2. The nation on your doorstep - which formerly used to be an integral part of the multinational state ran from your capital for 70 years - has been intriguing with your long-term opponents in the international arena. Former client states and allies are now under the umbrella of their transnational military alliance and supra-national political project. There is ample evidence they were materially supporting opposition social movements in said neighbouring state.
3. After a mass insurgency, the friendly government of that country conclude an agreement with opposition forces. The very next day the administration is overthrown and replaced by a coalition ranging from the centre right to the fascistic. At least one of these organisations claims historic links to nationalist movements who rose up against your predecessor as it fought for its very right to exist. Furthermore, foreign dignitaries and emissaries flood into the revolutionary capital, get pictured meeting new ministers and touring the barricades.
4. This is a massive foreign policy disaster. But large numbers of your citizens are also resident in the country, particularly in the south and east, closest to your borders. This is part a legacy of forced population transfers in an earlier period, and part internal migration within the departed multinational state.
5. One province, heavily dominated by your citizens and who, in turn, fear that the new regime - particularly the blood-curdling rhetoric of its fascist wing - might bring misfortune down onto their heads unofficially secede and petition for protection from your country. Coincidentally large numbers of troops were in the area and they march in, sparking off an international crisis.
6. Over the next fortnight a great deal of hypocritical cant is spoken at UN meetings. In the international press, your opponents' destabilisation of your neighbour is lauded as democratic, and striking a blow for freedom. There is little to no memory of their pushing their sphere of influence eastward, of threatening to set up missile defence systems all along your borders. You meanwhile have acted out of compassion. You had no choice but to move to protect your people and prevent bloodshed before it began.
7. The population of the break away province vote to join your country. It matters not that the plebiscite had irregularities - the sentiments of all the people appearing in your broadcaster's reports are real enough. Formal annexation takes place.
8. The revolution in the west of the country has stirred up concerns in other provinces where your nationality has an outright majority. Simply stepping with "protection" here would be a step too far.
9. Groupings pledging allegiance to your country take to the streets in a number of eastern towns and cities. Some of these do involve agents provocateurs, but in most cases it's like casting a match into tinder. Mostly the protests have been ineffectual, amateurish and easily put down by the usurpers in the west. But over this weekend a series of loyal militias have taken over key local government buildings in several cities, one proclaiming itself an independent people's republic. The coup government, with their backers, say they're going to mobilise the military and put these uprisings down. While there is little sign of that army yet, events on the ground might force you to send the 40,000 strong protection force you've massed on the borders in to calm the situation down. Your enemies are forcing your hand, so what do you do?
I don't have special insight into the minds of Russia's strategic thinkers, but from Western and Russian media reports this narrative - a mixture of realpolitik and ideological rendering of one's own geopolitical interests - is a model that fits what has been happening on Putin's part so far. I'm sure in the huddled map rooms of NATO, Whitehall and the State Department this sort of thought-building is commonplace. Unfortunately, the media and political coverage falls far short - there's no appreciation of nuance, let alone thought given to how our governments' actions are interpreted.