Initially I wanted to name this thread: How the crisis in Ukraine will end - A Game of Thrones approach ; but when I started writing, by the 2nd paragraph, I figured the title wouldn't match the topic and so I've decided to revamp the whole thing and start again.
So as you know, 2 Oblasts, Kharkiv and Donestsk have been taken over, their regional administrative buildings that is, by pro-russian supporters, some of them armed, who took down the Ukrainian flag and raised the Russian one and called for the independence of the 2 regions. Luhanska is also very much bordering the same situation but nothing has been reported, as far as I've seen, about it there. These protesters who occupied govt buildings in the region called for independence from Ukraine and also set a date of a referendum, 11 May in the case of Kharkiv. So next month.
This is not the first time this has happened. In late february, after the Yanukovich govt fell, the same thing happened, protesters raised the russian flags on govt buildings in eastern ukraine, but for some administrative buildings the flag was replaced back with the Ukranian one, for some, on and off... complicated stuff depdending on the city you're in. Safe to say, a volatile last month. But yesterday, protesters made a coup de grace if you will and at least Kharkiv is now, illegally but officially, moving forward with independence and a referendum.
Police clashed with protesters in Donestsk, again today... we'll see what leads where.
What is the worst possible scenario in this situation? Let's start with worse for Ukraine.
I) Pro-ukranian partisans like the Right Sector move in the respective regions and start causing havoc. If this happens, Putin wins hands down. He'll have reason to enter eastern Ukraine to actually, legitimately this time, protect Russian ethnics and stabilize the region. No more army without markings, legit, full on legitimate entry into the country. Let me put it this way, you'd be wrong to call it occupation in this case. Likely outcome: the 3 regions join Russia and Putin will get the credit. He'll end this story being the hero that eastern europe needs. He would have saved lives, caused stability and uphold the right of self-determination of the people.
II) Ukrainian govt starts Berkrut-style crackdowns on the protesters. Massive fights, people getting injured, maybe even a fatality or two. Outcome? Russia condemns this action to the international community, waits a few days for some other tragedy to happen, it happens, that's cause for intervention... the end result is same as I).
III) Partisan warfare. Nationalists on each side start causing havoc in the region. Hundreds die because pro-russians clas with pro-ukranians. There is speculation in the west that the Ukranian govt is letting the pro-ukraine nationalists fight so they dont get their hands dirty, ukraine is discredited in the eyes of the west... at the same time the west sees Russia as supporting the pro-russian partisans. The region falls into a state of chaos, not a dysfunctional type of chaos, but sufficient to warrant some kind of intervention, both Ukraine and Russia send in the army for "stabilizing" purposes and "humanitarian" reasons, we don't get a war, but we do get a Crimea-style situation where both armed forces are stationed side by side, neither want to leave... both "co-exist" if that's the term you want to use... meanwhile, there's a referendum being planned and sooner or later, the regions join Russia or become independent and nobody wins. Russia is considered an aggressor and a bully. Ukraine is considered corrupt. Everyone loses.
Worst case scenario for Russia?
There is just one really. The economy collapses before it can make a move and this will only happen if strong sanctions and immidiate decisive drastic action is taken by the EU. A war of economic attrition which will bend Russia to it's knees before the Wests' knees give in.
well, there is a second case which may a "loss" in terms of PR but really, what PR does Russia have in the eyes of all decent folk?
And that case is a Crimea 2.0. Soldiers with no markings make their way into the 3 regions and "secure" the territory while regional administrations, now with self-appointed parliaments make a referendum whose result overwhelmingly shows that they want to join Russia. So Russia wins but doesn't get the PR boost as it does in scenario I and II, and basically "enjoys" a second round of fallout with the west, similar to what happened due to Ukraine, only worse.
So this is my analysis.
Russians are great at waiting. I mean they're really, really good at it. And the waiting game wins them the scenarios. It did historically, every time, waiting makes them win. All of them, from the perspective of expansion, they only lose face... and who cares about what the West things as far as a lot of Putins' constituency and sympathisers say and think... The chance for those 3 Oblasts to somehow magically stop being pro-RU is impossible and therefore, it is not presented here.
Convenient date, 11 May. On 25 May is the election day for the Presidential elections in Ukraine which would reconfer legitimacy to the institution of the Presidency and may help reduce the toxicity and the agitation and the radicalism we see today on both sides. The only way it'd be more tongue in cheek is if it would have been placed on 24th of May.