Archie Brown, a retired Oxford professor of politics, smartly absolves the Obama administration of "weakness" toward Moscow as a basis of Validmir Putin's aggression (to the extent we're at all responsible), instead laying the mother lode of blame for the Ukraine crisis on President Obama's predecessors.
It's true, writes Brown, that the administration interpretively bungled the Putin-Medvedev-Putin rotation throughout its famous "reset" with Russia, but also that "the 'reset' ended in failure ... is a result not just of the Obama administration’s misreading of Moscow. It was a consequence of Western policy toward Russia from the early 1990s onwards":
[T]he expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, endorsed by President Bill Clinton and continued by Bush, had the effect on Russia that prescient critics--not least, George Kennan--warned it would produce....
[N]o matter how often Washington assured the Kremlin that NATO’s enlargement was not intended to threaten Russia, that expansion and Bush’s later withdrawal of the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty were perceived in Moscow as hostile.
I'd add that not only the expansion but the creation of NATO conflicted with George Kennan's prescience; this postwar construct was a waste of resources at best and an ill-advised provocation at worst, warned Kennan. The Soviet Union had no military designs on Western Europe--Joe Stalin, the nearly perfect evolutionary paranoid, understood spheres of influence perfectly, as Kennan lectured in cable after cable and memo after memo--but the "strong leader" types in Washington wouldn't listen. So off they went, boxing Russia in and providing additional cause for its paranoia.
Prof. Brown's larger theme? The foolishness of today's "strong leader" types in Washington, always seeking an escalation and mechanically denouncing "weakness." We all know who they are. And President Obama is wisely ignoring them.