Why did such a thing happen?
Because the Russians have played the ‘reset’ out for all it’s worth (to them, anyway). They’re now staking out/probing regarding positions to take for either a new American president, or are pondering throwing more sand in the Vaseline of the security/diplomacy machinery of the administration, should President Obama win a second term.
In a market environment, the buyer gives up something (money, usually) for item(s) he wants at a price he’s willing to pay. Similarly, the seller sells at a price he’s willing to sell at. Everyone wins.
In a nation-state environment, win-win is not nearly so prevalent, perhaps because things are less transaction oriented and more promise oriented.
In fact, in the case of the Russian reset, the events (a New START treaty significantly skewed in Russia’s favor, promises of Russian support for Iranian sanctions, and promises of sustained U.S./NATO access to Afghanistan) were wins for Russia that provided benefits (cash, power, and prestige) and cost them literally nothing. The outcomes of the “reset” to the U.S. were temporary and mild benefits at best and a permanent and perhaps profound weakening at worst.
The lesson is that Russia is in it for Russia (or maybe better said, Russia’s leaders are in it for themselves). What’s so hard to understand about that truth?