Vladimir Putin knows that if Russia is completely humiliated in Ukraine, it could mean the end of his rule. He is letting everyone know that the best way for him to stay in power is to make the war against Ukraine look like a fight against the whole West. He's like a hurt tiger who, out of desperation, goes on the attack.
It's believed between 80,000 and 110,000 Russian soldiers have died or been hurt in the last seven months. Most Russian forces are demoralized and have been on the defensive for the past few weeks.
In his speech to the Russian people this week, Putin said that the operation in Ukraine was a way to protect Russia from the West, which wants to break Russia apart and destroy it. He made it clear that he considers Crimea to be part of Russia and that he will also think of the eastern part of Ukraine as part of Russia. He will see attacks in those areas as attacks on Russia itself, especially if they are done by Ukrainian forces with American weapons. The most important part of his speech was this: "If there is a threat to the integrity of our country's territory and we need to defend Russia and our people, we will definitely use all the weapons we have."
Officials in the United States are now getting ready for all the ways Putin could make the war worse. He could launch a missile attack against a country that is part of NATO. He could also use a tactical nuclear weapon to show he means business. The goal would be to scare the West into not helping Ukraine anymore.
Officials in the United States don't seem to know whether or not Putin will use nuclear weapons, but they are taking the possibility very seriously. Overall, the U.S. plan is to help the Ukrainians fight back against the Russian invasion, but they will have to do it slowly. They are trying to slow down the war so that Russia can be slowly pushed out of Ukraine.
By late October and November, it is hard to start offensive operations in Ukraine because it is too muddy. Over time, and maybe even next year, the Ukrainians will be able to use their advantages: they are fighting to defend their home country; they have a flexible, decentralised command structure; their air defences have mostly stopped the Russians from doing combined air and land operations; and they have much better intelligence thanks to help from the West.
The West will keep sending weapons to Ukraine, which could include tanks and hi-tech fighter planes. Those ideas seem to be on the table.
Up to 300,000 more Russian troops probably won't change the way the war is going overall. They won't be well trained or coordinated, and it's hard to see how the morale of the conscripts would be better than that of the troops who are already stuck there.
The first thing the U.S. hopes will happen is that Putin will do a cost-benefit analysis and decide that the best thing for him to do is to talk. The second thing is that even though the Ukrainians are winning the war, it is almost impossible to physically remove the Russian troops who are dug in in eastern Ukraine.
As of now, the Ukrainians want a maximalist victory that they seem to think is within their reach, like getting Crimea and eastern Ukraine back. A more likely result could be a compromise for both Ukraine and Russia.