We at Foreign Affairs have recently published a number of articles examining the extent to which the ongoing crisis in Ukraine is the West's fault. Those articles sparked a heated debate, so we decided to ask a broader pool of experts to state whether they agree or disagree with the following statement and to rate their confidence level about that answer.
The West provoked Russian President Vladimir Putin's aggression in Russia's near abroad by expanding NATO and the EU after the Cold War.
Strongly Disagree, Confidence Level 10
War is a continuation of politics by other means, and Russia’s war on Ukraine is no exception. It is hard for anyone closely watching Russia’s domestic political and economic dynamics in the past few years—especially since the 2008–9 crisis, the 2011–12 anti-regime demonstrations in over 80 of Russia’s largest cities, the tenor of Putin’s 2012 reelection campaign, and the authoritarian consolidation that followed—not to see the Ukrainian escapade as an epiphenomenon of the regime’s domestic strategic direction. With foreign policy and Russia’s great power status increasingly key to Putin’s popularity (and thus to the regime’s legitimacy), it is difficult to see how the Kremlin could have tolerated a Europe-bound Ukraine. I was on record as opposing the NATO expansion at the time as unnecessary and divisive given what seemed to be Russia’s trajectory in the early 1990s. But this is a straw man.
Strongly Disagree, Confidence Level 8 Russia, no doubt, was threatened by the possible “defection” of a major state in what Russia defines as its zone of influence, but it was also afraid of the diffusion of popular protests from Ukraine to Russia. However, anger about EU and NATO expansion and the Kosovo precedent, together with fears about diffusion,
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