The smooth success of the seizure and annexation suggests that the action was conceived well in advance. Putin has been adamant that it was not preplanned (en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/20796), but it is impossible to believe that there had not been at least some scenario planning.9
The scenario was well worked out, in terms of the capacity of Russian personnel to operate in Crimea in deniable mode, the presence of local activists who could be controlled and utilized, and the estimation of Ukrainian capacity and willingness to respond. Military reform had long been on Putin’s agenda, with conflicts in Chechnya and Georgia ramming home the need for not just a modernized military but one proficient at hybrid war fighting (Ven Bruusgaard 2014, pp. 83-84). There is debate among military specialists as to the relative role of the General Staff, Security Council and Presidential Administration in the determination of military doctrine and tactics (Vendil Pallin 2009, pp. 12-13; Bjelakovic 2008, pp. 537-578). We will not engage in that debate, but will simply conclude that military specialists were sufficiently involved in preparatory planning, even if only of a scenario type, that when the decision to act was made the plan was ready and worked well.