Shortly before the invasion of Ukraine happened, Russia sent its security demands to the USA. The USA rejected these proposals, and many people say they were unrealistic. However after reading the document, I can't see why exactly. Most of the articles work both ways and include mutual security and tolerance, and I think the only questionable part was Article 4:

The United States of America shall undertake to prevent further eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and deny accession to the Alliance to the States of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

The United States of America shall not establish military bases in the territory of the States of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics that are not members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, use their infrastructure for any military activities or develop bilateral military cooperation with them.

However, it's nowhere near what I thought it could be. Russia didn't ask to exclude any of the current NATO members or stop accepting any new countries. Russia essentially asked to ban not-yet-joined ex-USSR countries, which I find quite reasonable for maintaining the so-called buffer zone. I understand that in its current form it poses security risks for those states as well, but the US could complement the treaty with another article which guarantees security of these countries from the Russian side.

If the US had signed such a document, Russia would have to violate another international agreement to invade, let alone that Russia would lose another excuse for invading.

Wasn't it a fair price to avoid the armed conflict?

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    The articles look like they work both ways, but there's actually a deep asymmetry. The provisions talk about deployment of forces outside national territories or where they could threaten the other country's national territory. However, the US is allies with many countries in Europe that either border Russia or are near Russia. Article 5 would restrict US deployments to US allies if Russia considers them a threat. It would not restrict Russian deployments that the US or its allies consider a threat to NATO members.
    – cpast
    Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 1:48
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    Because Russia has broken its promise first, during the 2014 Crimea incident. To the Ukrainians, they did not start fighting russian on feb 24th, they start fighting them from 2014. You can't just invade other nation just because they choose a leader that likes the other guy more. This means your "strategy" has fail and you be a graceful loser rather than a sore one.
    – Faito Dayo
    Commented Oct 12, 2022 at 4:14

11 Answers 11


Russia essentially asked to ban not-yet-joined ex-USSR countries, which I find quite reasonable for maintaining the so-called buffer zone.

That's not reasonable. Those are sovereign countries with their own will.

State sovereignty is a centuries old concept, with Wikipedia introducing it as:

Westphalian sovereignty, or state sovereignty, is a principle in international law that each state has exclusive sovereignty over its territory. The principle underlies the modern international system of sovereign states and is enshrined in the United Nations Charter, which states that "nothing ... shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state." According to the idea, every state, no matter how large or small, has an equal right to sovereignty.

Russia is not against Westphalian sovereignty, but applies it selectively, as was argued by Deyermond, Ruth Margaret. / The Uses of Sovereignty in Twenty First Century Russian Foreign Policy. In: EUROPE ASIA STUDIES. 2016 ; Vol. 68, No. 6. pp. 957-984. The following quote from their paper summarizes the main idea:

The idea of state sovereignty has been central to Russian foreign policy since the collapse of the USSR. As thinking about, and practice in relation to, the sovereignty norm changed in Western states and key international institutions, the Russian focus on sovereignty intensified. The Russian governmental approach has not been uniform, however, with two opposing models of sovereignty evident in Russian foreign policy discourse and practice: one is the traditional, or ‘Westphalian’, model of sovereignty which has been applied to Russia itself and to states outside the post-Soviet space; inside it, what may be termed a ‘post-Soviet’ approach has developed, in which the sovereignty of the states is treated as inviolable in the relation to ‘external’ actors but permeable in relation to Russia, on grounds that reproduce the normative justifications of the post-Westphalian approach opposed by Russia elsewhere.

Why didn't US just complement Russia's security demands to avoid invasion to Ukraine?

You also phrase your question in an interesting way in that you link not agreeing with the proposed treaty on the one hand to Russia's invading Ukraine on the other hand. The way I read that, you seem to imply that the US has some hand in Russia's invasion of Ukraine because they could have avoided it by getting onboard with this treaty.

That makes it a weird situation though. In that reading, the proposed treaty is not just a proposal but it's a threat: 'agree to our demands or we will invade'.

And in this reading, it's still a matter of sovereignty. The West believes in the sovereignty of nations. NATO is their alliance and Russia has no say or veto over who gets to join or not.

Axios posted an article on this in December 2021. I'll highlight two excerpts highlighting NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg's response at a press conference:

When asked Wednesday whether NATO was expanding toward Russia's "sphere of influence," Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg gave an impassioned response, pounding his podium and insisting that it's "not acceptable" for the Kremlin to control the actions of its sovereign neighbors.

"It's only Ukraine and 30 NATO allies that decide when Ukraine is ready to join NATO. Russia has no veto, Russia has no say, and Russia has no right to establish a sphere of influence to try to control their neighbors," Stoltenberg said at his press conference.

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    Technically, although sovereign countries with their own will are free to apply, NATO is also free to deny membership.
    – Allure
    Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 2:24
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    @Allure yes, that's what the ''30 NATO allies'' in the quote refers to, it's their decision, not Russia's. And giving in to Russia's demand takes away from that.
    – JJJ
    Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 3:07
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    @JJJ it's still their decision to give in to Russia's demand.
    – Allure
    Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 3:20
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    @JJJ The Monroe Doctrine seems to go against the claim that the U.S. adheres to Westphalian style sovereignty.
    – M. Y. Zuo
    Commented Aug 24, 2022 at 16:28
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    I remember then free and sovereign Cuba holds some rockets in 1962. USA didn't mind at all
    – Crantisz
    Commented Aug 25, 2022 at 13:44

Well, the catch is that Russia put out two documents (the same day). You missed the other one which did have proposals found a lot more objectionable in the West.

Article 4

The Russian Federation and all the Parties that were member States of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as of 27 May 1997, respectively, shall not deploy military forces and weaponry on the territory of any of the other States in Europe in addition to the forces stationed on that territory as of 27 May 1997. With the consent of all the Parties such deployments can take place in exceptional cases to eliminate a threat to security of one or more Parties.

Basically that required all Western NATO forces to withdraw to 1997 positions, like dismantling the couple of anti-ballistic missile bases that US built in the meantime (in Poland and Romania) etc. The reality, accorind to those Western analysts:

From 1997 to 2014, NATO deployed virtually no troops or equipment in new member states.

That changed following Russia’s seizure of Crimea. NATO now deploys, on a rotating basis, relatively small multinational battlegroups in the Baltic states and Poland.

So basically Russia wanted to dismantle the tripwire forces that give NATO a lot of its cohesion, because (nowadays) you can't attack (say) Estonia without killing some Western NATO troops.

Also, the US-Russia draft treaty had this in its article 5 (para 2).

The Parties shall refrain from flying heavy bombers equipped for nuclear or non-nuclear armaments or deploying surface warships of any type, including in the framework of international organizations, military alliances or coalitions, in the areas outside national airspace and national territorial waters respectively, from where they can attack targets in the territory of the other Party.

So basically the US Navy would have been barred from Europe. Russia doesn't give up much in exchange since most its allies, e.g. Syria or Venezuela are far from the US. Possibly they'd have refrained from visiting Cuba (plus maybe Nicaragua), but that's not that much in the news lately, unlike e.g. US landing ships visiting Lithuania. (Russia's navy still does show the flag in Cuba now and then.) Because of the proximity of the Kaliningrad exclave, Russia could have easily claimed/demanded that [according to the draft treaty] the US Navy shouldn't visit Germany for instance, where the US has their major land bases in Europe, which would have definitely been quite an issue for the US. (A Tomahawk cruise missile, which is carried on most US navy ships, has a [published] range of about 1600 km. That's more than even the Amsterdam-Kaliningrad distance, never mind Hamburg-Kaliningrad. Even London is slightly within that distance "as the crow flies".) And as Mark correctly noted in a comment below, that wasn't all. On the Pacific side, both Japan and South Korea are well within that range of Vladivostok, so Russia could have complained about US Navy presence there too, under the [draft] treaty.

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    Almost forgot about Nicaragua which is somewhere in-between Venezuela and Cuba, in terms of distance to the US, and also increasingly in the "Russian camp" (again) but interstingly Russia seems more intersted in drumming this up than Nicaragua is. Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 4:39
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    Spectacular analysis, without any speculating or assumptions. Great answer
    – The Norman
    Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 23:37
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    The most significant issue with the surface-warship restriction isn't in Europe at all. Almost all of Japan is within 1600 km of Vladivostok; the military bases on Okinawa are all within 1800 km. Accepting the Russian proposal would basically mean retreating from the Pacific Ocean west of Hawaii.
    – Mark
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 1:09
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    @Mark: true, the Pacific would have been in question as well. South Korea too is well within that range of Vladivostok. As would have been the Eastern Mediterranean incl. Turkey, Greece and most of Southern Italy (if conceding the Russian claim on Crimea). The 6th Fleet HQ in Naples ist at about 1600 km from Sevastopol. That's a quite lot to trade for Cuba (plus maybe Nicaragua), overall. Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 2:25
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    "Russia doesn't give up much in exchange since most its allies, e.g. Syria or Venezuela are far from the US." Wouldn't the treaty require them to withdraw all military from Belarus, Donbass, Crimea, South Ossetia, and Armenia? I suppose there's some wriggle room to argue the last two are Asia, but Crimea is clearly Europe, and there's no way that Russia would remove their military from there, so clearly Russia intended for themselves to have unilateral power to reassign what is considered "the territory of any of the other States". Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 2:44

Putin’s ultimatum was a pretext. Russia would have invaded anyway. Russian officials stated multiple times that the goal is claiming Ukrainian lands and dismantling the democratically elected Ukrainian government.


A month into the invasion, Russia pulled back from Kyiv and declared its main goal was the "liberation of Donbas" - broadly referring to Ukraine's eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk. More than a third of this area was already seized by Russian proxy forces in a war that began in 2014, now Russia wanted to conquer all of it.

Paul Kirby: Why has Russia invaded Ukraine and what does Putin want? BBC News. May 9, 2022: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-56720589

Putin elaborated on his imperial vision during a June 9 event in Moscow to mark the 350th birthday of Russian Czar Peter the Great. He spoke admiringly of Czar Peter’s achievements during the Great Northern War and drew direct parallels to his own contemporary expansionist policies. The lands taken from Sweden during the Great Northern War were historically Russian and Peter was merely returning them to their rightful owners, Putin stated. “Apparently, it is now also our responsibility to return (Russian) land,” he said in a clear reference to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Putin’s latest comments underline his imperial objectives in Ukraine and expand on years of similar statements lamenting the fall of the Russian Empire. For more than a decade, he has questioned the historical legitimacy of Ukrainian statehood and publicly insisted that Ukrainians are really Russians (“one people”). Putin has also repeatedly accused Ukraine of occupying ancestral Russian lands and has blamed the early Bolsheviks for bungling the border between the Russian and Ukrainian Soviet republics.

Peter Dickinson: Putin admits Ukraine invasion is an imperial war to “return” Russian land. Atlantic Council. June 10, 2022: https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/putin-admits-ukraine-invasion-is-an-imperial-war-to-return-russian-land/

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    You can't know that for sure. Since the proposals were not implemented one can speculate and say the whole invasion is aftermath of rejecting them. If US was that interested in avoiding the conflict, it could give it a try at least
    – The Norman
    Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 0:35
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    @TheNorman Equally, you can't know for sure that Russia was being genuine. However, given that they were at that very moment lying about the existence of plans to invade, and that they had already torn up one security promise made to Ukraine (the Budapest Memorandum), it's hard to take their claims at face value. You would have to trust a country that has repeatedly shown itself to be untrustworthy.
    – cpast
    Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 1:59
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    Indeed, one could argue that Russia already had invaded, in a more low-key/deniable kind of way. It was no great secret that Russian troops were already holidaying^W accidentally getting lost and wandering across the border^W^W^W^W^W^W^W^Wpresent in separatist regions, fighting against the Ukrainian government, and no great stretch to guess what outcome Russia was aiming for.
    – G_B
    Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 2:54
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    @TheNorman, "the US ... could give it a try at least" The US clearly had extensive inside information about Russian intentions, and made decisions accordingly.
    – donjuedo
    Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 20:53
  • I suppose an argument could be made that if the invasion was going to happen regardless, then an invasion after the US signing the treaty would be greater PR value than an invasion after the US refusing. Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 2:45

Because it would have accomplished nothing.

For the last 6 months, Russia has demonstrated that it will lie about just about anything that one can lie about. It has lied about not targeting civilian buildings with missiles. It has lied about destroying HIMARS. It has lied about denazifying Ukraine. It has lied about its casualties. It has lied about humanitarian corridors. It has changed the reasons justifying invasion so many times that every time proves the previous reason to be a lie. With all of these easily verifiable facts, on what basis do you assert that appeasing Russia would prevent it from acting unfavorably?

Invading Ukraine would itself be a manifest violation of the Budapest Memorandum which Russia agreed to almost 3 decades ago. The notion that if the US keeps its commitments, then Russia will keep its commitments is undermined by the fact that invading Ukraine is prima facie evidence of Russia NOT keeping its commitments under the Budapest Memorandum. Since this concept appears to be too complex to ponder, let me render it simply:

Ivan, Sam, Vlad: "Vlad agrees to give up his brass knuckles, and Ivan & Sam agree to make sure nobody messes with Vlad. In particular, they agree not to punch Vlad in the face."

30 years later...

Ivan: "Sam, give me your lunch money, or I'll punch Vlad in the face."

Norman: "You'd better do it, Sam. I think he really means it, and this is the only way to protect Vlad!"

Sam: "Don't be silly. How do we know he won't punch Vlad anyway?"

Norman: "He is promising! Ivan always keeps his promises! If we don't comply, Vlad could get really hurt."

Sam: "30 years ago, Ivan agreed TO NOT PUNCH VLAD. If he does so now, he will be proving that he is a liar who cannot be trusted."

Normal: "No, no, no...YOU are making Ivan punch Vlad by not giving your lunch money!!! It's like you are moving Ivan's fist yourself, with your willful belligerence!!!"

Sam: "Let me guess...Ivan has promised to share some of the lunch money with you if you get me to comply? You're nothing but a dirty weasel, Norman."

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    in case the analogy is unclear: Vlad is Ukraine, not Vladimir Putin... Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 16:47
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    Yeah, it's tricky because we have Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky. I assume they have the same first name, just in slightly different languages. Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 1:09
  • 1
    Is there any conclusive evidence that Russia has lied on that point? For example when they refer to "civilian buildings", they may mean "buildings with no current military function" - in other words, buildings free of military men and materiel. It seems quite plausible to imagine that under conditions of total war, civilian buildings will be secretly repurposed for military use, such secret use will not be publicly acknowledged, and the Ukrainian side would publicly lie about such secret use. Moreover, under total war, nothing really is reserved for civilian use anymore.
    – Steve
    Commented Oct 23, 2022 at 11:59
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    @LawnmowerMan, indeed, but that is not inconsistent with the idea of secretly using a shopping centre for a military purpose - to be distributing guns out of the trades entrance, for example, whilst ordinary shopping continues via the frontages. Wearing down industrial resources by attrition is a normal strategy. Also, causing hardship and suffering for civilians, in a way that is designed to manufacture the mental condition for their surrender, is both expected and intended in war.
    – Steve
    Commented Oct 24, 2022 at 8:04
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    @LawnmowerMan, it's not that I think the civilians should be attacked as if they are combatants, I just think it's silly how many armchair lawyers seem to think that basically anything being blown up amounts to a special war crime. A war crime is basically what both sides say is a crime, or if not both, then at least what the stronger side says. The rest is war itself, and the war will deliver a verdict on who is right and who is wrong.
    – Steve
    Commented Oct 25, 2022 at 19:36

Because there is also a danger that the hostile country first press with threats and aggressive negotiations and then, after the "security" is given to them by weakening the possibilities of defense, cynically attacks anyway.

Ukraine was not accepted into NATO in time. Ukraine was pressed also by western side and gave up the nuclear weapons. Why this was not enough? How much would have been enough?

Disarmament agreements normally require discounts from both sides. They must be balanced, weakening both sides in equal proportion. Scaring and threatening is not the way to achieve them.

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    Why this was not enough? it's been enough for about 30 years, I would say. The issue Russia sees is that it was about to change
    – The Norman
    Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 22:47
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    @TheNorman Russia made a few perfunctory claims about being worried Ukraine would get nukes, but they have not really pressed those. I'm skeptical that they even genuinely thought Ukraine was trying to get nukes, as opposed to just tossing it on their pile of BS (whereas I do believe they genuinely thought NATO was an existential threat and that Ukraine's government was a Western puppet). Russia violated the Budapest Memorandum back in 2014, with the claim that the Maidan protests (not nukes) justified it.
    – cpast
    Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 23:12

The US did not consider Russia's security concerns because it did not care about them. That's the simple answer. Would there have been an invasion if the US had been willing to consider these proposals? Almost certainly not. Now we will never know. In general, however, you try to exhaust the diplomatic means first and foremost.

It is well known that the US, not once but rather several times, broke the promise not to expand NATO further east. Such an expansion was doomed to be ill-interpreted by the Russian side (assuming that it had benign intentions in the first place). At any rate, US presidents/policymakers have been consistently warned (by well-informed US officials) that Ukraine is a red line for Russia's security concerns. Operation Barbarossa comes to mind for example. It went right through Ukraine.

Now, people frequently mention the concept of state sovereignty. This is all good, and hopefully, we will at some point reach this high pinnacle in human development such that we abide by this elementary moral principle. But if you take even a very superficial look at history you will immediately notice that such an argument belongs to the field of comedy when it comes to a big discrepancy in positions of power.

The truth is that in the power games of grand politics, justice can only be realized between powers of roughly equal strength. There is no justice among unequal powers. Equality of strength is a prerequisite here. The Soviet Union collapsed, Russia got a government very much aligned with the West, and regardless of this the US immediately expanded to cover the gap.

To give an example: Russia's demands at that point could be plausibly interpreted as asking to turn Ukraine into something like Mexico. Mexico is a sovereign state, with its own will, and that can choose its own path in the world. What it cannot do, however, is join a Chinese-run military alliance that is placing advanced weaponry into the country, or carry out joint military operations with the People's Liberation Army (among many other similar things). They have signed a treaty for it that bars them from joining what would be deemed as a hostile military alliance to the US.

What would happen if there was even the slightest hint of Mexico joining such an alliance? I think that's pretty clear, and so much so that no one even thinks of doing it.

But as was said, the US considers itself in a position of power. We should also keep in mind that it has been a fairly aggressive state in its foreign policy since WW2. Indeed it stands significantly higher than Russia and will refuse to pursue diplomacy. Instead, it kept pursuing its official stance in the last two decades, which was to go ahead and incorporate Ukraine into NATO (the 2008 Bucharest summit, the 2021 re-iteration of the Bucharest summit's pronouncement).

Needless to say, this does not justify the Russian invasion. But I think it is fair to say that it is a direct consequence of foolish US foreign policy.

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    "There is a non-trivial probability that there wouldn't have been one." -- Assuming facts not in evidence. As should hopefully be obvious, the US was not just operating off of Russia's public claims but had insight into their actual plans (which is why the US was correctly saying "Russia will invade" when Russia was insisting they had no plans and were just doing innocent exercises).
    – cpast
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 0:08
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    This is the proper answer. Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 5:02
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    As Peter said, this is the proper answer. It sees things as they are and not through pink glasses. This world is operated by force and might, not some pink flowery ideals which say everybody is equal, bla-bla-bla. No, not everybody is equal and what runs this world is so called realpolitik, not ideals, or to put it another way: might is the right. There are sovereign nations, but some are more sovereign than others. Bendemann mentioned Mexico - if Mexico were to join Chinese alliance, I bet my right arm, USA would swiftly crush them with all military might they have. And nobody would blink.
    – dosvarog
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 8:10
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    To sum up this post: "Might Makes Right" This is the fundamental ideology found in cartels, mobs, and gangs. It is an ideology that is not compatible with justice or morality. Is it the way of the world? In a manner of speaking, yes. The person with the biggest stick makes the rules.
    – David S
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 17:39
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    @Fizz The U.S. have demonstrated in South America ad nauseam that they couldn't care less about the rule of law. They were willing to wage civil war and stage coups for much less than moving the Warsaw Pact border 500 km from Washington D.C. and stationing nuclear weapons there (Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador are just the tip of the iceberg -- most countries there suffered from U.S. military intervention). A full scale war was rarely necessary, that's all. Commented Aug 24, 2022 at 8:52

IMO the answer I originally accepted doesn't completely cover the part of why it didn't make much sense to play around with the demands: Despite the fact the countries which were discussed in the article are sovereign countries with their own will, the US and any other NATO member are also sovereign countries with their own will, and they technically can ban any membership if they wanted to.

I believe the main problem here is that the treaty would not be viewed positively by the banned countries, (even if it had some special status of their security from both sides) because the countries at stake were not even invited to decide their own fate.

Thus, the document needs to change in way that requires about 10 other countries (in addition to Russia and the US themselves) to agree and sign this document (so all affected parties have a chance to express their sovereign will). Making that many sides to agree on something is a challenge on its own, let alone that some of them were quite far from finding a common ground on questions about international security.

  • In other words, 10 countries should agree to not to defend themselves from Russia, and then Russia promises not to invade them. Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 23:51
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    @user253751 Well that might be a better approach when you insist on defending yourself and get an actual invasion. It requires an ego check, though.
    – alamar
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 8:37
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    @alamar The answer should possibly include an explanation of why, after 10 countries agree not to defend themselves from a Russian invasion, Russia wouldn't just invade them. That is something missing from a lot of political theories similar to this one. Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 21:01
  • @user253751 Well, those 10 countries have their own defensive pact, and their total population would be comparable to that of Russia (and total GDP probably larger than Russian); who said that Russia will have any success when attacking those?
    – alamar
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 21:34

Effectively, it's human nature. It's psychologically difficult to make concessions, especially when the other person is 1) not your friend and 2) weaker than you.

If aliens were to suddenly show up and, with their warships orbiting Earth, tell NATO "hey, we think you should agree to Russia's security demands" - they probably would do it. That's even though all the other reasons not to agree to Russia's security demands remain intact. You don't argue with people who are more powerful than you.

Similarly, when you are the most powerful country on Earth, then other countries should not argue with you. And should they be brash enough to demand concessions from you ... well, you're going to say no.


Suspicious minds would say the war was not avoided because what politicians say is not what politicians think.

In this particular case the suspicions are:

  • That those who profess their commitment to the rule of law the loudest are, in fact, those who care least about it — but instead pursue a global strategy perturbed by legal considerations only insofar as they shape public opinion, which makes them emphasize the law when it aligns with their interest and ignore or misrepresent it when it does not; in this case it does align, so it is emphasized.

  • That those who profess their support for Ukraine are, in fact, those who care least about it — instead, to them it is of one of the "-stans": A shit hole that they sacrifice without a second thought for a strategic advantage.

  • Given Putin's history as a KGB officer, scheming, deceiving and manipulating are his nature to a degree that categories like truth or lie, authenticity or duplicity are meaningless to him. Nothing he says can be taken at face value, including promises to pursue a peaceful and benign policy once certain conditions are met.

  • Because nothing that's being said publicly can be believed, identifying the beneficiaries of this war may be a starting point for understanding the reasons it has not been prevented or ended. On the Russian side they include, of course, Putin. In many wars, the leader's position solidifies because the people rally behind the government. The war and Putin's professed vision of a renewed Russian grandness ensure public support. His political standing and power is stronger than ever.

    On the Western side the beneficiaries are by and large the political hardliners (who typically don't care about the rule of law, see above); the fossil fuel industry who otherwise faces an increasing public and political head wind; and the weapons industry who normally tries to be discreet about siphoning off all the money that in a better world would be used for education, health and free ice cream. In a war that has public support an obscene business can make obscene profits in bright daylight and present it as a service to mankind.

    If the suspicious mind wonders why some moderate Western leaders who are not direct beneficiaries of the war (e.g. because they don't have an oil refinery, a fracking site or or a weapons factory in their home district) didn't prevent the war, they'll note that the "rule of law" propaganda by the beneficiaries makes it hard for war opponents to not seem lawless or at least spineless. In this indirect sense anybody who supports the war is a beneficiary as long as the public opinion supports it.

    Very suspicious minds would also note that Selenskyj's political standing is probably stronger than it would have been in peaceful times, if the fate of other political amateurs is any indication.

The suspicious mind would, overall, conclude that the people who benefit from this war have no incentive to prevent or end it. In Russia, Putin is one of them. They would conclude that it will end when it stops being beneficial to some key players, for example because public opinion shifts in Russia or in the West.

  • I guess the suspicious mind gets upvotes neither from the Russian, Western nor Ukrainian fan groups. There aren't many potential upvoters left after that ;-). Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 21:36
  • The suspicious mind also wonders whether COVID-19 is not a bio-weapon released from a lab. Yet, such ponderance is not very useful. Commented Aug 24, 2022 at 0:15
  • @user253751 Well, this suspicious mind pays attention to facts. The suspicion is concerning utterances. Commented Aug 24, 2022 at 0:34
  • The beneficiaries of Halliburton (personal) and the petro-dollar (political) may carry over from Iraq to Ukraine. But this is simplistic thinking. I suspect the causes here are more personal: Ukraine deals on Hunter Biden's laptop's disk. Anyways... you have my +1
    – user44167
    Commented Aug 24, 2022 at 12:56
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    "categories like truth or lie, authenticity or duplicity are meaningless to him" - being an effective political policeman, or propagandist, does not necessarily mean losing the distinction between truth and lie. Indeed, the point is to inflict such a condition upon the enemy because it will derange their behaviour, not to succumb to such blurred lines yourself. And as untrustworthy as Putin's words may be, there is by the same logic no reason to vest any greater trust in what Western liberal rulers say.
    – Steve
    Commented Oct 23, 2022 at 12:10

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, speaking thirty days after Russia invaded Ukraine:

"We wanna see Russia weakened to the degree that it can't do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine."

The trouble is that this "weakening" of Russia is being done with Ukrainian blood. True, it's done with American dollars (and European contributions), but ultimately Ukraine is diminishing Russian military capability with their lives and the destruction of their cities and national heritage.

Perhaps Putin is a 21st-century Hitler, and the Europeans' concerns he'd sweep into Europe were (and remain) well-founded. Still, the avenues for dialog were not exhausted in February, and the proud little man ultimately got impatient and invaded.

See also a related Q&A from March 3, 2022.

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    You are taking the statements out of context and that was preceded by a statement stating that they wanted to see Ukraine remain as a free democratic country. Not to mention it isn't exactly shocking to want your enemies and those you see as a threat to be weakened so that they no longer pose a threat.
    – Joe W
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 18:01
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    @JoeW I agree with you. It's perfectly reasonable for the US to have this objective. It's the method that I am uncomfortable with. As for taking a sentence out of context: if I point to a paragraph in the middle of a speech/paper, I do expect you to read the whole paper, and not just the paragraph :-).
    – Sam7919
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 18:04
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    You started the video right after the statement on the goal of keeping Ukraine as a free democratic country. I can only take that to mean that you don't want people to hear that and you just want that single sentence of wanting to weaken Russia.
    – Joe W
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 18:10
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    Perhaps Putin is a 21st-century Hitler I find this sentiment quite misleading. Russia hosts the vast majority of Ukraine refugees, and provides them with significant humanitarian aid, let alone that the Ukraine-Russia tensions are not based on hatred of each other, but on agenda of both sides to protect their people
    – The Norman
    Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 7:27
  • @TheNorman As a Canadian reading US and Canadian media, I also find that statement unjustified. But Western Europeans in general, and Germans and Austrians in particular, are voicing the concern. It may well be based less on their own history of having been governed by a tyrant than on the history of Tsarist Russia (such as attempting to annihilate the Circassians), and of course the various Soviet incursions.
    – Sam7919
    Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 13:35

Your question begs for a highly complex answer that is currently so hot it is igniting the world: could we have avoided the war in any way, such as with American leaders accepting Russian leaders demands?

As you can expect, you will only find simplistic, often biased answers here. There are only a few experts worldwide on this question, and they wouldn't be able to answer in the limited span of a StackExchange's post. Some answers here imply simplistic reasons, but obviously no country would start a war that can lead to World War 3 just because they are being unreasonable, geopolitics is a discipline that is immensely more complex than "the good, the bad and the ugly" cinematic, but unrealistic, scenario.

If you want to delve deeper into this question, I'd suggest to read the works of (Western) independent scholars, and even then, don't expect a simple answer. Works on politics remain mostly opinion based even by scholars, but they at least have an extensive historical and theoretical knowledge that allow them to write more informed and contextualized opinions than what you will typically read elsewhere.

As for your question, I'd point you more specifically to the liberalism vs realism political ideologies of States security. Here are some relevant excerpts from the works of established western scholars:

The great tragedy is this entire affair was avoidable. Had the United States and its European allies not succumbed to hubris, wishful thinking, and liberal idealism and relied instead on realism’s core insights, the present crisis would not have occurred. Indeed, Russia would probably never have seized Crimea, and Ukraine would be safer today. The world is paying a high price for relying on a flawed theory of world politics.

At the most basic level, realism begins with the recognition that wars occur because there is no agency or central authority that can protect states from one another and stop them from fighting if they choose to do so. Given that war is always a possibility, states compete for power and sometimes use force to try to make themselves more secure or gain other advantages. There is no way states can know for certain what others may do in the future, which makes them reluctant to trust one another and encourages them to hedge against the possibility that another powerful state may try to harm them at some point down the road.

Liberalism sees world politics differently. Instead of seeing all great powers as facing more or less the same problem—the need to be secure in a world where war is always possible—liberalism maintains that what states do is driven mostly by their internal characteristics and the nature of the connections among them. It divides the world into “good states” (those that embody liberal values) and “bad states” (pretty much everyone else) and maintains that conflicts arise primarily from the aggressive impulses of autocrats, dictators, and other illiberal leaders. For liberals, the solution is to topple tyrants and spread democracy, markets, and institutions based on the belief that democracies don’t fight one another, especially when they are bound together by trade, investment, and an agreed-on set of rules.

After the Cold War, Western elites concluded that realism was no longer relevant and liberal ideals should guide foreign-policy conduct. As the Harvard University professor Stanley Hoffmann told Thomas Friedman of the New York Times in 1993, realism is “utter nonsense today.” U.S. and European officials believed that liberal democracy, open markets, the rule of law, and other liberal values were spreading like wildfire and a global liberal order lay within reach.

Read more: Liberal Illusions Caused the Ukraine Crisis, by Stephen M. Walt, January 19th 2022

Once the discussions over NATO expansion began in earnest, Russia registered its objections—early, frequently, and emphatically. But considering that the alliance’s membership will have increased from 16 in 1991 to 30 once North Macedonia is formally admitted in 2020, Moscow’s objections clearly have made little difference to those driving the policy. Richard Holbrooke, writes his biographer George Packer, ‘brushed off’ arguments that expanding NATO would provoke Russia and dismissed the idea that Russia had reason to feel threatened by the West. But as Packer observed, Holbrooke’s inability to imagine how other countries might view US actions given their past experiences—in Russia’s case repeated invasions across its western frontier—and current apprehensions meant that ‘his doctrine risked becoming a kind of liberal imperialism’ (Packer 2019, 399).

Holbrooke’s attitude is instructive because it marked the thinking of other advocates of NATO expansion (and still does). They believed that Russians, especially the democrats among them, could not truly believe that an enlarged NATO posed a threat to their country. Stated differently, US officials committed to expanding the alliance seemed to believe that the only reasonable way Russia could view their policy was the way that they themselves viewed it. In consequence, they regarded Russian objections as, in the main, rhetoric designed for domestic consumption, the result of misunderstanding of US intentions, or simple paranoia. They also believed that Russia’s leaders could be won over by a variety of means, whether economic aid and inclusion in the Partnership for Peace or inclusion in security forums such as the Russia–NATO Consultative Council, and that personal chemistry between Russian and US presidents, notably Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton’s bonhomie, would calm Moscow’s anxiety.

This view discounted the possibility that Russian leaders would regard the alliance’s movement eastward toward their country’s borders as provocative—and disingenuous given US assurances that the Cold War was over and that Russia was a partner.

[...] Opponents of NATO expansion had warned that Russia’s leaders would interpret expansion precisely that way and would be unmoved by the argument that it was needed to provide security to and foster democracy in the lands to NATO’s east (Mandelbaum 1996, 1997; GovInfo 1997).

Read more: NATO enlargement and US grand strategy: a net assessment, Rajan Menon and William Ruger, 2020

[...] Supporters of enlargement have argued that it would help to stabilize Eastern Europe in at least three ways. First, a strong Western commitment to former communist states in this region would deter any future Russian aggression. Second, enlargement would reduce the likelihood of conflict among NATO members, ameliorating security dilemmas and forcing them to accept current borders and pursue the peaceful resolution of disputes. Third, it would further democratization in the region, which in turn would help to stabilize the area because democracies are unlikely to fight each other. As former United Nations Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick explained, "There is ... only one reliable guarantee against aggression. It is not found in international organizations. It is found in the spread of democracy. It derives from the simple fact that true democracies do not invade one another and do not engage in aggressive wars... Preserving and strengthening democracies in Central and Eastern Europe should be the United States' central goal and top foreign policy priority in Europe [...]".

Read more: Why NATO Enlargement Does Not Spread Democracy, Dan Reiter, 2001

TL;DR: According to these scholars, american leaders had a fundamentally different view than russian leaders on how to implement international security in Europe: americans viewed institutions as obsolete and strongly believed in the liberal ideals of democracy as the core values to ensure mutual security. Unfortunately, the economically and military weakened russians post world war 2 were in an entirely different mindset and viewed the world from a very different perspective, a "realistic" one as scholars term it, in which ideals didn't matter at all in face of the militaristic and political forces placement on the world map. Americans did not understand russians' viewpoint, continuing their enlargement plan in presumably good faith of trying to increase the security of European countries, but this miscommunication is now backfiring hard.

(Addendum: Reminder: Geopolitics is the study of countries interactions, not only by their official statements, but also by their actions. When scholars qualify one State's behavior as following an ideology or framework, this represents an analysis of both their communications and actions -- and both public statements and confidential cables where available.)

I'd recommend you to look for more scholar works, you may find other opinions, some differing. Do not stay in an echo chamber.

  • 9
    It seems this answer can be summarized as: if NATO hadn't expanded, there would have been no Russian demands to agree to in 2021. I'm really DV it for its TLDR aspect rather than anything else. The Q isn't asking if expanding NATO in the first place was a good idea or not. Once they have committed themselves to that it's not so easy to put the genie back in the bottle without losing a lot of face/credibility. One can equally ask: what if Putin shows up on TV tomorrow and declares there was no anti-Russian genocide in the Donbas? Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 21:30
  • 2
    @Fizz Well I wrote a TL;DR to summarize by myself what I was trying to convey, and it's very unlike your summary... My answer focuses on the very question of why american leaders disregard russian demands? The answer is rooted in the schism between the liberalist and realistic political ideologies, as I write in more details above.
    – gaborous
    Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 21:32
  • 2
    @Fizz If you are suggesting that the enlargement question is a separate question, it's not: Ukraine was in the process of reform to join NATO, with the latest statement by NATO just preceding russian protestations and invasion. The sources I linked to specifically link these events together, I don't have to provide proof, it's the thesis of these authors, not mine. You are free to provide an alternative viewpoint, as I said, there may be other scholars with different viewpoints. I'm not saying that war is justified, I'm just sourcing some historically contextualized scholar opinions.
    – gaborous
    Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 21:35
  • 1
    A personal addendum that other may find interesting to research further: the liberalist ideology of West countries is not that new: replace "democracy" with a religion, and you got the same kinds of geopolitical alliances, just based on a different criterion of similarity. Could it be said that democracy is the new religion, or maybe even the new Christianity, in terms of western geopolitics? This would be a very interesting thesis to read IMHO, with Christian democracy being a good starting point to study this question.
    – gaborous
    Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 16:24

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