This is a profoundly dangerous situation. On the one hand, if the Ukrainian government had done nothing, Russia would have de-facto control over the East. But Putin has repeatedly warned Ukraine not to attack pro-Russian militias.
And, if these pro-Russian militias include Russian troops, well Russia really can’t afford to have any captured, can they? “On a leave of absence” explanations only go so far.
If Putin gives the word, a very large Russian army will overrun Ukraine’s East. If Ukraine does not immediately back down in such a situation, Russia is more than capable of overrunning the entire country.
NATO can then either do nothing but mouth impotent threats or can itself intervene militarily. NATO does not have enough forces in position to win the initial clash, but would certainly win a longer conventional war. Victory by either side, however, risks a nuclear war, as generations of Cold War planners understood.
Ukraine’s orientation to Europe, and the opening of its economy to destruction by the IMF and looting by Westerners, is not a cause worth risking nuclear war over.
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