For someone that started their political interests listening to Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, I have since become disillusioned and enlightened after getting familiar with United States’ foreign policies and actions. For those die-hard nationalists and patriots out there, you will not like what I have to say. But I make no apologies. I once was an unwavering supporter of our nation’s interests, but once I realized the value of all of human life (i), I no longer accept our reasons for going to war without extreme skepticism (ii).
On Putin’s Intentions – Motivated by Recent Comments
I am adding this section because certain passages may not be clear. No doubt, what Putin is doing appears to be nationalistic and expansionistic. But we do not know what motivated him to do this as this is difficult to ascertain unless we ask the person. This post provides a hypothesis for Putin’s recent action and is by no means the only one as others point out in the comments section.
This hypothesis states that there is no hard evidence that Putin wanted to expand territory despite the kinship between Russia and Ukraine and Putin’s leanings toward right-winged, perhaps even fascist, ideology. I am claiming, as others do, that the U.S. may have influenced his decision to invade Ukraine by the U.S. progressively expanding NATO’s reach, which was against Putin’s will.
Now maybe both are true as Putin may have always wanted to invade Ukraine but also felt threatened with NATO expansion. On the other hand, instead of being threatened, perhaps Putin was angry (more like enraged) because this would interfere with his goals to invade. The only thing we can do is look for quality evidence and propose more than one hypothesis. Please see the excellent comments!
Pursuing Our Interests
I am no Putin sympathizer. But I am curious about what is going on in Putin’s mind besides his need to promote his interests, which has the appearance of being about nationalism (iii). He may have had the thought, “What about the US pursuing their interests in the Middle East, Latin America, and Southeast Asia?” Because in every corner of the world we have harshly pursued our interests. History is replete with examples of us supporting dictators since they served our interests and quenched our thirst for hegemony.
The US supported authoritarian forces in 44 out of 64 covert regime changes, including six operations that replaced liberal democratic governments with authoritarian regimes. The U.S. not only undermined democracy but also aided and abetted repression, torture, and the execution of political opponents carried out by U.S.-backed autocracies. 
If Russia was a weaker nation, perhaps Putin would have been our puppet. The ancient historian, Thucydides reminds us, “The strong do as they can, and the weak do as they must”. So we leave Russia alone while we have terrorized, for example, Central America throughout the 1900s. Of course, to gain popular support for our wars and terror, we have to have pretense and propaganda, such as fighting for democracy or against the communists and dictators, that we prop up. Putin is no exception to the use of deception.
He (Putin) told the Russian people his goal was to “demilitarise and de-Nazify Ukraine”, to protect people subjected to what he called eight years of bullying and genocide by Ukraine’s government. “It is not our plan to occupy the Ukrainian territory. We do not intend to impose anything on anyone by force,” he insisted.
Putin is threatened that Ukraine will join the EU and NATO. He is threatened because it represents a siding with the West’s democratic ideals—the other side. It is now time to punish Ukraine for its transgressions. But we have also carried out illegal invasions in Panama, Grenada, and a proxy war against Nicaragua, violating international law. We then hypocritically went to war against Iraq, a dictator that no longer served our interests, in the Persian Gulf claiming that they violated international law.
The fact that Iraq violated international law and invaded Kuwait was an excuse for us to secure the region because lots of oil was at stake (iv). If we look at most of the conflicts that we have been involved in, the reasons given were about fighting the communists, fighting drug trafficking and terrorism, humanitarian, and democracy. But these were not the real reasons why we would go to war. We would mostly go to war or invade when the dictators that we set up got out of line or our strategic interests were at stake.
We Influenced the Present
The above examples illustrate that we often did not go to war and participate in conflict for benevolent reasons. We ruthlessly and deceptively pursued our interests which makes our nation a self-seeking bully. Conservatives and patriots will be quick to point out that perhaps these wars were necessary because it represents strength through the threat of force, a force that we can back up with military might second to none. This may certainly be true, but most of the foreign threats were a consequence of our meddling.
There will always be new threats on the horizon as long as U.S. leaders pursue global hegemony and parlay this to the American public as “national security.” It is, of course, a conceit of empire to believe that all nations benefit from the aggrandizement and projection of U.S. power.
Although we may enjoy the comfort of being number one, being a bully means that we were not always trustworthy international partners. In 1990, the United States promised Gorbachev that they would not expand NATO “one inch to the East” in return for the reunification of Germany. By 1998, the Clinton administration expanded NATO to Poland, Hungry, and the Czech Republic. This trend continued with President George Bush in 2008 announcing that Ukraine and Georgia would become members too.
The expansion of NATO would amount to a “strategic blunder of epic proportions” and the “most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-Cold War era,” as it would “inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion,” “restore the atmosphere of the cold war to East-West relations,” and “impel Russian foreign policy in a direction decidedly not to our liking.” 
The rationale that the U.S. has used to expand NATO was to promote democratic ideals. But as former President Clinton has hinted, the real reason may be for international corporations to stretch their reach. Trump’s administration then sold the Ukraine “defensive weapons”, while more recently Ukraine participated in military exercises with the U.S. As the relationship between Ukraine and the U.S. strengthened, the more threatened Russia became. In other words, we disrespected the wishes of Russia.
This interpretation of events is at odds with the prevailing mantra in the West, which portrays NATO expansion as irrelevant to the Ukraine crisis, blaming instead Mr Putin’s expansionist goals. According to a recent NATO document sent to Russian leaders, “NATO is a defensive Alliance and poses no threat to Russia.” The available evidence contradicts these claims. For starters, the issue at hand is not what Western leaders say NATO’s purpose or intentions are; it is how Moscow sees NATO’s actions. 
We shouldn’t take this lightly although the hawks would shout appeasement if we didn’t. But I am not capitulating here but rather performing a root cause analysis on someone’s causes of action. What happens to us when we are repeatedly not taken seriously and instead snubbed? It does not matter if we deserve it or not. We feel anger and indignation over the unfair treatment. In all likelihood, this is exactly what is going through Putin’s mind. Regardless, he made a grave mistake by invading his neighbor and will pay the costs. We, on the other hand, have done similar actions but answer to no one as we veto international law violations.
i) Yes, human life wasn’t that valuable to me because it was not our loss. After Vietnam, the wars that the United States engaged in would inevitably result in minimal U.S. casualties, but the other side would be devastated. For example, the Persian Gulf war resulted in a 100:1 (Iraq: U.S.) casualty ratio. I can’t tell you what has changed in my life, but I simply hold the value of human life to be greater than I used to. Perhaps it was the undoing of the indoctrination of Conservative radio.
ii) After being a part of the cheerleading squad to go to invade Iraq the second time and then finding out that we didn’t do our homework, I take the reasons given for war much more seriously now since human life is at stake. Usually, we are given pretense for going to war, such as fighting the communists or upholding democratic ideals, but this time I think the administration actually convinced themselves that Iraq was somehow related to Al Qaeda and that they posed an imminent threat.
iii). You will have to read the comments to understand that although his actions our expansionistic and nationalistic, I don’t believe that he would have expanded if it weren’t for the perceived threat of NATO. There is probably an element of doing this out of spite since his “sphere of influence”, i.e., his ego was bruised when the U.S. has repeatedly gone against his will.
iv) The U.S. was prepared to go to war with Iraq for over a year prior to their violation of international law. Saddam Husein no longer served his purpose as a buffer for Iran. In other words, the violation was a way to legitimize the U.S.’s invasion.
 The Economist. “John Mearsheimer on why the West is principally responsible for the Ukrainian crisis.”
 The Economist. “Sir Adam Roberts rebuffs the view that the West is principally responsible for the crisis in Ukraine.”
 The Fifth Estate. http://peacehistory-usfp.org/intro/.
 “The Making of the Modern World”. Robert W. Strayer.