First off, yes, Russia is weak militarily compared to America. Heck, even America's Army is bigger than Russia's (if you ignore Interior Ministry troops) despite the Russian reputation of fielding large numbers of cannon fodder.
But the America-Russian power balance isn't a simple force-on-force equation. Our forces need to be measured on a theater of war. The problem is that Russia can conquer nearby weak NATO allies of ours while our superior but distant military struggles to mass forces in eastern Europe to resist Russia.
And Russia has lots of nukes. So there's that.
But this nuance-drenched excuse for Russia's aggression is just astounding:
Russia’s moves to date “have been select and calibrated,” write retired Gen. David Petraeus, former head of the CIA, and Michael O’Hanlon, a defense analyst at the Brookings Institution, in this month’s Foreign Affairs magazine. Crimea, after all, was historically Russian and “is populated by a majority of Russian speakers, and is home to Russia’s only Black Sea naval base.”
How is being "select and calibrated" a defense of what Russia has done? So Russia might have attacked in all directions, freely using nukes, so we should be content that Russia is select and calibrated in their aggression? Seriously?
And what is with that nonsense about Crimea somehow being an understandable conquest of Russia because most Crimeans speak Russian? Should we be relieved that Mexico can't roll across the southern border on similar grounds?
The fact is, Russia gave Crimea to Ukraine on three separate occasions.
Ukraine is a founding member of the United Nations (1945) as the Soviets wanted. And in 1954, the Russians gave Crimea to Ukraine which on paper the Soviets said was an independent state. Russia knew they were giving Crimea to a nominally independent state even though Ukraine was part of the USSR at the time. Russia could have declined to give Crimea to Ukraine. But they did. Perhaps Russia did not anticipate Ukraine actually exercising the sovereignty and independence that Ukraine had since 1945 in theory. But Ukraine did just that in 1991.
When the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991, Russia accepted the loss of Crimea--whose people narrowly voted to go to Ukraine--to Ukrainian control. If 1954 was a mistake, Russia could have corrected it--or even contested it--in 1991. They did not.
And in 1994, Russia agreed that Crimea was part of Ukraine in a deal with America and Britain which denuclearized Ukraine which had inherited a lot of Soviet nuclear weapons in 1991. If 1991 was a mistake, Russia could have refused to ratify that decision in 1994. They did not.
So the fact that Russia needs Crimea for a base is just ridiculous. Russia needs Crimea and so is justified in taking it from a fellow UN member contrary to the UN Charter?
And don't forget that Ukraine leased the naval base to Russia. Russia had the naval base in a legal manner already.
So what the Hell? Crimea is Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory. As in a substantial part of the Donbas.
Consider that before Russia invaded Ukraine, this is the state of NATO's "aggressive" posture toward Russia that the Russians have used as justifications for pushing their borders west.
Don't make excuses for the Russians. They make enough for themselves.