Yes, Putin wants to prevent NATO from expanding to Russia’s border. But the larger answer is that he finds the U.S. government’s relationship with Ukraine genuinely threatening.
That’s because for nearly two decades, the U.S. national security establishment under both Democratic and Republican administrations has used Ukraine as an instrument to destabilize Russia, and specifically to target Putin.
Why can’t the American security establishment shoulder responsibility for its role in the tragedy unfolding in Ukraine?
Because to discuss American responsibility openly would mean exposing the national security establishment’s role in two separate, destructive coups.
This is a game that Biden and key figures in his administration have been playing for a long time, beginning with the 2013-14 Obama administration-backed coup that toppled a Russia-friendly government in Kyiv.
The Obama administration helped organize street demonstrations for what became history’s most tech-savvy and PR-driven regime change operation, marketed to the global public variously as Maidan.
In February 2014, the protests forced Yanukovych into exile in Moscow. Consequently, Obama administration officials worked to assemble a new Ukrainian government friendly to the United States and therefore hostile to Russia.
In late February, the Russians responded to the American soft coup in Ukraine by invading Crimea and eventually annexing it and creating chaos in Eastern Ukraine.
In 2016, the Hillary Clinton campaign came calling on Ukrainian officials and activists to lend some Slavic authenticity to its Russia collusion narrative targeting Donald Trump.
With the CIA’s Brennan and a host of senior FBI and DOJ officials pushing Russiagate into the press—and running an illegal espionage campaign against the Trump team—Ukrainian political figures gladly joined in.
Key participants included Kyiv’s ambassador to Washington, who wrote a Trump-Russia piece for the U.S. press, and a member of the Ukrainian parliament who allegedly contributed to the dossier.
Russiagate was the kind of vanity project that a buffer state with a plunging GDP and an army equipped with 40-year-old ex-Soviet weapons in a notoriously risky area of the world can ill afford—especially one that lacked a nuclear arsenal.
In July 2019, U.S. national security officials injected yet another Ukraine-related narrative into the public sphere to target the American president.
This one appears to have been initiated by Ukrainian American White House official Alexander Vindman and his colleague Eric Ciaramella, a CIA analyst who had served as Vice President Biden’s point man on Ukraine.
When Vindman told Ciaramella about a phone call in which Trump had asked the Ukrainian president for information regarding allegations about the Biden family’s corrupt activities in Kyiv, they called on help from U.S. intelligence services, the State Department, the Pentagon, Democratic Party officials, and the press.
In order to cover up for what the Bidens and perhaps other senior Obama officials had done in Ukraine, a Democratic Congress impeached Trump for trying to figure out what American policymakers had been doing in Ukraine over the past decade.
The end result was that the Ukrainians had helped weaken an American president who, unlike Obama, gave them arms to defend themselves against the Russians.
More seriously, they reinforced Putin’s view that, especially in partnership with the Democrats, Ukraine did not understand its true place in the world as a buffer state—and would continue to allow themselves to be used as an instrument by policymakers whose combination of narcissism and fecklessness made them particularly prone to dangerous miscalculations.