We do not know what Vladimir Putin is thinking. We do know that from what we know of his goals, his strategy thus far makes some sense. By stoking rebellion in eastern Ukraine, the collective wisdom of the TPTM bloggers conclude that he has accomplished three goals.
First, he found out that Ukraine is a relatively cohesive state. After all, a less vigorous Ukrainian response would have indicated that a military incursion could work. Ditto more widespread popular support for the insurgency. He would have been crazy to invade without getting information about the strength of the potential resistance. Now he knows: too high to make an invasion worthwhile.
Second, he distracted everyone around the world from Crimea. Should he beat a strategic retreat from eastern Ukraine, then it is unlikely that any sanctions will remain over Crimea. All that oil and gas for nothing!
Third, NATO membership is pretty much off the table forever. Kiev is moving in the direction of the E.U., but that would have happened had Putin done nothing.
There is fourth possible gain, but we think it chimerical. Putin may believe that he can turn the opposition up and down like a rheostat, in order to pressure Kiev. If he believes that, he is almost certainly wrong.
But he may have lured Poroshenko into a trap.
P.S. In a reversal, Doug is in Washington and Noel is in the Balkans! Go figure.