The broad outline of the plan seems to have been:
1. A false flag operation would fake a rebellion. It would be carried out by Russian paramilitaries with supervision by more professional elements of the Russian covert establishment.
2. Disinformation techniques would activate latent ethnic tensions.
3. The fake rebellion and and active ethnic tensions were to draw energy from each other, just as a dry wind fans a forest fire.
4. When the conflagration was burning brightly, Russian troops would invade to put the fire out.
5. Since Putin considers himself a moral person, the conflagration was never intended to be a real one. It was intended to have all the fire and sparkle of an electric Christmas tree. This was a weakness of the plan.
6. The Russian armed forces would put on a visible show of worldwide scope to remind us that they are not a pushover. We noticed this, and were amused.
Disinformation, and propaganda in general, have been such a staple of USSR strategy, both internal and external, Putin felt he had the best brains in the business to draw on. One can imagine KGB fossils summoned out of retirement, with canes, bad-fitting suits, puffing away on cheap cigarettes, reminiscing about the good old days. “Ukraine is a ripe apple, comrade. We will make it fall into your lap.”
There is indication that this worked in some small villages, but elsewhere, the KGB veterans were overwhelmed in an information horse race. They simply did not appreciate that the grapevine moves faster these days. The Internet, which Putin calls “a CIA invention“, has a lot to do with this. But even the plain old cellphone affects the calculation. Human naivete is not a constant. Connectedness and naivete are inversely related.
Economically, a Russia-Ukraine match-up makes great sense. But the majority of Russian speaking Ukrainians do not favor it. It is to Putin’s credit that, unlike the truly dark figures of history, he did not yield to the temptation of a false-flag massacre, or more direct incitement of Ukrainian violence, which, if accomplished without decisive detection, would have turned their heads toward Russia.
Next: How can Putin extricate from this mess?