By Elisabeth Hellenbroich
John Mearsheimer – Honorary Professor of Political Science at the Higher School of International Relations- is a well-known political scientist from the University of Chicago. He calls himself a staunch “realist” and has got lot of attention due to his precise non main- stream analysis concerning the “causes” that led to the war in Ukraine. His main thesis is that “the US and its allies bear all the blame for the war in Ukraine” and that their attempts “to defeat Russia will simply escalate the conflict further.” His view stands in sharp contrast to the line coming from the Western main stream press. Mearsheimer has a lot of political opponents who treat him as he said in an interview with the German Magazine “Cicero” like a “Pariah”. He presented many of his arguments already seven years ago. At the beginning of this year, shortly before the outbreak of war in Ukraine, he was invited guest at an “expert” discussion that was organized by the Valdai Club in Moscow. During the discussion he strongly warned of the war danger in Ukraine and spoke about the US ‘obsession’ with NATO eastward expansion and Ukraine. While the US is declaring its “Monroe doctrine” that is based on the non- interference of any foreign power in the US backyard as sacrosanct , they themselves would break this principle in respect to Russia. In mid-June (June 16th ) Mearsheimer who was also invited by the Robert Schumann Center (France), gave a speech in Florence( Italy).The text of his speech under the title “History will judge the United States and its Allies” and in an interview in the July edition of the magazine “Cicero” he shared some of his reflections concerning the actual war in Ukraine.
“History will judge the United States and its Allies”
During his speech in Florence, that got published by “Global Research”, Mearsheimer emphasized that history “will severely condemn the United States for its strikingly insane policy towards Ukraine.” According to him the war in Ukraine is a “multifaceted catastrophe that is likely to get worse in the foreseeable future.” Given that many people want to know how we got into such a terrible situation, Mearsheimer compared the situation to the war in Vietnam and Iraq. In both cases Americans wanted to know how it came that their country could have ‘miscalculated’ so badly? In order to explain the problem he stated:
“Firstly, given that the United States and its NATO allies played a decisive role in the events that led to the military conflict in Ukraine, and are now playing a central role in this war, it is appropriate to assess the responsibility of the West for this colossal disaster.” And it is the “United States [that] bears the main blame for the emergence of the Ukrainian crisis.” This is true irrespective of the fact that “Putin launched a military special operation in Ukraine and is also responsible for the military actions that the Russians military is taking there.” The allies of the US also bear responsibility, although in the vast majority they simply blindly follow America in this conflict. “My main contention is that the United States has pursued and is pursuing a policy towards Ukraine that Putin and other Russian leaders view as an ‘existential threat’ to Russia. And they have repeatedly stated this over the years. I am particularly referring to America’s obsession with dragging Ukraine into NATO and turning it into a stronghold of the West on the border with Russia. The Biden administration did not want to eliminate this threat with the help of diplomacy and in fact in 2021 confirmed the commitment of the United States to accept Ukraine into NATO. Putin responded with a military operation which began on February 24 this year.”
“ (…) Secondly the Biden administration reacted to the start of the special operation by practically doubling its anti- Russia efforts. Washington and its Western allies are determined to ‘achieve Russia’s defeat’ in Ukraine and apply all possible sanctions to significantly weaken Russian power; the United States is n o t seriously interested in finding a diplomatic solution to the conflict, which means that the war is likely to drag on for months, if not years. At the same time the Ukraine, which has already suffered terribly, will be even more ‘damaged’. In fact, the United States is helping the Ukraine to follow the false path of imaginary ‘victories’, leading the country to complete collapse. In addition, there is also a danger if further escalation of the Ukrainian conflict, since NATO may be involved in it and nuclear weapons may be used during hostilities. We live in times full of deadly dangers.”
Mearsheimer is particularly critical in respect to what he observes as wide spread “confusion” in the West (main stream press and political representatives) along the line, that Putin bears full responsibility for the crisis in Ukraine; that he has imperial ambitions and seeks to conquer Ukraine and other countries with the aim to create a “greater Russia” that bears the resemblance of the former SU. That the Ukraine is Putin’s first goal not the last, and that he wants to erase Ukraine from the map of the world. There is also the argument that when Putin launched the war in February 24, “he wanted to end Ukraine as an independent state and make it part of Greater Russia.” In Mearsheimers view, everything is just the opposite. As an example, he mentioned a Putin speech in July 12 2021, in which Putin told the Ukrainian people that Russia welcomes that the Ukrainians want to create their own state. That Russia wants to treat it with respect. That it’s up to the citizens to decide, what the Ukraine will be like. In February 2022 Putin said that “Russia cannot feel safe, develop and exist, being under constant threat from the territory of today’s Ukraine.” All Putin is interested in, according to Mearsheimer is, to ensure, “that Ukraine does not become a ‘springboard’ for western aggression against Russia.”
He further illustrated the western complicity in the Ukraine conflict, by underlining that since the crisis 2014 till 2022, contrary to the “narrative” that the West or NATO had no interest in Ukraine’s NATO allegiance, “the Western reaction to the events in 2014 was to ‘redouble’ its efforts in the current strategy and bring Ukraine even closer to NATO.”
“The Alliance began training the Ukrainian military in 2014, annually training 10.000 AFU servicemen over the next eight years. In December 2017 the Trump administration decided to provide Kiev with “defensive weapons”. Soon other NATO countries joined in, supplying Ukraine with even more weapons.” He mentioned the different joint military exercises with NATO forces in Ukraine: In July 2021 Kiev and Washington jointly conducted “Operation Sea Breeze”, a naval exercise in the Black Sea in which the naval forces of 31 countries participated, which were directly targeted at Russia. Two months later, in September 2021 , the Ukrainian army led Rapid Trident 21 exercises which the US army described a “ annual exercises aimed at improving interoperability between allied and partner countries to demonstrate the readiness of units to respond to any crisis.” He also referred to an article in WSJ 13 April 2022 which stated “The Secret of Ukraine’s Military Success: Years of NATO Training”.
He furthermore added, that President Biden who moved into the White House in Jan 2021, “has long been committed to Ukraine’s accession to NATO and has also been very aggressive towards Russia. In a NATO communique June 12 2021 at the annual NATO summit, it was stated “We confirm the decision taken at the Bucharest Summit in 2008 that Ukraine will become a member of the Alliance with the Membership Action Plan (MAP), as an integral part of the process …..We firmly support Ukraine’s right to independently determine its future and the course of foreign policy without outside interference.”
Putin and his military entourage made several public statements that left no doubt, “that he viewed NATO expansion into Ukraine an existential threat.” And he quoted from Putin who two days before the invasion started had stated “We are categorically against Ukraine joining NATO, because it poses a threat to us, and we have arguments in support of this, I have repeatedly said this in this Hall.” Then he made clear that he believes that the Ukraine is already becoming a de facto member of NATO, given that “the United States and its allies continue to pump the current Kiev authorities with modern types of weapons.”
Looking at the Ukraine, according to Mearsheimer, this “war is a real catastrophe for Ukraine …. Russian troops have captured 20% of Ukrainian territory and destroyed or severely damaged many Ukrainian cities and towns. More than 6,5 Mio Ukrainians have left the country and more than 8 Mio have become internally displaced persons. Many thousands of Ukrainians including innocent civilians have been killed or seriously injured and the Ukrainian economy is in deep crisis.” Furthermore, according to World Bank estimates “Ukraine’s economy will shrink by almost 50% during 2022. According to experts, Ukraine has been damaged by about $100 billion and it will take about 1 trillion dollars to restore the economy. Now Kiev needs about $ 5 billion in aid every month just to keep the government working.”
The danger which Mearsheimer sees is that the USA and its NATO allies will be drawn into hostilities which they have so far managed to avoid, “although in fact they are already waging an ‘indirect proxy war’ against Russia. There is also the possibility that nuclear weapons could be used in Ukraine which could even lead to an exchange of nuclear strikes between Russia and the United States.” The stakes are so high that neither side can afford to lose; this means that Russia must win that war. A defeat is unacceptable for Russia.”
He noted that the United States refuse to come to terms with Russia’s deep security concerns (officially reiterated in December 2021) and instead moved tirelessly to turn Ukraine into a Western bastion on the border with Russia…. In fact Washington played a central role in leading the Ukraine down the path of destruction. History will severely condemn the United States and its allies for their strikingly stupid policy towards Ukraine.”
“Germany will pay a very high price” – Interview in “Cicero” (July edition)
In the July interview with the German magazine “Cicero” Mearsheimer reiterated that he considers the US as the driving force in the Ukraine war and regards nuclear strikes as a realistic option, while at the same time he pointed out, that Germany, which followed blindly the US policy against Ukraine, will “pay a very high price”.
He cautioned at the same time that Chancellor Scholz’ widely disputed “hesitation” in the Ukraine conflict may have to do with the fact that both Scholz and Macron have understood that by sending weapons the situation will become even worse. Both have understood that the best way out of this dilemma is a negotiated solution: “Indeed the idea that a rearmed Ukraine would win the war against Russia is totally off. Either the plan gets realized, which would lead to the use of nuclear weapons by Putin. Or the plan does not realize itself which implies that the Ukraine will be further destroyed. Both results would be disastrous …. The problem for Scholz and Macron is that the Americans see this differently, they don’t want a negotiated solution. They are interested to win militarily against Russia on Ukrainian soil!”
Mearsheimer categorically rejects in the interview that President Putin follows the expansionist plans to integrate Ukraine into a “Greater Russia”: “Putin’s preoccupation always has been NATO expansion and this never essentially is changing. One should pay attention to what he said during the last years again and again. There was never a return to the Soviet Union or Greater Russia. “If he had wanted to take over the Ukraine, he would, as Mearsheimer put it, “have applied a classical ‘Blitz Krieg strategy’ carried out by infantry that gets support by the air force.”
He did underline that from his point of view “this war is the result of the attempt to get Ukraine into NATO and the EU and transform it into a democracy along western model. The Ukraine that way would have become a ‘bulwark’ of the West directly at the border with Russia. And when in April 2008 for the first-time plans were announced, to get Ukraine into NATO, Russia immediately stated that this was inacceptable for them- since they saw this as existential threat. They also stated that they rather would destroy Ukraine rather than accept their integration into a western military alliance. Angela Merkel resisted such NATO plans, since she knew that the Kremlin would see this step as a declaration of war. And she really was correct.”
Being asked about US defense minister Lloyd Austin’s remarks several weeks ago (at the US air base in Ramstein/ Germany ) whereby the aim of the western supporters of the Ukraine should be to “militarily weaken Russia in such a way, that in the future it could no more afford invasions like the ones into Ukraine. Whether with such a statement the US has become de facto a War party, he was asked. Mearsheimer replied: “Of course the US are de facto at war with Russia. We don’t fight ourselves, this the Ukrainians do. But aside that the US is extremely deeply involved in this war. We deliver weapons, we train their military and supply them with secret service information, that have a major influence on the course of combat. The US feel called to impose a heavy defeat on Russia and massively weaken its economy. They very simply want to exclude Russia from the circle of the big powers. It’s playing with fire, and as I said, Scholz and Macron have recognized this exactly.”(!)
In terms of weapon supplies to Ukraine, in particular heavy weapons, that he himself warned about, giving the implied danger for an escalation towards nuclear war, Mearsheimer stated that there could be of course a way out of this mess: “If the US government would be clear minded it would stop now the military assistance to the Ukraine and look for a negotiated solution- even if it’s very late now. The proposal that we could induce the Ukrainians to militarily defeat Russia leads into disaster!”
According to Mearsheimer American foreign policy was badly advised and war could have been avoided. Yet the US stuck to its line, as did the media in particular in Germany by making a comparison between Putin and Hitler: “To state it very clearly. There is not the slightest similarity between Nazi Germany and today’s Russia. Neither between Vladimir Putin and Adolf Hitler. Also the Ukraine war is not comparable with the wars which the Third Reich fought between 1939 and 1945…. “It is clear that Putin established an authoritarian regime and governs Russia with an iron fist. Most western observers overlook the fact that Russia is a weak great power equipped with an army that doesn’t compare in the slightest to Hitler’s Wehrmacht.”
According to him Putin started the war with the aim to keep Ukraine out of NATO. He wants the Ukraine to become neutral, “yet this precisely the Americans will not accept because this would be equivalent to a victory of Putin. On the other side a military success of the Ukraine against Russia would mean escalation into a nuclear conflict. This also the US Secret Service coordinator Avril Haines formulated exactly in May. Hence for Mearsheimer it’s “a terrible messy and highly explosive situation” which is why Mearsheimer himself at the moment does “not see a realistic solution for this disaster with its innumerable dimensions.”
Mearsheimer’s reflections should be taken indeed seriously. Rather than judging him as a pariah or exotic voice, his analysis should serve as an incentive for strategically clear minded people in Russia and the West to find a realistic solution for this conflict, before it’s too late!