Okay here’s a thought.

The Russian economy is in the toilet.
How to revitalize it without caving to western methods?

The bush wars of the 60s and 70s are over but a separatist state is a way of ramping up production and sales across the region.

Take a typical russian stance against the west, start sabre rattling.
Dust off the propoganda machine, start ginning up local support, drag in a handful of wailing professional grandmothers from the Urals to prop up in front of the cameras, and start printing the pravda for the true believers.

Zeros part in all this?
Complicit patsy?
True believer about to be martyred?
Hard to say at the moment.
But with all respect, my labrador is quicker on the uptake than zero.
Whatever happens, I doubt Zero has been fully briefed.

As to why the Pentagon and other strategic planners are looking at Russia and the Ukraine, a mouse can’t fart in Smolensk without their being a plan of action. Action beats reaction and without plans in place you are always playing from behind.

There are plans and contingency plans for practically everything one could imagine.