The picture being painted of the causes of the present Ukrainian crisis is badly distorted on both sides. The West’s caricature of reality depicts an eternal Russian imperialism and the dictator Putin seemingly doing what comes natural – invading foreign lands in order to re-establish the Soviet Union/Russian Empire. This tale ignores a history of hubristic Western policies that willfully ignored both Russian and, in the long-run, Western interests.
Since almost immediately after the Cold War, the West has been expanding NATO towards Russia’s borders with minimal effort to re-think the alliance, incorporate Russia, or take Moscow’s security interests into account. Similarly, the Clinton Administration bombed a Russian ally without a UN resolution violating Yugoslavia’s sovereignty. The West then recognized and actively organized Kosovo’s independence from the country, violating UN resolution 1244 which mandated Yugoslavia’s territorial integrity. To be sure, Russia just as brazenly followed suit and recognized and now guarantees with Russian troops the independence of South Ossetiya and Akhazia after the 2008 Georgian-Russian South Ossetian war. That war was a product of the seemingly inexorable NATO expansion.
Directly or indirectly, the West helped prepare the 2003 Georgian Rose and 2004 Ukrainian Orange Revolutions, bringing democratic-nationalist governments to power that were openly antagonistic toward Moscow. NATO and EU expansion to Georgia and Ukraine, both on Russia’s border, was put on the agenda. Tensions within both countries over this aggravated grave inter-ethnic and/or sovereignty disputes in which Russia had a stake, given their potential for destabilizing Russian domestic inter-ethnic relations. Russia includes North Ossetiya as well as ethnic Russian and Muslim Tatar kin of those in Ukraine.