Why is Ukraine the West's Fault? by John Mearsheimer
Ukraine is of vital strategic interest to Russia and we’ve been trying to pull it into the Western order militarily (with nato), economically (with the EU), and politically (by promoting democracy).
Putin just won’t accept this and you can’t blame him (as we wouldn’t accept a China-aligned Canada, or Soviet-aligned Cuba). You can see what his position is by looking to Georgia in 2008 following talks about Ukraine and Georgia joining NATO. You can also look to the conflict in Ukraine in 2014 following talks about aligning Ukraine to the EU.
It’s really quite silly for us to pursue this policy of bringing Ukraine closer to the West, as Ukraine is of no vital strategic interest to us and we have no reason to believe Russia has desired to expand. It’s also silly because we are not defending Ukraine today with boots on the ground, so why would we give Ukraine an Article 5 NATO guarantee?
Putin will wreck Ukraine to prevent it from being a fixture of the West. It’s unlikely he has plans to annex it.
A neutral Ukraine as a buffer state is good for the West, good for Russia, and good for Ukraine. This is the better policy for stability in Europe.
Russia as an ally against China (and Iran) makes a lot of sense, but we’re pushing them toward China and ruining our relationship over Ukraine… this is against our strategic self interest.