The disintegration of the Soviet Union was not viewed as a defeat by the Russian people, but the west treats Russia as a defeated nation all the same.
This discredited elite has clung to power by playing off Russia and the west, extracting favours in return for fleeting professions of allegiance. The last round came when the EU, humiliated by a string of rejections, offered an association deal that would have precluded Ukrainian participation in the Russian-led customs union.
Mr Yanukovich, hoping either to secure a loan from the west or to blackmail Russia into generosity, pretended to embrace Europe. When Russia responded with the promise of a loan, Mr Yanukovich duly switched sides.
Demonstrators who were disgusted by this behaviour took to the streets of Kiev. Soon they were joined by murky rightwing fringe groups, who attacked police with firebombs on and off for weeks.
The Russian government believes these protesters were openly supported by the west. Then the shooting began and Ukraine plunged deeper into chaos.
These events happened against the backdrop of a campaign of anti-Russian propaganda and smears that lasted for more than a year. I lived through two decades of the Cold War, but I am hard pressed to remember such an avalanche of lies. This took an especially vicious form during the Olympic Games in Sochi, which were a triumph for Russia and its athletes.
In Russia pundits saw a clear purpose in this campaign: to lay the ground for a new policy of containment. This refreshed memories of the double standards and lies that have been characteristic of the west’s behaviour for the past 20 years.
We were reminded of the eastward expansion of Nato, over the pleas and protests of a weakened Russian state. Had Ukraine been absorbed into the alliance, Russia’s strategic position would have become intolerable.
It is against this background that Russia’s actions over the past week must be seen. The iron fist is once again being shown to revanchists seeking consolation for the geopolitical and moral loses of the last decade.
Of course, some in the Russian establishment also want to strengthen their positions or cover past mistakes by seeking confrontation with the west.
The crisis has exposed the failure of our post-Cold War policies, but it can be put to constructive use. We should belatedly begin work towards the common goal of an Alliance of Europe stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok, in which people and trade would flow freely. We should merge the soft power of Europe with hard power and resources of Russia, as prominent Europeans and Mr Putin have often proposed.
Russia is at last turning economically towards the rising east. It will be a great loss – for Russians and other Europeans – if this shift is accompanied by political, social and even cultural estrangement.
The writer is dean of the faculty of international economics and foreign affairs of the National Research University – Higher School of Economics in Moscow