Wether or not you see Russia has being aggressive in Eastern Europe or not they so have a strategy and sound logic on why they are doing what they are doing. Let’s quickly disprove some silly theories. One big one that you hear a lot is Russia is trying to retake the former USSR. IF this was Russia’s goal, it would be impossible. Too many former Soviet states are now members of NATO and house a lot of anti-Russian sentiment. There is no real way for Russia to retake the former USSR. It is simply not their goal, what they say their goal is that of defense and national security.
Russia claim’s after the USSR fell NATO has continued to build up on their border and farther encircle them. They say after 1990 the Secretary of State, James Baker made the promise to Yeltsin that NATO would ‘not expand a single inch forward.’ This is a controversial point between Russia and NATO, which will be discussed later. But, if we go ahead and say this is true. Russia sees NATO as adding the former Soviet states such as Poland, Romania, and the Baltic states is a clear sign that NATO/the West broke their promise to Russia. They also claim this is why they over reacted in the Russo-Georgian War (South Ossetian Conflict). The claim is that NATO was about to add Georgia as a member of NATO, but when Georgia acted up in South Ossetia by killing Russian peacekeepers that gave Moscow the go ahead to move in against Georgia troops who were currently invading South Ossetia. The EU did end up siding in Russia’s favor stating for the most part that Georgia was at fault, but Russia over reacted. The government of the Russian Federation explains everything that the West sees as aggression they are doing it out of defense. They consider Euromaidan a coup that was meant to destabilize the region and bring Ukraine into the EU and NATO farther destabilizing and encroaching on their border. They claim that they ethnic Russian people of Crimea and Donbass feel and felt threatened by the new pro-Western government in Kiev which gave them reason to aid Donbass rebels and move into Crimea. It is true that the people of Crimea and Donbass (Lugansk and Donetsk) do want to be Russian, and claim Russia is defending their right to Self determination, which is in the UN Charter which states simply, “All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social, and cultural development.”
NATO/the West’s claim
NATO counter claims in two ways generally. The first is that James Baker had no right to make that promise, and therefore that promise is voided, and NATO is not breaking the promise and only ensuring security and the safety of its members, especially that who fear Russia… Such as Poland, Estonia, Lithuanian, ect. Therefore what Russia has been doing is pure aggression. The other claim that you hear often is, ‘technically NATO hasn’t expanded by adding members since NATO has yet to build any military installations or permanent troop positions past Germany, therefore NATO is not breaking the promise.’ This argument can also be made, which would also result in Russia being purely aggressive, which is how much of NATO sees it. They see Russia as trying to regain its geo-political control, and NATO does not pose a threat to Russia anymore.
Both sides seem to be stuck in their way and both are making continual defensive moves, which each perceive as an aggressive action. It is clear that the West and Russia both have very different goals, and it will take a lot for NATO and Russia to ever work together. Both see national security differently, but there is a very good chance that both sides might not be trying to be aggressive, but are perceived that way by the other.