Here’s my prediction for what’s going to happen.
One day Putin will croak or disappear or be removed. Some new Putin will be put in place. Russia will announce its dedication to building democracy and will condemn war. The West will remove sanctions and happily move on. Russia will re-militarize, regroup, and start a new war.
Whether in that cycle or the one after, Russia will use nuclear weapons. I’m hoping that by that time there will be Western leadership that won’t be terrified of doing what’s necessary. Which is ensuring that a country called “Russia” no longer exists. Not in any genocidal way, God forbid, but simply in the sense of creating several healthy nations where there’s now one gigantic, diseased failed attempt at a country.
We can avoid all this right now by pressuring our politicians to not remove sanctions no matter how many times the next Putin repeats “democracy, freedom and elections.” Otherwise, there’s absolutely no chance Russia won’t use nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future.