“Last fall, demonstrators in Kiev began demanding that Ukraine move closer to the European Union. At the time, the Obama White House was deeply skeptical of Putin and paying little attention to the former Soviet bloc, according to Weiss. White House officials had come to see Russia as a foreign-policy dead end, not a source of potential successes.
Deferring to European officials, the Obama administration backed a plan that would have moved Ukraine closer to the EU and away from a pro-Russian economic bloc created by Putin. Critics said it was a mistake to make Ukraine choose sides. Jack F. Matlock, who served as U.S. ambassador to Moscow from 1987 to 1991, said that years of escalating protests by Putin made it clear he believed the West was surrounding him with hostile neighbors. And for centuries, Russian leaders have viewed a friendly Ukraine as vital to Moscow’s defense.”