First, the US gloried in the demise of the USSR, and quasi-private funds sent "advisors" to the faltering giant to "help" it sort out its collapsing economy, and managed to remake it into an oligarchic vision, which appears to be being realized here, as well.
Then, despite its promises to the contrary, the US pushed Europeans to promote the eastward expansion of NATO--to the borders of the former Evil Empire.
Well, not quite. NATO didn't take in the Ukraine and Byelorussia. Until now.
Now that there is clear evidence that Russia has been intervening, cleverly and surreptitiously, in eastern Ukraine and Crimea (long before the latter's annexation), perhaps the wise-asses in the Pentagon and State should ask themselves why.
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We have not treated Russia fairly. The US has acted, consistently as if the Cold War, declared over in the early 1990's, never ended, at all. We have treated Russia as if it were still a threat, or rather, have acted as if it were both unimportant and still a dangerous adversary that must be contained.
Russia should be neither. As the nation straddling the largest territory on the planet, it will always be important. If we had treated Russia as a partner, instead of an adversary, the present Ukraine mess probably would not have happened.
Progressive bloggers refer, with some justification, to the change in Ukraine's government as an "American coup." The US with its sidekick, Europe and NATO, clearly was meddling in the Ukraine, fomenting discontent, offering seductive deals and encouraging and subsidizing some of the most nauseous elements of Ukrainian nationalism: those inspired by the pro-Nazi resistance to the Soviet regime before, during and after World War II.
Now, we are reaping the whirlwind.
Of course, Russia is going to do whatever it can, especially below the US's radar, to insure that it does not have an unfriendly neighbor directly on its borders.
Consider how Americans would feel if Russia or China were doing something similar in Canada or Mexico. But it's worse than that.
When I studied Russian history, one of the periods that struck me was the 300 years or so (about as long as the US's own history), when Russians were assailed by 100's of invasions, as many as several a year, coming from both the Asian Steppes and from western Europe--for 300 years. Russians' natural and understandable response was to support a Tsarist government that ruled with an iron hand and expanded its control in all directions--to fend off the invaders, be they Swedes, Hungarians, Mongols or Turks.
Unlike the US, Russia has only one natural border: the Arctic Sea. Especially in the west, where the Ukraine is situated, there is a vast sweep of land with virtually no barriers--except its very extent, as Napoleon and Hitler discovered to their sorrow.
Long before the Cold War, before WWII, there was the Winter War with Finland, with which Russia finally arrived at a reasonable compromise. Finland, to this day, is constrained from joining alliances: towards Russia it is bound to be neutral, and that makes sense. A similar arrangement should be promoted with the Ukraine, and with the Baltic and other border states, as well.
Russia must not be encircled by NATO, or US bases. Russia's need for security should be respected and promoted. If there are Ukrainians or Georgians who don't like Russia, they should be told: Russia is the large bear in the neighborhood. Treat it respectfully and neutrally and it won't interfere: rebel against its regional dominance and no NATO and no US superpower can save you.
If Russia were ringed by states bound to neutrality, Russia would be much more amenable to disarming its nuclear weapons, and maybe the dream Obama articulated before the Pentagon and CIA got to him, the dream of total nuclear disarmament, would be much closer to realization.
But then, the US would have to amend its ways: curb its strategy of attempting the impossible: to dominate the world with its military-security tentacles in every corner of the earth.
I blame US global aggression not on the American people: I think we're almost as reasonable, tolerant and peaceable as any people. I say 'almost' because of the gun rights crowd, and the growing tolerance of racist violence, 50 years after the civil rights movement.
I blame US aggressiveness on two American institutions: roughly, the security/intelligence complex and the military. They feed each other and feast off Americans' manufactured fear, manufactured by their business partners: the media, owned by corporations like GE that have billions of dollars in defense contracts. All of the above have incentives to foment unrest or find it, and then demand that it's America's responsibility to "fix it."
The Roman Empire was driven by the profits of war, enriching the aristocracy that became the Senate, and impoverishing the many, who were thrown on the dole. The American Empire is driven by the profits of war-making, which sucks trillions from peaceable people, impoverishes them, disemploys them and enriches the few.