There is a bad word which means someone is bold or decisive, when someone has “the balls” to do something. Putin has some big balls to continually takeover parts of other countries.
As a retired US military officer and planner, I have experienced that the US does what I consider lots of planning before any military operation. I was one of the planners for the Iraq invasion of 2003 and I helped the planners execute the Afghanistan invasion. I was also deep into the plans before the Haiti invasion, which became a peaceful invitation to come into Haiti and restore Aristide to power. So when I say I am in awe of the Russian invasions and/or takeovers of Transnistria, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Crimea and Donbas, it says a lot, professionally. The information warfare piece of it blows me away. Russia has successfully done IW on a scale the US cannot conceive*.
Not only did the Russians make the plans, someone had to sell them to Putin, the President of Russia. It must take a special kind of salesman or trust from Putin, to pull it off that sales job. I can hear them now: “We’re going to put masks on our guys and take off their identification and deny they are Russian soldiers. Really, they can’t stop us!” “We are going to claim we are only protecting Russian speakers. There is no denying Russian is not an official language of Ukraine (never mind it is specifically mentioned in the Ukraine constitution as protected and can be an official local language if 10% or more of an area speaks a certain language), so we will use that as an excuse. Oops, a reason to takeover.” “We will stage a few incidents which we will use as provocations to which we will respond.” “We will continually attack the US, the UK and Ukraine, verbally, virtually and especially in our state-owned media. We will blame them. Heck, we blame them for everything, anyhow. Putin hates them so he’ll buy off on that.” “We’ll use online trolls to spread our version of the truth and overwhelm anyone who disagrees.” “We will hide any evidence that ties us to any incidents.” “We will purchase websites and pass them off as legitimate sites and spread our truth.” “When nothing is happening we will publish stories of atrocities which we commit but we will blame Ukraine.” “We will dress up soldiers as Ukrainians and commit despicable inhumane acts, video them and blame Ukraine for horrible acts.” “We will continue to dress our soldiers as “separatists” and deny they are Russians.” “We will modernize and use all the former Soviet Active Measures.” “We will constantly break the Geneva Conventions and blame it on Ukraine.”
Then to have so many people, experts from around the world, be fooled, be powerless to resist – I continue to be amazed. Diplomats, world leaders, military leaders; they were all helpless to resist the Russian advance in Crimea and then in East Ukraine. The US was caught flat-footed and devoted a meager $10 million to counter the propaganda war, eight months after it became obvious we were in an information war and losing – badly. The Russians lied – to the world – and gained many supporters from around the world. What the Russians said appeared, to me and perhaps you, was so obviously a lie, yet miraculously their target audience, the Russian people, accepted it. Barely a word of protest from the Russian people. People who I considered very intelligent accepted the hog-slop they were fed. How did Russia do it? How does one conceive of such a plan, how does one lay that plan out on paper?
Now we seem to be entering a stalemate, once again. The Russians have not made the gains that I believe they originally intended to gain in Donbas. Crimea will forever be a point of contention. Sanctions have been implemented against Russia by the US, by the EU, by others. The cost to the Russians is not great enough to truly damage Russia. Russia claims to have made or are making necessary offset adjustments.
Conclusion? The West is feckless.