"But, given Russia is winning the war and Ukraine is out of combat troops, outside of NATO putting boots on the ground and sparking a nuclear WW3, that is not going to happen."
Can you elaborate on this statement?
I always take issue with anyone saying either side is winning or losing, because we don't know what the win-lines for each are. Has someone from the HUR or the FSB provided you with comments on what those win-lines are?
We can surmise from comments at the time of the initial invasion that Russia's intent was to create a Russian puppet-state in Ukraine, or annex it outright. If that was the goal, they've already lost. If their goal, as stated, as to 'liberate' the four eastern Oblasts, they've failed to do that as well, and are losing territory. Furthermore, Crimea is increasingly under threat from UKR attacks with anti-Russian sentiments in the region growing. And it's not just that Russia could lose Crimea to Ukraine, Crimea may just vote to be an independent country as they have in the past.
Ukraine has said it is going to "liberate' all of the UKR territory, as defined under the pre-2014 borders.
I don't think either side is going to achieve it's military goals. My guess would be that UKR eventually cedes some territory in the east and joins NATO. Russia keeps the rest. I think Crimea will be a longer-term problem for the Russians. Russia has historically persecuted Crimeans, and I think Crimean separatists are likely to receive strong support from the west going forward.
Crimea is a nice place. Were it integrated into the EU, it would likely become a very prosperous region. Much like the other former Soviet vassal states that aligned with western Europe.
Russia just doesn't seem to have much to offer when compared with the west. Which is why they resort to brute force.