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Putin has been politely asking the West about its proposed Russian end-game since at least 2008
Sashimi, that's a good article by Ray McGovern, thanks for posting it. Those journalists in the UK who are generally rational about Ukraine such as Peter Hitchens, do tend to line up behind the "Russia was provoked but had other options" line without exploring what those actually were. Putin has been politely asking Western leaders why military hardware seems to be plonked ever closer to Russian borders since at least 2008. If these missiles are not directed at us, he's asked, then what's their intended target?
I have no doubt the Russian political elite concluded that some sort of conflict with the US via NATO through its Ukrainian proxy was coming and that if war was inevitable, it was better at Russia's time of choosing.