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I think they made themselves clear with 8 years of fighting AZOV and the Ukrainian Army and 14,000 lives loss. After the 2014 Coup the new regime wanted to force them to give up their language, Russian, and speak only Ukrainian. There were other things that the west was trying to force onto the east. Ukraine had voted in a president, with their help, and now he was thrown out. They were being forced to live under someone they didn't want. A coup in a divided nation should give all sides a chance to re-establish the conditions of their country. They suggested two provinces in the east, staying within Ukraine, but having their own government and semi autonomy. The west wanted total submission and to align with Europe. Conflict and a lot of killing of civilians. Bombed by their own Ukraine government.
Was it all clean? No. Russia stood with those on the east, ethnic Russians, and even supplied their defense. Russia also had some other reasons for getting involved. That illegal coup ruined a good deal for Russia. Illegally. And the west absorbing Ukraine would lead to NATO. Russia had a good reason to object to that. NATO and American officials promised Russia they would never expand NATO to the east. Clinton ended that promise in the late 90s. Russia was not involved in what happened in Europe with the breakup of the USSR and the fall of Communism. But NATO did interfere and then absorb many of those now independent countries. Why? Russia was not making any moves to the west. It was NATO that was moving east, against promises and continually painting Russia as evil and even denying then the chance to unite with Europe and NATO for the betterment of the whole region.
I wish Russia never got to the point where they felt they had to invade, to protect the Donbass and ethnic Russians, and keep NATO away. NATO in Ukraine was seen as a serious threat. Every bit as bad as we saw missiles in Cuba as a threat. Diplomacy needed more time and less NATO and American interference. biden was arming Ukraine and so was NATO. A serious provocation. They were at the point of attacking now to protect the Donbass or give up because it would be to costly. They moved and America and biden keep escalating their arms shipments and quality. This is all costing more physical damage and lives lost then it ever needed to be.
What was needed was free monitored elections in the Donbass to determine if they, the only ones who mattered, wanted to be forced into a country set up by a coup, inhospitable to the Donbass, or independent provinces within Ukraine, or complete independence. We will never know now, how that would have worked out.
But if America and NATO stay out of it, Russia and Ukraine will finish this off quickly with a Russian victory that satisfies them, and then they stop. Set up what it takes for leadership in the Donbass, elections within a year, and letting the people of the Donbass to return, rebuild the Donbass new and better, and then let them set up their own fate. And Ukraine agreeing to stay neutral and never joining NATO. Russia was not interested in advancing Russia to the west, just keeping the militant NATO from advancing towards Russia. IMO.
Peace. Have a nice day. Meanwhile I am in a tornado watch area and may need to head for the basement.