Some underlying background from here:
“Today we hear that they want to defeat us on the battlefield. Well, what can I say? Let them try,” Putin said during a meeting with the heads of the State Duma party factions that aired on state media television Russia-24.
“We have continuously heard that the West is ready to fight with us until the last Ukrainian is left standing. This is a tragedy for the Ukrainian people. However, it seems like everything is going towards this,” he said.
My personal reading of this conflict (which doesn’t jibe with the assorted military commentators on Western news sources):
Russia has, since the breakup of the Soviet Union, been leasing the port of Sevastopol in the Crimea, Ukraine as the headquarters of its Black Sea Fleet (originally, the Soviet Black Sea Fleet). That was fine as long as the government of Ukraine was sympathetic towards Russia. Once the Orange Revolution changed the government, the Ukrainian government did not renew the lease.
Russia subsequently took the Crimean Peninsula and Ukraine constantly maneuvered to take it back. The West encouraged Ukraine to be more like them (though the US lagged for a while while the previous administration tried to use withholding aid as a blackmail lever).
Eventually, Russia decided to invade Ukraine directly and take the territory they required to both protect Crimea as well as place a buffer between their border and the West.
It’s true that they initially tried to get the Ukrainian government to bolt by attacking Kiev and then isolated it from the rest of the country by what was described as a “sitting duck” column (which obviously was well enough protected that Ukraine’s air force was not able to come close to it).
That didn’t work, but diverted attention from their grabbing land in the east. The column has since been redeployed to the east as well.
Comparing the Russian military to the Ukrainian military is like comparing the US to Mexico. Russia has already demonstrated its ability to strike anywhere in Ukraine at-will. They, in fact, have the ability to take the entire country if they choose to. Unless they used “strategic” weapons, they would likely lose a politically uncomfortable number of troops doing so, so I believe Putin will be willing to accept what has been taken, unless Ukraine continues to attack them with the intent to “win” and take back the captured territory.
They can’t accomplish this on their own, so they continually ask the West for more destructive weapons and saber-rattle that they are going to push Russia from their land. Ukraine has been asking to join NATO so that the EU, UK and US will be forced by treaty to come to their military assistance.
IMHO, that’s not going to take place as it would risk a third world war.
The West has to save face, but is clearly aware that the only way that the war ends without being extremely costly to Ukraine is for Russia to essentially be successful and left in possession of their gains so far. We are at a point where we have to seriously think about how much damage Ukraine has to bear before agreeing to an armistice.