Consider this map of a possible future Ukraine, and let's take on the point of view of Putin, the Kremlin and Russia.
What would be Russia’s preferred outcome? What would they like to see three years from now?
Obviously, Russia wants to annex east and southern Ukraine, as per the map—and they will.
When they announced that residents of Kherson would be obliged to use rubles for their commerce, that’s as clear a signal as any as to their true long-term intentions: Full annexation.
The Russians will want a compliant, pacified rump-Ukraine.
Russia has historically always created pacified buffer zones between itself and the West. The rump-Ukraine will be that, and it will be led by Viktor Medvedchuk or someone like him: A clear friend of Russia’s.
Russia will actually WANT conflict in the far west of current Ukraine—Russia will *foment* conflict in Lviv Oblast.
Why? Because crazy Neo-Nazis can never be fully eliminated—they will always cause violence. So better to give them a cordoned off playpen than to fight them.
So WHEN Poland invades Lviv—*Russia will let them*.
The Lviv Oblast will be filled with extreme Ukrainian nationalists—driven out of the rest of the country by Russia—they will see the Poles as invaders too.
So the *Poles* will be stuck fighting them—not the Russians.
The EU and NATO will be forced to help their ally Poland. So the far west of Ukraine will become the new Afghanistan: A black hole destroying money, weapons, men and political careers.
Only difference is, Afghanistan was far away—Lviv Oblast is right on Europe’s front yard.
This open wound will go on for years. Lviv—beautiful Lviv!—will be wrecked, as the Poles try to hold on and pacify this shitshow.
But from Russia’s POV—this nightmare will be far away. The whole of rump-Ukraine will be between Russia and this mess.
As the Ukrainian extremists fight the Poles, they will *inevitably* use Lviv Oblast as a base for terrorist operations.
Don't be surprised if the Russians infiltrate these crazies, and guide their terrorist ops against Poland and the EU, away from Russia.
Ugly but prudent.
Convincing/directing the Ukrainian nationalists to terrorize the Poles will be easy: From Lviv, Moscow is 1,200kms away—while Warsaw is only 400. And Russia has better internal security than the EU.
So all of the EU will suffer terrorism like it hasn’t since the 1970’s
You see the shape that would be emerging?
Russia punts the problem of extreme Ukrainian nationalism—and the violence it brings—onto the Poles.
Russia set up hefty buffer zones with the rump-Ukraine—with generous economic aid, if only to keep them happy and on-side.
Then Russia pours money and attention on their newly acquired lands, thus passively convincing the inhabitants that being conquered by Russia (which is what it is) was actually a GOOD thing.
The big losers?
Poland and the European Union.
They will have a Forever War on their doorstep. The Americans will wash their hands of the whole mess—so no aid from them. Terrorism will flourish across Europe.
And all for what?
Anyway, that’s my thinking at this time.