Just before the start of WWI, British General Douglas Haig had a meeting with French General Foch.  Haig asked Foch how many British soldiers he would need to guard the Rhine. “Oh, just one,” replied Foch. “But I’ll make sure he gets killed.”

Small incidents, like Sarajevo also regarding WWI, can turn into large wars and soldiers deployed forward can turn into tripwires, drawing nations into conflict. Such is the worry at the Pentagon tonight, as the lights burn there all night.

What if, on a border, one shot goes astray, one plane or patrol blunders into the wrong area? Shots are exchanged. Can a tense but non lethal status quo be restored before all hell breaks loose? At this point, nobody knows.

Defense sources say the lights also burn midnight bright at Fort Bragg, Fort Campbell, MacDill AFB, Eglin AFB, Stuttgart, and other posts that will bear the brunt of the responsibility when our troops leave for Eastern Europe. These sources think three factors are holding Putin up right now.

One, the Olympics. He doesn’t want to overshadow and embarrass his Chicom pals during their sports extravaganza. Two, the terrain. He needs to move when the ground is hard enough to support armor and other vehicles. Three, he wants to see if he can intimidate the West into giving him what he wants without firing a shot.

The third scenario now seems unlikely. For as opposed to some initial verbal missteps, the Biden administration seems to be playing the situation right, quite aware of the tripwire effect and cognizant of the approaching rungs on the escalation ladder. The Brits and the French are on board. The Germans want to sit this one out if they can. The Poles, Romanians, and the Balts are nervous, though projecting outward calm. The Ukrainians themselves are bracing for a fight.

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Thus, intel and defense sources say most analysts on both sides of the Atlantic believe this war is coming. What’s come to be known as the Mannerheim scenario seems quite possible. That says that the Ukrainians put up a good fight, like Finnish CINC Mannerheim against the Russians in the Winter War of 1939, but succumb after max two months.

Another major scenario making the rounds Sunday night at DIA is, what we used to call in Germany in the 1980s, the Hamburg Grab. In this version, the Kyiv Grab. What if Spetsnaz troops combined with an armor spearhead take Kyiv, replace the government, and stop there? Sure, the sanctions would fly and Ukrainians would engage in sporadic guerrilla warfare. But would any serious military action with the West commence, as the troop tripwires would be far away from Kyiv? Perhaps not, giving Putin a victory and a puppet Ukraine without a showdown with the Allies. That seems like smart money. Watch for it.