Re: I always thought he was a bit crazy
Voland's right hand,
I have no doubt that Putin is not in control of what's happening in Eastern Ukraine. No-one is.
But there's pretty good evidence that Russia was more than just a little involved. Firstly I've heard reports on the BBC World Service - where guys occupying the police stations seemed to be clearly all (or mostly) local. They knew each other and seemed to know the local area. But some of them admitted that the guys who'd done the actual storming had been unknown to them, and carrying uniforms without insignia and better weapons. Normally this wouldn't be enough to make me believe a conspiracy theory. Except that it's exactly the same MO as worked in Crimea. Something Putin said he wouldn't do the day before he did it, denied at the time, and then smugly talked about giving the special forces guys medals for 2 weeks later.
Secondly Russia has been noisily carrying out military excercises on the Ukrainian border. This is either the prelude to an invasion, or it's just posturing to totally fuck up the new Ukrainian government. It's now looking more like the prelude to a full-scale invasion, because of the special forces guys already sent in. But it still might be just an attempt to destabilise Ukraine, and create a low-level civil war. Who can tell? However it's also a clear signal to the pro-Russia extremists that they can try and attract Russia to come in, and is a deliberately destabilising gesture.
Thirdly, even after signing a deal with the Ukraine government and Western governments to de-escalate, the Russian government has kept up the rhetoric, and started new military excercises in Rostov. And not called for the protesters to stand-down.
Oh and fourthly, disparate, grass-roots rebel movements don't storm 50-odd buildings virtually simultaneously one morning, with zero reported casualties.
So yes. Russia is definitely involved. In several ways. Some of them even they don't deny. And they've since admitted what they did in Crimea. What their final intention is, that's another matter. I can't believe they'd gain enough from annexing Eastern Ukraine to be worth the costs of occupying it, dealing with the probably huge diplomatic fallout, possible resistance and the mess they'd make of the remnants of Ukraine. NATO would have to invite Ukraine in, which they really don't want to do, probably also Georgia - and those are 2 things the Russians definitely don't want. NATO would also probably have to permanently station troops in the Baltic States. Poland can easily hold out long enough to be re-inforced, they've got 5 armoured divisions.
Also I don't know what the passport position is, but Russia has in certain cases been very eager to hand out Russian passports to Russian minorities in the surrounding countries. After all, it was one of the reasons they gave/manufactured for the war with Georgia. I don't know how much of that has been going on in Ukraine, but there's quite a big chance that whatever happens in Ukraine, a mostly harmonious relationship between people who see themselves as Ukrainian and those who see themselves as Russian is breaking down. This could turn catastrophic, and lead to serious civil conflict. Does he really want a couple of million penniless refugees to deal with? The Russian government isn't made of money. And their economy is taking a serious beating form this crisis as is. Full EU sanctions would be crippling - and he'd suddenly be less popular - after the nationalistic fervour has died down - and people realise how much poorer they are. A gas boycott of the EU bankrupts Russia faster than it freezes Europe, and Qatar's LNG, American shale-gas, and the EU gas inter-connectors make this a pretty poor time to play that game anyway. They can't sell gas to China until they've built a new pipeline and LNG infrastructure is no quicker to create.