The War in Ukraine Is Putin’s Fault, but 30 Years of Misguided U.S. Foreign Policy Didn’t Help

There is one person—and just one person—who is responsible for the widespread death and devastation inside Ukraine right now, and that is Vladimir Putin. Without justification, he has invaded and attacked a sovereign country. Putin’s nostalgia for the old Soviet Union is despicable, and his imperialist ambitions to expand his authoritarian grasp are in direct violation of international law, humanitarian principles, and the very stability of the post–World War II peace that has endured in much of the word for decades.

Putin is a dictatorship and killer. It is outrageous that Putin has decided to raise Russia’s nuclear force. It’s a move that harkens all the way back to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962—a leader of a superpower has unilaterally brought civilization closer to nuclear war. The whole world is aware of this indefensible act. Russia knows this, and thousands are protesting Putin’s invasion of their country. Putin’s government already has more than 6000 peaceful demonstrators under arrest.

Putin’s nukes will cause the rest of developed countries to be alerted. We’ve quickly landed at a location where all-out nuclear warfare is much more likely. This is not a reason. One very evil man is responsible for our current situation.

All this being said, it is important to highlight bad U.S. Foreign Policy moves that brought us here. And even though no one did this but Putin, the U.S.’s failed approach to Russia for the last 30 years—a bipartisan effort that includes mistakes by Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden—deserves criticism as well.

Let’s get started with Clinton in the 1990s. You can read more about the Clinton administration in the 1990s. ReasonEric Boehm, the American president of the United States pointed out that Clinton is the first to inherit a world without the Soviet Union in many decades. Clinton could have completely revamped NATO now that its purpose—defending member nations against the expansion of the Soviet Union—was no longer applicable. With the support of the Republican Party, Clinton oversaw NATO’s expansion. The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland joined the NATO. Putin would later cite NATO’s expansion as one his “broken promises”, which he used to justify his Ukraine policies years later.

Putin’s stance on Ukraine is a grave error. Putin’s Ukraine policy does not justify anything. NATO was created to safeguard the world from Russian aggression. It is clearly not serving its purpose if NATO’s policy is used to antagonize Russia or as a pretext to invade,

NATO intervened in Yugoslavia to secure an independent Kosovo in 1999 with the support of President Clinton. This military action was not supported by the United Nations and it violated international law just as Putin’s attack against Ukraine.

Bush’s foreign policy is not well-respected due to U.S. misadventures in Middle East. But Bush also made mistakes in Europe. At a 2008 NATO summit—one attended by Putin—Bush staunchly supported Ukraine’s eventual admittance to NATO, over the objections of France, the U.K., and Germany.

Of course, tensions were heightened with Russia by the Obama administration when it took sides in 2014’s Ukrainian revolution. Donald Trump was born. Democrats and mainstream media allies continued to accuse Trump of being a Russian stooge. Trump was even accused of being pro-Putin, an ally of Russia, who installed him as President of the United States through a Facebook influence campaign. This was of course ridiculous—and as evidence of how ridiculous the claims are, Trump’s actual administration was just as foolishly tough on Russia as his predecessors. Mike Pence, Vice President Mike Pence, even repeated the 2008 Bucharest Declaration in 2017.

This was also maintained by the Biden administration. Putin may have been deprived of intellectual power by declaring that Ukraine will not join NATO. Unfortunately, we don’t have any idea. It was the U.S.’s duty to make an attempt. NATO is a means to an end—a more safe and secure Europe—not an end unto itself. It’s failing if NATO expansion creates the conditions NATO was supposed to stop. Every single American president has misunderstood the situation since the end the Cold War. We are now.