame is for the small town strongmen running self-proclaimed entities like the Donetsk People's Republic? Do we know if these people even have an endgame?

Do we know how far Vladimir Putin is prepared to go on this?

Even as the rouble crumbles, Russia's economy is still Europe's second biggest in real terms, bigger than Britain or France's.

So a lot of people could lose a lot of money - in the west and the east - if Russia is excluded from the global economy.

So how much is the Kremlin willing to stake on its ragtag allies in, say, Donetsk?

Ben Hodges is probably the kind of guy who should have some of the answers to questions like this. He's the American general in charge of US forces in Europe. He is also, he says, following events in Ukraine closely.

This weekend he gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal, after fighting flared up once again in the Donetsk region's port of Mariupol.

"What is happening in the eastern Ukraine is very serious," he told the paper. "When they fired in to Mariupol, that got my attention. Mariupol is an important place, city of 500,000 on the Black Sea."

I am not going to argue with a Nato general about the strategic importance of ports. But Mr Hodge's words really surprised me. Because Mariupol isn't on the Black Sea. It's on the Sea of Azov. In fact, it's about 130 miles away from the narrow straits where the Black Sea begins.

Think this is nitpicking? Then try getting a navy from the Black Sea in to the Sea of Azov.

So you're still confused by Ukraine? That's OK. Me too. But after the catastrophic intel failures over Syria and Iraq, careless analysis that muddles one sea with another should terrify us all.