Putin is trying to do to the Donbas region [View all]
what he did to Crimea in 2014, and Georgia in 2008. If he follows the suggestion of the Lower Duma, and declares the Donbas regions as their own independent Republics, then he can say he did not invade Ukraine. Which, make no mistake, he did.
This whole thing seems to be an attempt to take over the Donbas region. When he took over Georgia, he established military bases in that territory. That's probably what he is seeking to do here, except that he is menacing Kiev bigtime, and seems like, without a NATO reaction, he would probably try to take the entire Ukraine area. But, he'd settle for the Donbas.
He has himself in a pickle here, because he would have to disengage from the two rebel areas, which IMO is where he has to save face. The rest of the world just wants him to go home, whereas those two areas are dependent on Russia's support. They don't want him to go home. So, he's kind of in it right now.
Why can't Poland and Litho take on Belarus if Belarus participates in shelling Kiev? Better yet, why can't they take over Kaliningrad? How would Putin like that? Not trying to start WWIII, just musing. Putin has sounded out NATO, and doesn't anticipate NATO with boots on the ground. But, did he consider that Poland and Litho can operate independently of NATO? Is the Donbas region worth losing Kaliningrad and Belarus?
Putin is getting away with every lowdown thing he does. He plans to get away with this, too. There has to be an immediate and very consequential outcome here. He seems to sniff at sanctions. Maybe he'd like to negotiate over Kaliningrad (I think he would throw Belarus under the bus.)
If he succeeds in this gambit, he'll just be back for more. As it is, he is right on time with the war plans he has advertised, and the whole world is aware of what he intends to do.