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By the end of this month, it is likely that Vladimir Putin’s Russia will fully control Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. And it is clear that he aspires to much more. Although a tense calm has settled over Crimea since thousands of Russian troops poured in a week ago, the chance for a Russian military push deeper into Ukraine increased markedly on March 4, when Putin declared at a press conference that he was “not worried” by the prospect of war with Ukraine. In a line that shook Ukrainians to their core, he continued that, if Russia decided to fight, it would be to “to protect Ukrainian citizens.” And it would be impossible, he hinted, for Ukrainian troops to do anything about that: “Let’s see those troops try to shoot their own people with us behind them -- not in the front but behind. Let them just try to shoot at women and children!” In one fell swoop, Putin had broadened his intentions in Ukraine from “protecting” Russian citizens (his rationale for invading and occupying Crimea) to “protecting” all of Ukraine and made clear that he would use Ukrainian civilians -- women and children -- as a shield for invading Russian forces.It is time to imagine what once seemed impossible: Putin attacks and partitions Ukraine and, in addition to Crimea, annexes the southeastern Ukrainian provinces that are generally regarded as most susceptible to conquest -- Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, Mykolaiv, and Zaporizhzhya, which contain much of Ukraine’s ethnic Russian population and form an arc along the Black Sea and Sea of Azov from Mykolaiv, just northwest of Crimea, to Luhansk, which is farther northeast. (On March 8, there were already some reports that Russian troops had advanced from Crimea into a narrow isthmus that is part of Kherson province.) In such a scenario, Russia would be the immediate winner and Ukraine the immediate loser. But in the medium to long term, Ukraine would end up ahead.Ukraine’s initial losses are obvious: defeat in a land war, surrender of territories and populations, and the sacrifice to violence of thousands -- perhaps tens of thousands -- of Ukrainians. Once the war is over, however, Ukraine would emerge more compact, more homogeneous, and more unified in purpose: Along with its eastern territories would go much of the electorate that routinely votes for the Communist Party and for former President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. As a result, anti-Ukrainian and anti-Western sentiments would decline. The new Ukraine’s government could confidently proceed with a radical political and economic reform program (a more solidary population would be more likely to accept the belt-tightening that reform entails) and pursue rapid integration into European and international structures. Unburdened of some of its most unprofitable rust-belt industrial sectors, Ukraine’s economy would be more open to foreign direct investment and could be poised for takeoff. Without Crimea and its southeastern provinces, Ukraine would be smaller, but it would survive and, in all likelihood, be much stronger.Russia’s gains are also obvious: victory in a “grand and glorious” war and the annexation of territory. But the hypernationalism generated by the war and the enthusiasm over territorial expansion would soon fade as the sobering reality in these provinces sinks in and Russians realize just whom and what they have annexed.