You should be able to read this without a paywall — The Untold Story of ‘Russiagate’ and the Road to War in Ukraine.
Invading Ukraine was the plan all along, going back years. According to Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times, this was the plan that Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian agent and Manafort associate, relayed to Paul Manafort in July 2016. Manafort was Trump’s campaign chairman at the time.
Known loosely as the Mariupol plan, after the strategically vital port city, it called for the creation of an autonomous republic in Ukraine’s east, giving Putin effective control of the country’s industrial heartland, where Kremlin-armed, -funded and -directed “separatists” were waging a two-year-old shadow war that had left nearly 10,000 dead. The new republic’s leader would be none other than Yanukovych. The trade-off: “peace” for a broken and subservient Ukraine.
The scheme cut against decades of American policy promoting a free and united Ukraine, and a President Clinton would no doubt maintain, or perhaps even harden, that stance. But Trump was already suggesting that he would upend the diplomatic status quo; if elected, Kilimnik believed, Trump could help make the Mariupol plan a reality. First, though, he would have to win, an unlikely proposition at best. Which brought the men to the second prong of their agenda that evening — internal campaign polling data tracing a path through battleground states to victory….
…But what the plan offered on paper is essentially what Putin — on the dangerous defensive after a raft of strategic miscalculations and mounting battlefield losses — is now trying to seize through sham referendums and illegal annexation. … And the lesson of that meeting is that Putin’s American adventure might be best understood as advance payment for a geopolitical grail closer to home: a vassal Ukrainian state.
Really, truly, this needs to be read.