And that’s not all. The United States spent many billions of dollars to relocate to Russia and secure the remnants of the Soviet nuclear arsenal scattered across several republics of the former USSR. Would Russia have been more secure if Ukraine on its southwestern border and Kazakhstan on its southeastern border had retained control over nuclear weapons deployed on their territory? The Budapest agreement, which committed Ukraine to give up the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world, and which Russia violated when it annexed Crimea, would not have been possible without active involvement by the United States and its allies.
NATO enlargement is another major Western pursuit that supposedly damaged Russian interests and thus triggered countless Russian objections. Those objections focused on NATO as a military alliance, the threat to Russian security resulting from its growing physical proximity to the Russian heartland and the alleged exclusion of Russia from European security decision-making due to its non-member status.
This too is doubtful. By any measure, NATO enlargement was accompanied by the dismantlement of its capabilities for conventional warfare in the European theater. The United States and its allies, eager to maximize the post-Cold War “peace dividend” and preoccupied with contingencies far beyond Europe, had effectively turned NATO into a demilitarized zone, which posed no threat of invasion to Russia, but provided an unprecedented degree of stability and security for Central Europe. How many tanks did the United States have in Europe in 2014? Zero.
It is hard to find another period in Russian history when its western border was as secure and free of the threat of invasion as between 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down, and 2014, when Russia invaded Ukraine. As to the charge of excluding Russia from European security decision-making, it does not really stand up to scrutiny. Given its size, history, and web of relationships with all major European powers, is it really possible to ignore Russia?