Q: "Was Russia threatened by a possibility of NATO expanding towards its borders endangering the survival of the Russian state?"
Claim: "If the US and NATO had just stayed out of things, this wouldn’t have happened"
To consider that NATO lured in Ukraine - means saying that it equally lured in Baltic states, other Eastern Europe states in 1990s and now is forcing Sweden and Finland. Does it look like to someone that Sweden or Finland are forced by Washington? I am confident that all those smaller states have been looking for an alliance to sustain a very real threat coming from ever imperialist appetites of Moscow. Claim that Ukraine’s potential membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is somehow ‘game-changer’ for Moscow while membership of the Baltic states since 2004 is unimportant because of the geography looks completely ridiculous if one does simple math. Distance to Moscow from the border with Latvia is identical to the one with Ukraine (~490km), while St.Petersburg is almost at Estonia’s border; at the same time the total length of land and sea borders of Russia with Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland (NATO’s member states) by 2014 was 964 km or 2,059km if considering Belarus as an extension of Moscow power, while Ukrainian-Russian border is comparably 2,294km long.
In my eyes, the main flaw of Western realists like Mearsheimer who support such claims is that they look at the current world order as a continuation of the cold war struggle of super-powers, and still measure everything from the perspective of huge 'whale-sharks'. When they claim that 'NATO-whale' is at fault for pulling into its mouth small fish which somehow 'belongs' to the 'Kremlin-shark', they de-facto dismiss the sovereignty and self-determination of those smaller, like if "only powerful states are truly sovereign".
Care about one another is a feature of liberalism, not a bug. Liberal countries unite to oppose aggressor. Realists don't really believe in genuine alliance. And an alliance between Hitler and Stalin just shows it - shark will inevitably attack another shark once it smells an opportunity.
To portray Putin's action in 2014 as mere reaction is conveniently not speaking about the scale of its invasion of Georgia in 2008, as well as previous years of keeping the country fractured by sponsoring and assisting instability in South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Adjara; Russia's military forces in Transnistria of Moldova; Moscow's crackdown on Chechen independence, Kremlin's private military campaigns (Wagner) around the world - all of that is hardly a reactionary behaviour.
To those who allow a thought that Russia is somehow a victim, I'd advise to read (books or articles or blog), listen (he was lately invited as an exprert to UN Security Council meeting on 14-Mar) and watch more of Timothy Snyder, professor of Yale, historian specialising in Eastern Europe and genocide. In 2022 he publicly shared the full semester of his university course on YouTube: "The Making of Modern Ukraine"
Also, read a substantial essay in our Blog "Russia’s wars on Georgia and Ukraine"