With the collapse of the USSR at the end of the Cold War, Ukraine secured its independence.
Finally, it seems most unlikely that Putin and his advisors anticipated a protracted conflict when they launched the attack on Ukraine.
The presence of Russians, allegedly as a threatened minority in Ukraine (and in the Baltic States and Transnistria), violates his perception of Russian national honor.
Insofar as Ukraine exports grain and other bulky commodities by sea to the wider world, cutting Ukraine off from the Baltic Sea would render its economy dependent on Russia.
Horrifyingly, Russian perceptions of honor, interest, and fear all drive Putin toward controlling, incorporating, or destroying Ukraine.
Perhaps if Ukraine had joined NATO when Russia was weakened in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the Baltic States did, the Ukraine war might have been averted.
With a new Cold War in the offing, Ukraine is caught in the crosshairs. »