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Hal Brands

Putin’s Biggest Lie: Blaming NATO for His War

The growing transatlantic alliance kept the peace in Europe for decades and actually made Russia safer.

Getting lonely?

Getting lonely?

Photographer: Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP/Getty Images

The great NATO enlargement debate never ends. In the 1990s, U.S. officials and academics argued about whether pushing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization into Eastern Europe was likely to sustain the post-Cold War peace or prematurely end it. More recently, critics have charged that Russia’s war in Ukraine is a natural response to the aggressive expansion of America’s most powerful alliance.

Now Russian officials, and even President Vladimir Putin himself, have echoed — and sometimes directly cited — American scholars such as political scientist John Mearsheimer, who argues that the current crisis “is the West’s fault.”