Not So Quiet on the Eastern European Front

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I’ve been asked for my thoughts on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Don’t let my Slavic first name or my Russian accent deceive you, my crystal ball on this topic is as clear as if my name was John and I spoke with a Texas drawl. I have spent the bulk of my life in the US, and any insights I have about what is going on in Ukraine have been acquired through simple curiosity about what is happening there. I will now offer analysis that I know may end up being completely wrong.

To understand the situation, we have to at least attempt to understand the Russian perspective. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US and Western allies made a promise to Russia that NATO would not expand its membership to countries that had borders with Russia. We bluntly broke this promise as Estonia, Latvia, and a dozen other countries in the vicinity joined NATO. In the US we are spoiled by our geography – we have two friendly neighbors on the north and south and two oceans on the east and west. We feel secure. Russia has a huge land border, which is very difficult to protect. Russia sees Ukraine joining NATO as a clear and present danger to its national security.