International relations scholar John Mearsheimer is brilliant, provocative and deeply insightful. I have had the pleasure to know him and to have lectured to his class at the University of Chicago. On Ukraine, however, he is dangerously wrong.
In numerous essays and articles, Mearsheimer focuses his fire on U.S. and NATO policies for causing the Ukraine war and for its continuation. His speech, “Why Is Ukraine the West’s Fault?” has been viewed more than 27 million times. These views are echoed by many on the far left and the libertarian right, as well as the center. This makes it all the more vital to understand the gaps in his analysis that produce such a flawed result. His security equation is missing key variables.
The three most important are the security imperatives of Russia’s neighbors, the increasing authoritarianism of the Russian state and the true horror of Russia’s brutal war and occupation. By not adequately weighing these factors, Mearsheimer can explain Putin’s invasion of a peaceful, independent nation as a predictable reaction to Western provocations. He blasts the U.S. and NATO response as an overreaction to a limited conflict. Analyzing only parts of the equation, he arrives at a deeply flawed solution: In my understanding, he essentially calls on the West to militarily abandon Ukraine and to cede it to Russia’s sphere of influence. [Continue reading…]