Why Does Ukraine Matter to US/West?

Adam Taylor of  Business Insider has written a good story on why Ukraine matters to U.S./West. Quotes yours truly and available here.
If interested, here is the full version of what I told (wrote to) Adam in response to his questions.
You are absolutely right: both preservation of democratic values and need to avert humanitarian catastrophe matter to US.
But there are, of course, other ‘more materialistic’ considerations as well.
Many in the U.S. ruling elite share Zbigniew Brzezinski’s view that Russia "without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire, but with Ukraine suborned and then subordinated, Russia automatically becomes an empire,” though the current U.S. administration in less inclined to see what’s at stake in Ukraine this way.
But whether they are proponents or opponents of playing a lower-budget version of the Grand Game in the post-Soviet neighborhood, most U.S. policy-makers would probably agree that a failed Ukrainian state is worse than either pro-Russian or pro-Western Ukrainian state. And it is not only because U.S. would have to allocate resources to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in Ukraine, albeit that would be a very costly effort compared to the past humanitarian operations, given that Ukraine’s population exceeds 45 million.
It’s also because Ukraine possesses some of the world’s most advanced defense industries that used to churn out ICBMs’ and continues to make launch vehicles to date. Proliferation of advanced weapons and weapon technologies from Ukraine is much more likely to occur if the current destabilization transforms her into a failed state. A failed Ukraine could become a giant bazaar for customers seeking ICBM and other deadly technologies and some of these customers would represent countries, which US views as foes.
Ukraine also matters to US because it has been a contributor to U.S-led stabilization efforts, sending troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, providing its territory and aircraft for transit and transportation of NATO cargos to Afghanistan. It is also participating in NATO-led cooperative security programs, sending warships to the Mediterranean to assist NATO's Operation Active Endeavour. It was also the first of the CIS states to join NATO’s Partnership for Peace program. In contrast, a failed Ukraine could present a challenge to Europe’s regional stability that would further hinder U.S. effort to pivot to Asia.
Ukraine also matters because it remains a major energy transit country with much of Russian gas still flowing to US’ European allies via its territory. We all recall the impact that the two Russian-Ukrainian gas ‘wars’ on consumers in Europe had.  No one wishes that to be repeated as a result of destabilization in Ukraine.


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