I am not an expert on foreign affairs, but I try to stay informed, and I am interested and have always been so.
I want to revisit the end of the Soviet Union and the short-lived Russian period under Yeltsin. This was in the 1990s. Russia was plagued by corruption and economic collapse at this time. The old Soviet Union was in shambles and dissolving fast. Former Russian states under the old Soviet Union were breaking away. Inflation was very high and social/economic problems were constant. Putin has described staying alive at this time by driving a cab in Moscow. Many Russians were going without salaries and pay. Essentials were scarce to non-existent. Russia was in full scale collapse.
What changed? For starters, the United States extended economic aid to Russia trying to prevent a catastrophic collapse. We were very worried about the old Soviet nuclear arsenal falling into the hands of terrorists and rogue countries. We were also worried about terrorists and evil doers coming into power in parts of the old Soviet Union. This was part of our motivation for economic assistance. We also feared improper maintenance of the Russian nuclear arsenal.
A couple of things happened that also made Russia the threat to world peace it is today. One was the collapse of the Yeltsin government and Putin and his former KGB colleagues taking over Russia and dividing the sovereign wealth and resources among themselves – enter the Russian oligarchs on the world stage.
Putin and the power of the Russian oligarchs was further increased by the deregulation of the international banking industry as well as deregulations in banking hubs like the U.S. and also Great Britain. This all happened in the 1990s as part of a deregulation of the financial community. We later regretted this deregulation when faced with the great crash of 2008 at the end of the 2nd Bush presidency. These deregulations facilitated the movement of enormous sums of ill-gotten wealth into the American and British banking systems, often finding parking places in real estate and real estate development. You can connect your own dots here. This has been mostly legal in the U.S. as the real estate industry and the movement of money in real estate is loosely regulated to this day. Think about some of the current court cases involving a former U.S. president and the irregularities with his finances (I am being more than polite here). Think about his accounting firm stating recently that his financial records are bogus for at least the last ten years, and they would no longer provide accounting services. Ok, I think you get idea.
Another big help to the struggling Russia under Putin was the courtship with American oil and the oil industry. Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon and also Trump’s first Sec. of State was responsible for negotiating numerous deals with the oil industry and Russia. A large effort was made to help Russia rehab and modernize its petroleum industry to the current state of the art. This help came courtesy of the American oil industry.
Today, the Russian economy is largely provided by its petroleum business. Russia is dependent on two natural gas pipelines to provide natural gas to Europe. One of the pipelines travels across Ukraine, and the other pipeline travels across Belarus, another Russian satellite state and currently playing host to large numbers of Russian troops staged on the Belarus-Ukraine border.
Recently, one of the Russian oligarchs invested large amounts of financing for an aluminum plant in Kentucky, McConnell’s home state. Trump tried to make military aid for Ukraine contingent on some dirty politics against Biden (think Trump’s first impeachment). The Ukraine was desperate for this aid in their fight against Russian backed separatists in the newly separated parts of the Ukraine courtesy of Vladimir Putin.
Trump also wanted to pull the U.S. out of NATO and push NATO into obsolescence. NATO and the U.S. leadership in NATO are what is standing in the way of Putin’s ambitions. Putin wants more than anything to see NATO disappear so he can have free reign in Europe. To Germany’s credit, they have halted the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would have carried Russian natural gas under the Baltic to Germany and Europe. Russia has a large investment in this pipeline as you can imagine.
FYI, when we were attacked on 9/11/2001, it was the NATO countries that responded with aid to us. This is the paramount agreement with the NATO treaty, i.e., if one member is attacked, it will be treated as all NATO members are being attacked and aid will come. Unfortunately, the world of today still needs organizations like NATO to stand as a mutual aid pact and also as a deterrent to the likes of Putin and some other unsavories. NATO came into existence during WWII and the fight against Hitler.
Again, I am not an authority on all of this, but I study and remember a lot, I try to. It helps to know some of the background when we are confronted with some of the problems we are faced with today. I have tried to quickly summarize the Russia/Ukraine problem of the last 30 years. There is a lot that you can dig into further if you are interested. It is no coincidence that some of the players keep popping up on the world stage.