Re: Sanctions @ I ain't Spartacus
These are all valid concerns you list. I don't have definitive answers to that, except that there is still and still will be a lot of support for Russia (if not for Putin) among the general Ukrainian population and when the economic hardships will start to bite - will even Western support for the current government keep it from falling?
"I still don't undersand what the plan was."
You are not alone. But I actually think there wasn't a plan.
The Crimea was probably an overreaction but who knows? By doing that, Russia may well have spared its 2 million or so population from the destruction that fell upon Donetsk and Lugansk.
Or started a civil war in Ukraine that otherwise might not have happened. Obviously there was going to be civil strife. Democracy is about the losers, not the winners. It only works when the losers of the election trust the winners to let them have a fair chance next time round - and not to completely destroy their interests in the meantime. And I guess one thing people had learned in Ukraine is that if you don't like the government, you can always try occupying some buildings, and see if you can get it to change.
I've seen other suggestions that Crimea was a kneejerk reaction. A political tantrum almost. I can understand that. It was done quickly. In diplomatic terms it worked. Washington and London already distrusted the Russian government, but with a bit of diplomatic nicety, I'm sure Italy, Germany and France could have been kept onboard. But through stupidity and thuggishness, Russia has suffered massive diplomatic loss of trust and prestige.
Taking the winnings of Crimea and quitting while you're ahead would have made sense. Going on into Eastern Ukraine didn't.
Remember that in Syria Western governments agonised about giving shoulder launched SAMs to the rebels, and didn't arm them in the end. Even though they were getting bombed. Because those might turn up in dangerous hands. And yet Russia was sending full SAM systems to the rebels. Even if MH17 wasn't shot down by the rebels (and it looks pretty certain they did) there's been evidence of several of these things crossing the border at various times. That was almost bound to go wrong. And was massively irresponsible.
There I also don't think that Putin expected Kiev to shell the cities, I think he was confident they will negotiate once Poroshenko got through the elections. I thought so myself actually, or hoped.
I guess he may have over-estimated the Ukrainian government. Given how dysfunctional their politics have been since the collaps of the Soviet Union, I can't imagine why. Particularly as it seems to have been Russian policy to keep them that way.
This one comes down to how much Russia supported the rebellion. Was Putin taken by surprise, and started helping it because he thought he had to? Or was it basically instigated by Russia? If the latter, then Putin and his team are idiots. If the former, then Russia is as tangled up in events as everyone else. And having played the nationalist card, it's then very hard to make the compromises required for peace. As China will find with all its maritime border disputes.
It's too easy to blame Russia for the whole rebellion. But I find it hard to believe it was spontaneous, because of how fast and successful it was at taking territory, and because so many of the leaders turned out to be Russians. Suppsedly retired, intelligence types. And there were reports at the time of people in uniform helping out, who then disappeared again. It's the Crimea play-book all over again.
Finally Angela Merkel said that she'd talked to Putin and he was disconnected from reality. It's probably what moved Germany from the ignore it and keep trading camp to the sanctions side.
In that scenario I can see no peace. And you can't blame the Ukrainian government for trying to quickly chuck the Russian invaders out, before the crisis spirals totally out of control. Even if that does mean shelling their own cities. Not that this is something Putin would stop at. The Russians totally destroyed Grozny. It's endless war on the border, where Russia doesn't want to let Ukraine win, but doesn't want to take over the destroyed territory and spend money to rebuild. Given the Russian government is about to be a lot poorer, due to sanctions.