The Lies that Led to Invasion: Part 2 - "NATO Expansionism"
This is my second in a series debunking Kremlin disinformation justifying their invasion of Ukraine.
"NATO pushed Russia to defend itself"
To start with, it's important to note that Putin himself has never publicly used this as justification for his invasion of Ukraine, but it is propagated repeatedly by Putin apologists, which should be your first clue.
It should also be recognised that there are already four NATO countries on Russia's borders. Ukraine would not be the first.
The crux of the argument is that in 1991, US Secretary of State James Baker promised USSR President Gorbachev that NATO would not expand any further east than Germany.
Obviously, as I've stated above, most of eastern Europe is now a member of NATO.
So, is this an example of US lies or broken promises?
The problem is, there is absolutely no evidence of any actual agreement like this being made. Gorbachev himself said in 2010 "The topic of ‘NATO expansion’ was not discussed at all..."
What was discussed was the placement of foreign troops in Eastern Germany as Soviet forces withdrew. A topic both sides agreed on and acted upon accordingly.
In the end, it needs to be remembered that NATO is a collective security treaty. It protects nations from invasion. Considering literally every country in Eastern Europe has been invaded by Russia at some stage over the last 100 years... one can imagine why any nation placed next to Russia would want to be a part of NATO.
It explains why Finland and Sweden have rushed to join after witnessing what becomes of Nations that don't have NATO protection.
Regardless, did the Russians have the right to fear that Ukraine might join NATO?
No. NATO's constitution expressly forbids any nation with an ongoing border dispute from joining the alliance. Which means it would be impossible for Ukraine, which has had Russian troops on its territory since 2014, to be allowed to join NATO.
Nothing has happened since 2014 to suggest that those circumstances would change.
This is why Putin never publicly uses it as an excuse, and it's why anyone who does point to this explanation immediately outs themselves as a regurgitator of Russian misinformation.