There’s a theory, held by some American pundits, that Vladimir Putin’s menacing of Ukraine is all our fault.
Here’s the argument: In the 1990s, Moscow had just lost the Cold War. The Soviet Union had broken up. The Warsaw Pact was dead. Russia was down and all but out. Instead of being gracious winners, the West gloated. We brought Poland and most of Moscow’s other allies into NATO. We expanded the alliance eastward all the way to the former Soviet border. By rubbing it in, we guaranteed that, sooner or later, we’d get a future nationalistic Russian leader—Putin, for instance—bent on avenging this humiliation by hitting us where he could—Ukraine, for instance.
According to this theory, if we’d just treated Russia more like an equal and foregone NATO expansion, Putin would be running a proper parliamentary democracy and diplomatic harmony would rule from the Azores to Vladivostok.