The Ukraine Crisis From Putin's Point of View
Some will argue that the seeds for the current crisis in the Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea is really the West's (NATO countries) own fault. Even though what Putin did in Crimea was a violation of international because it had been ceded to Ukraine in 1954 and Crimea still was part of it after 1991, when the Soviet Union fell apart.
The seeds of the present crisis began in 1994-5, when the Ukraine gave up all its thousands of nuclear weapons in exchange for security and defense given by NATO, even though it was not part of NATO. The Ukraine crisis is a result of many Ukrainians discontented with their economic situation and a failure to be a success like Poland, which is next door. This is what they had hoped for. As NATO made overtures to Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, in Putin's mind, it threatened Russia's security despite the reassurances. To him, it looked like NATO was trying to encircle the Black Sea Fleet, Russia's only warm water port. In 1999, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic became part of NATO. In 2004, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Romania joined. In 1946, all of these countries were behind the "Iron Curtain" under communist rule. These countries remained there from 1947-1991, when the Cold War ended. If you are ignorant about this period, those living behind the Iron Curtain who tried to get to the West were arrested and imprisoned for years or shot and tortured.
The Ukraine situation is not unlike that in 1961, when the Soviet Union built and sent nuclear armed missiles to Cuba. This is in America's backyard, a mere 90 miles from Key West, Florida. Other military equipment was also sent. America reacted no different than Putin has. It was a far more lethal situation then.
The use of economic sanctions, if effective, could destabilize Russia. Russia depends far more on the West and Europe, than vice versa, except in a few areas. For instance, Germany receives 35% of its natural gas and oil from Russia, but Putin would hesitate in cutting off this very lucrative market that Russia needs because many businesses are leaving Russia already or not investing further. Russia exports 60% of its products to the EU, while only 7% of EU's exports go to Russia.
In 2010, Putin offered a "Free Trade" agreement between Russia and all EU countries. The EU looked it over but then did their own one with Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Armenia instead. Putin was angered and simply increased his own paranoia about the West's intent.
Free Trade would allow products from countries to pass through without tariffs that are costly and remove some trade barriers, any country involved would gain from it, it is a in-win BUT only if Russia agreed to leave Ukraine alone and remove its military that is inciting pro-Russian activists inside Ukraine.
Given Putin's own paranoia of the EU's intent about isolating and encroaching upon Russia, the rejected 2010 Free Trade offer Putin made, NATO along many parts of its border, what he has done in the Ukraine should not be a surprise. The Crimea is done. The Ukraine or the eastern part of it, is what really interests Putin for economic reasons. This part is the industrial part.
Yes, Putin may have grand ideas about regaining the "old Soviet Union" in some form. Maybe the EU and NATO should accept some blame as NATO seemed to hem in Russia. It all comes down to not totally trusting one another in peace. Bad blood is hard to remove. Putin has blame also for rekindling all this, once again.