Is Putin the Aggressor? Yes. He has already stolen Crimea, and forces probably aligned with him have occupied Luhansk, Donetsk, and Transnistria. It does not take the additional troops surrounding Ukraine to understand that there is already a war going on. Any action by Ukraine to retake its territory would be justified – though at this stage ill-advised.
At no point has Ukraine ever threatened Russia.
In the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, Russia and the United States agreed to respect the territorial integrity of former Soviet Republics, including Ukraine, in exchange for giving up their nuclear weapons.
NATO has never threatened Russia, it has always been a defensive organization.
These are the facts. Whatever else Putin and Lavrov are claiming about how they or Russia might be feeling is irrelevant.
If Putin feels threatened by NATO and is annoyed by past and possibly future NATO and EU expansions, there is an easy solution: Don’t threaten other countries with invasion, don’t invade them, don’t deny their territorial sovereignty, don’t move troops in their direction while already supporting war against them, and critically reflect on why these countries might be afraid of the successor state of the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union was not a force for good, with the sole exception of their fight against Nazi Germany. Stalin starved Ukraine during the Holodomor, allied himself with Hitler, attacked and occupied Poland and the Baltic countries, and established a reign of terror. Its passing is not a tragedy, it gave people dignity and a chance to live in freedom and democracy. Even if it did not always succeed, at least the USSR was gone.
If Russia wanted to reach out to its former territories, form a new alliance, or even join NATO, it’s easy: promote peace, prosperity, transparency, democracy and territorial integrity, and you will win hearts and minds easily. Russia and her people deserve better than to be stuck on a failed path towards imperialism.