LooseCannon, I think we differently interpret/approach the word escalation. I don't deny that russia escalated to a new levels of attacks in this war. But it is in the nature of the war itself, isn't it? When someone is losing, he will try to do all in his powers to make other side of the conflict to change it's stance.
My point is, when westerners (even pro Ukrainian) use this word, I and many eastern europeans perceive it as a call to succumb to putin's will. In that sense, talks about escalation are definitely pro Kremlin, works in russia's favor. Because, if you fear escalation ---> you go to negotiate with a murderer ---> and will obey to his demands to keep occupied territories, for example. Or, you fear escalation ---> you won't give tanks to Ukraine, whom people already dying. And will die more so, because they have not enough weapons to defeat aggressor. It is logic conclusion.
Why don't you follow this logic through to the end? Your theory is "the West must do everything it can to stop Russia" but even you stop before the logical end of that. Because the logical end of that is "NATO should join the war officially and invade Russia". And the logical Russian response to that is "use nuclear weapons". Even you won't say this, because you know how foolish it sounds. Every time the war gets more intense, regardless of Western intervention, the likelihood of desperation in the Kremlin goes up, and the more desperate Putin becomes, the more likely he is to use a nuke. And you acknowledge it, or you'd be demanding the full-throated invasion of Russia. Unless you can say with absolute certainty that he won't do it, then you can't risk that. Kyiv is a city of three million people and they're under more danger than any city in the world since the Cuban Missile Crisis. You'll claim he won't do it, but you're not sure, or else you'd be advocating for the full invasion of Russia.
There's a ton of other reasons to not give everything to Ukraine. Ukrainians have to be trained in the use of new equipment, which takes months and pulls men off the line. What if we give them everything and Russia wins? Then we have nothing left. And countries still have political needs at home, too. Most countries are giving a huge amount.
Furthermore, you claim that you are using logic, but you say "if you fear escalation" means "you negotiate with a murderer" and finally "will obey his demands to keep occupied territories". These are not logical equivalencies. And I can prove it.
We negotiate with murderers all the time, both at the individual level and at the national level. Negotiators talk down people who take hostages all the time. It's the only way to get it done without everyone dying. We're negotiating with a murderer right now, when we negotiate with Erdogan to get Sweden and Finland into NATO. We negotiate with murderers every time we talk to China. At the end of the day, the war can only end with negotiation, and whoever is on the other end in Russia will be a murderer. There is no situation where Ukraine forces Russia to the table with a gun. It's not possible. Ukraine cannot parade through the streets of Moscow. Therefore the only way that Russia agrees to end the war is by choosing to come to the table. Negotiating is not a crime.
Your assumption that we will allow Russia to keep occupied territories is also false. Russia has already floated that and it's been roundly rejected, everywhere along the way. It's not going to happen. The territorial integrity of Ukraine is paramount in the negotiating process. I don't even think a status quo ante bellum will be sufficient - Russia will have to withdraw from Kherson and Crimea. Zelenskyy has been adamant that this is the goal and I think he'll get it in the end.
Anyway, this is long enough. You are starting at gremlins in the dark when it comes to negotiations. Propose a solution that doesn't involve negotiations and I'll let you know if it's possible. When it comes to escalation, you claim that you're drawing logical connections and you're not. You are ignoring the most obvious solution, because you know what'll happen. You simply refuse to assign any risk to any other actions. You have no grasp of what's going on other than Russia bad, Ukraine good. No political knowledge, no appreciation of risk, no understanding of how nations resolve war and conflict.
I think this is one of the most likely next steps. Assad and Erdogan are about to negotiate, which was completely unthinkable a few years ago. This would suggest that Putin may be ready to hand over Russian duties to Turkey (informally, unofficially and all, but still).
I'm not so sure about Central Asia, because things there aren't yet to Putin's liking. I wouldn't be surprised if we heard about some sort of new settlement there within the next few months, though.
All in all, I would expect a new major offensive in late February or early March, and I don't know if Ukraine is prepared for it.
If they can settle things in Central Asia, they're getting their top guys out of there as fast as they can. But I have a suspicion that Ukraine will beat them to the punch in February. The mobile force they used in Kharkiv has been off the map since Novemberish and hasn't responded to recent Russian attacks. That tells me they're putting a rock back in their fist.