Let's unpack the practical consequences of the speculations voiced here:
"is it so wrong to question the narrative?": Without evidence, yes. Ask this: how many more Ukrainians will die in missile attacks on shopping centers and schools due to lower political support for accelerated weapons deliveries that can overwhelm Russian SEAD (suppression of enemy air defenses)? Putin, like fascists before him, views the west as decadent, divided and weak. That documentary, and the populist right and far and anti-interventionist/pacifist left ends of our political horseshoe (from AFPACers MTG, Boebert, Nick Fuentes, Josh Hawley to Chomsky, Greenwald, Taibbi, Habermas in Germany), feed this narrative. Evidence-free Russia is winning, Ukraine corrupt and not worth defending is a leftist version of the Steve Bannon flood the zone strategy that is a key component of Russian hybrid warfare. But don't believe me, read Peter Pomarentsev's Nothing is True and Everything is Possible on how this hybrid disinformation warfare works: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Pomerantsev
Coalition warfare with allies whose political and economic interests differ is a delicate balancing act. Trust and solidarity between coalition partners whose economies are very differently impacted by war are hard to build and easily undermined by the free rider problem. Listen to British General Rupert Jones’ Time Radio interview:
“International support has not just been in equipment but also in enthusiastic supportive words and statements as well. We’ve just had another press conference in Copenhagen where our defense secretary Ben Wallace the Ukrainian defense secretary and other defense secretaries as well have again stood on an international stage and recommitted their support to Ukraine. How important is that not just for Ukrainian forces in terms of morale but also how difficult does that make life for the Russians. I mean it’s absolutely vital as you say defense ministers meeting in Copenhagen I’m reminded actually of the global coalition against Isis where defense ministers and foreign ministers used to meet and and put out a voice of unity and it’s very important for all concerned it’s important that ministers keep the momentum going amongst themselves, that they keep egging each other on on with the levels of support they’re providing. “If I provide this what will you provide?” Those sorts of conversations are hugely important to the morale of the Ukrainians from President Zelenskiy downwards and it continues to remind president putin and russia how completely isolated they are.
Jones: I am concerned that there could be battle fatigue at least at some point in international support. I think we have to keep working at this we cannot take the unity of the international community for granted at any stage and as with all of these coalitions you have to keep investing in them investing through ministerial correspondence and ministerial commitment and indeed through deed as well as word.
Question the narrative after listening and reading my colleagues Glen Grant and Sam P.N. Cook, the Wilson Center's own Russian dissident, Kamil Galeev, Jack Watling, Rob Lee, War on the Rocks, Nolan Peterson, Nadin Brzezinski, Tom Cooper, the Institute for the Study of War.
Gather evidence as if you were researching an investment all your life savings were going into. This is just basic scholarly and journalistic integrity. If you can't play at this level, don't complain when those who can from half a century studying Russian history demolish your arguments with proper research and evidence.
"Ukraine is worth risking armageddon?": Fiona Hill expertly explains how Putin and his mafia gang of kleptocrats are expert at pushing our fear buttons. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZ3DQv5KNQE Please tell us why you know Russia better than Fiona Hill?
This is just one more of the "active measures" that have been part of the Bolshevik toolkit for 100 years. If you don't know the meaning of "active measures" as a "useful idiot" factory, you don't understand Ukraine's enemy.
Ukraine just bombed Crimean territory Putin defines as Russian. Result: traffic jams on the Kerch Strait bridge to get out of Crimea.
"De-escalation": Deescalation without victory equals repeating this war. Even if frozen, as in Moldova's Transnistria, Russia will never stop unless met with and defeated by superior force. The Ukrainians understand this principle. Since they've been fighting against genocidal Russification for nearly 200 years since the emancipated serf and poet Taras Shevchenko started writing, you should take them at their word.
A Russia not completely shorn of its military capacity to wage war on Ukraine, Georgia and the rest of its near abroad will engage in recidivist aggression. We must therefore define victory as a Russia incapable of and uninterested in waging war on its sovereign non Russian neighbors, including those future sovereign and currently captive republics still inside Russia (more on this here: https://medium.com/lessons-from-history/russias-ukraine-war-ends-only-with-empire-demolition-abaf44e08bc7)
A psychotherapy skill set divorced from the Russian historical context is inapplicable here. You're trying to play hockey or rugby with badminton and croquet rules and will fall down and get bloodied while going nowhere near the goal.
Your de-escalation skill set misapplied ahistorically here ignores 5 centuries of hybrid warfare going back to Russia's Novgorod conquest in 1480. 5 centuries of genocidal conquest of non Russian near abroad where commodities for extraction and export are located have taught Russia's neighbors that genocidal conquest is a feature, not a bug of Russia's imperial identity. Read Putin's mouthpiece Timofey Sergeytsev in Ria Novosti to see how (on memri.org). Go to the wikipedia pages of Putin's muses Ilya Ilyin and Eurasianist Alexander Dugin to see how Russian supremacist exceptionalists sense of Russia as a civilization make 19th century American manifest destiny advocates look tame by comparison.
Whether Tsarist, Bolshevik or Putinist this institutional cross-dressing mafia with a flag's features are:
1. National and cultural identity is monolithic and dictated by the state.
2. Bottom up complex civic nationalist identity is to be purged, (lustrated is the Stalinist/Sergeytsev term). Democracy promotion that enables such complex identity formation and prosperous democracies, on Russia's periphery, like an EU member Ukraine, are a lethal threat of the good example.
3. Stalinist practice of mass deportation, salami-tactic decapitation of local intelligentsia/elites, combine with white supremacist Russian ethno nationalism inspired by openly fascist intellectuals like Dugin and Ilyin.
4. In Putin's world of geopolitical darwinism, nations are all either sovereign or colonised. All of Russia's near abroad is the latter. They are to be absorbed into the Russkiy Mir (Russian World) and russified.
5. Putin comes out of and was mentored by the Leningrad mafioso judo club. Village Russia gang fighting rules brought to the big city. Imagine Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano and Bugsy Siegel in charge of the machinery of state and you understand who you're dealing with. Some countries have a mafia. In institutional cross-dressing Russia the mafia has the country and Putin is Don Corleone. This article (not mine) explains why you can't de-escalate your way out of a conflict with Putin and his Leningrad judo mafia gang: https://barry-gander.medium.com/the-pathway-paved-with-tombstones-how-vladimir-putin-murdered-his-way-to-the-top-b6a6c9860e5c.
6. Deescalation theory and practice gap: As Yogi Berra, said, in theory there's no difference between theory and practice. But in practice there is. There are geopolitical and historical contexts where abstract theories from your sphere of competence don't apply. There is only one hard currency here: power and its demonstrative display to show you have more of it. Putin is utterly uninterested in negotiation while he’s unconvinced Ukraine does not wield superior force.
7. Legitimacy is acquired through power. Power is purely occupative. The invisible elephant in the living room of your western mind is that power is constrained by rules and laws, through legitimacy. In Russia it's the reverse. Power makes and applies laws....not law defines power. Read the story of Prussian courtesan Catherine the Great's accession to power in Jay Winik's The Great Upheaval to understand how power works in Russia.
8. #7 applies for foreign relations and their spheres of influence. Power makes rules and shared sovereignty is an oxymoron.
"how to defeat Russia without nuclear escalation": Putin is bad, but not mad. When Putin faces a 1917-style military collapse breaking the nuclear taboo with a 10 kiloton low yield tactical nuke that kills everything within 2 miles will also be low yield in military benefits. Here's an excellent vivisection of the game theory of breaking the nuclear taboo:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxOO0hCCSk4 I suggest you watch it instead of just pressing your readers' fear button, which is doing the Russians' work for them.
"Is Ukraine worth the risk of nuclear escalation?": Clearly the Ukrainians think so, given the alternative: genocidal erasure from the map. People like this peacetime taxi driver will never surrender: https://www.facebook.com/100026042854292/videos/431892308976496Abandon Ukraine, and you will move Putin's ambitions elsewhere: Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. One-way de-escalation will not yield peace or even a frozen conflict. Putin's mafia must export resource-cursed extractive kleptocracy to ensure regime survival (https://www.hudson.org/research/12928-the-kleptocracy-curse-rethinking-containment).
I can only tell you what Churchill told Chamberlain in 1938: "You were given the choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour, and you will have war.'