Make things as ominous as possible so any lesser alternative (like Russia annexing Crimea) will look reasonable compared to war.
The crisis in Crimea has been many years in the making, and made it ripe for the taking.
To paint Russian leadership as reactionary, ham-fisted hardliners is to ignore a decade of methodical deployment of soft power techniques, patient construction of fifth columns, and the massive incentives Russia has not to blow the place up.
Focus on Russia’s military is misdirection; it is absolutely important, but the real benefit to brinkmanship is to make other outcomes seem downright reasonable.
In light of recent setbacks, two potential outcomes are both reasonable (when compared to the extremes of military conflict and secession) and advantageous for Russia:
One more quote from the piece, see anything familiar? [My emphasis]
If Crimea is going to pull away from Kyiv’s control to full autonomy, some violence will likely be involved. Paid protests, with a bit of violence at the margins, have been commonplace in Crimea; so there is tested infrastructure for civil unrest. Prompting small groups of young men to make poor decisions is not terribly difficult to engineer.