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I think it's quite possible that Putin's successful invasion of Ukraine ... and the pathetically weak western response to it ... will indeed embolden him to try the same thing in eastern and/or southern Ukraine.
But if he does so, he will find mainland Ukraine to be a much, much tougher nut to crack than Crimea was. Unlike in Crimea, the Ukrainians will fight back fiercely on the mainland. Support for joining Russia is much lower in cities like Kharkiv and Donetsk than it is in Crimea, despite what Russian state media would have you believe.
Even if he is able to take eastern Ukraine, Putin will find it much harder to hold. The Ukrainians will not go quietly. Many people on both sides will die. Much blood will be spilled. Europe will be thrown into turmoil. In the end, the Russians will be forced to withdraw as they were in Afghanistan.
But this all could be very easily avoided with a show of military strength and resolve from NATO. If NATO moved signifcant air power into Ukraine at the request of that country's new government, Putin wouldn't dare try to take on both Ukrainian ground forces & militia as well as NATO air power.
But that would require both vision and guts from the leadership of the west, both of which have, so far at least, been in tragically short supply.
1 month ago on