If war is the normal state, the thing that the government is permanently adjusted to, then it follows that during times of peace a certain restlessness would pervade. Russia has been invaded so many times that it can not avoid a policy of self preservation above all else. The cost of controlling buffer states such as Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia during the mid to mid-late twentieth century was absorbed by the massively resourced country.
Since nobody was about to invade Russia after the second world war, these costs were wasted and could be the reason that the Soviet Empire eventually collapsed. Communism was a more convenient reason for the West, as Capitalism went from a way to build businesses that employed the bulk of populations, into the high gear of empire building. Russia rose from the ashes of empire but did not, could not, let go of the reins, the very trap of history and reinforcements that the West found useful, until Russia tried to rebuild the Soviet level of control.
Government by paranoia was inevitable as the Kremlin was inherited by the KGB and secret police state. The Cold War did nothing to dispel the idea that the West was poised to invade. Nor did Hollywood’s escalating portrayal of violence and war. You can not reassure a badly bruised victim and Hitler and Napoleon certainly tried to take Russia by force. Russia would find it difficult to accept, after Reagan, that America was not actually about to try and force Russia off the edge of the map. Russia’s perception of being surrounded by enemies may be justified, but it is not useful. It wastes lives and the energy that could have made Russia the richest country in history: instead it struggles with an aging, massive military infrastructure, an arsenal of too many nuclear weapons that must be very expensive to maintain and now it has earned the ire of most of the world with its illegal aggressive and flawed military strategy in Ukraine.
Ukraine fights Russia with the West’s weapons. The fear of escalation by involving NATO in the war is a fear held by both sides. There are no winners in a nuclear exchange. There is no benefit to anyone if the lands destroyed are not inhabitable. And, although Russia has more nuclear weapons, it can not prevent the retaliation even with hypersonic delivery of its firepower. And that retaliation would be the end of Russia. The state of its nuclear arsenal must be a concern to the Kremlin: have they been maintained? Or is it possible that too many red buttons will result in detonation in silos instead of rockets firing? The West may not need to retaliate if Russia destroys itself, first.
The hope is not that Russia destroys itself. It is a wonderful country and culture. But so are the emerging cultures of the former Soviet states and Russia must learn the lesson of history: maintaining a buffer zone is a path to failure as there is no economic rationale for it and destruction of, or even control of your neighbours is economically unsound.
A future treaty between the West and Russia under rational leadership may involve a simple guarantee that the West is not interested in invading Russia any more. Russia gave those guarantees to Ukraine in exchange for the nuclear arsenal and Russia has betrayed that trust. It would be hard for Russia to trust as it has abused trust. It is therefore necessary that Russia chooses a new destiny, not the one that the current leadership has doomed Russia with, this path to economic destruction, extreme poverty and early death.
Russia, it is not too late to change the course of your own history.