By Steven PiferVladimir Putin and the Kremlin had a number of reasons for invading Ukraine in February and starting the largest military conflict in Europe since World War II. Putin sought to portray the pre-invasion crisis that Moscow created with Ukraine as a NATO-Russia dispute, but that framing does not stand up to serious scrutiny.
Putin tried hard. In late 2021, he complained of NATO’s “rising” military threat on Russia’s western borders and demanded legal guarantees for Russia, as if the country with the world’s largest nuclear arsenal and largest army in Europe needed such guarantees. Moscow proposed draft agreements with NATO and the United States that would have ruled out further NATO enlargement and required the Alliance to withdraw all military forces and infrastructure from members that had joined after 1997.
Washington and NATO offered to engage on other elements of the draft agreements regarding arms control and risk reduction measures, which could have made a genuine contribution to Europe’s security, including Russia. However, U.S. and NATO officials would not foreswear further enlargement. That became another grievance — along with false claims of neo-Nazis in Kyiv, genocide in Donbas and a Ukrainian pursuit of nuclear arms — that Putin cited in …read more