Ukraine has always been significant among all the fifteen republics of the USSR. It was the potential arch-rival of the USA during the cold war days. It is home to Union's most significant agricultural production, Défense industries, including the black sea fleet and nuclear arsenals. Russia received a bolt from the blue when the latter declared its independence from the Union in 1991. The 70 years of totalitarianism, including the brutal Nazi holocaust, second world war destruction, famines, Global recessions period etc., traumatized Ukraine so severely that even in three decades after its independence, it's hard for Ukrainians to find an independent statecraft policy of their own to govern themselves.
The sense of Russia's command over Ukraine can be obtained from Putin's proclamation that Russians and Ukrainians are one people, forming one 'Russian Civilisation' but latter always denied this. Even after parting linguistically, politically, culturally, geographically etc., in 1991, Russia always tried to establish its hegemony over Ukraine. The zenith of interference reached in 2014 after the Crimean annexation by Russia resulted in the casualties of 14000 people. In 30 years of independence, Ukraine is sought to straighten its strained relationship with Western institutions like European Union and NATO.
Some analysts also perceive that Putin's desire to create a second USSR is the prominent bone of contention between the two in recent times. The recent amassing of the troops on the Ukraine border is a part of Putin's aspiration to control its periphery. He ambitioned to hold Ukraine very tight to Russia politically and economically. With time, Putin's desire started acquiring a very sinister version, as evident in the Orange Revolution of 2004, Crimea annexation of 2014, Donbas Conflict etc. Moreover, Russia's relationship with Ukraine has prompted Ukraine to find shelter in Western Dominated institutions for the past several years.
Moreover, the European Union offers far better economic benefits and respect for Human Rights than Russia. Russia's hasty and unplanned actions prove Russia's intentions of preventing Ukraine from getting trapped into the democratic block of the West. Putin wants Kyiv to abandon its Western Course of Action and return in the lap of Moscow. Additionally, it can also be taken as a warning to the West and NATO to revise its policies of expansion and deployment of small battlegroups in the Poland and Baltic states. The Ukrainians clear refutation of Russian dominance was also evident because they defended themselves voluntarily and repelled the separatists.
Ukraine also bought advanced weaponry from the West and Turkey like the Javelin tanks, which were more lethal than the separatists during the Crimean annexation time. This motivated Ukrainians to develop their domestic weaponry system and production of arms. Joe Biden, unlike his predecessor, has also assured to send the military and Défense assistance accompanied by the advisors, keeping in mind the recent aggression of Russia. On his virtual meet with Putin on December 7, Biden even threatened Putin with the economic sanctions and a reposition of NATO troops in Europe again. But at the same time, the American administration showed their eagerness to listen Russian concerns. In December last year, Russia signed an agreement with the USA, which incorporated many demands of the Russia-NATO draft. Ironically, Russia also demanded security guarantees despite being the second-largest nuclear-armed nation. It is pellucid now that Ukrainians are no longer in a mood to accept the denial of their culture, history, language, etc. They expressed their desire to live in an independent sovereign state and choose their course of action. The strategic failure of Russia created differences between Russia and Ukraine and has also fuelled great animosity among Ukrainians towards the Russian State.
The Donbas conflict, Seizure of Crimea, which was the biggest land grab in Europe post-second world war, violated many commitments that Russia made to her fellow republics and hampered the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Countering this, NATO also started deploying her troops on the eastern flank of Europe. It can also be viewed that Putinisation is somewhat losing its relevance in front of Occidentalism.
Russia must respect the sovereignty of co-republics and admit that the notion of Russian Civilization no longer exists. The recent presidential election in Moldova has also proved that Russia is losing its grip over Eastern Europe. The countries of Eastern Europe started showing their willingness to join the Western Block. They have thought that Russian dominance would never let them prosper and rule independently. Therefore, Putin needs to understand that the once USSR got balkanized in 1991, so it can't be made again. His efforts to create it, would instead result in envy and hatred as, according to a famous English proverb, one can change his friends but not neighbours. So, if neighbours will join the Western camp, then Russia may face alarming security threats.