Mearsheimer Pins Blame for Ukraine Crisis on US, But…

"Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault: The Liberal Delusions That Provoked Putin" is the splendid title of John Mearsheimer’s article in the recent issue of Foreign Affairs. Like Jimmy Carter’s Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, the title alone, along with the prestige of the author in the firmament of the elite, make the book a potent weapon in the struggle to curb the U.S. Empire – before it permanently curbs us. Mearsheimer is Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago and co-author with Stephen Walt, Professor and former Dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, of the widely cited The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. If you wish to convince someone of the foul role played by NATO in Ukraine, this article is a superb primer.

The first two paragraphs give an apt summary of the article’s core thesis; they read in part:

"According to the prevailing wisdom in the West, the Ukraine crisis can be blamed almost entirely on Russian aggression. Russian President Vladimir Putin, the argument goes, annexed Crimea out of a long-standing desire to resuscitate the Soviet empire, and he may eventually go after the rest of Ukraine, as well as other countries in eastern Europe…

"But this account is wrong: the United States and its European allies share most of the responsibility for the crisis. The taproot of the trouble is NATO enlargement, the central element of a larger strategy to move Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit and integrate it into the West. Since the mid-1990s, Russian leaders have adamantly opposed NATO enlargement, and in recent years, they have made it clear that they would not stand by while their strategically important neighbor turned into a Western bastion. For Putin, the illegal overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected and pro-Russian president – which he rightly labeled a "coup" – was the final straw. He responded by taking Crimea, a peninsula he feared would host a NATO naval base, and working to destabilize Ukraine until it abandoned its efforts to join the West."

This view of Mearsheimer’s will not come as news to the readers of, or other honest anti-Empire publications, but they will send a shock wave through the ears of the average NPR listener where Pentagon propaganda is unremitting fare. Mearsheimer does not hide "who started it" in this round of the battle for Ukraine:

"The West’s triple package of policies … added fuel to a fire waiting to ignite. The spark came in November 2013, when (Ukraine’s elected president) Yanukovych rejected a major economic deal he had been negotiating with the EU and decided to accept a $15 billion Russian counteroffer instead. That decision gave rise to antigovernment demonstrations that escalated over the following three months. ….On February 21, the government and the opposition struck a deal that allowed Yanukovych to stay in power until new elections were held. But it immediately fell apart, and Yanukovych fled to Russia the next day. The new government in Kiev was pro-Western and anti-Russian to the core, and it contained four high-ranking members who could legitimately be labeled neofascists. ….Although the full extent of U.S. involvement has not yet come to light, it is clear that Washington backed the coup." (Emphasis, jw)

Mearsheimer also makes clear that Russia has much to fear from the West’s Drang nach Osten:

"In September 2013, Carl Gershman (president of the National for Democracy which poured enormous sums into Ukraine for regime change, jw) wrote in The Washington Post, ‘Ukraine’s choice to join Europe will accelerate the demise of the ideology of Russian imperialism that Putin represents.’ He added: ‘Russians, too, face a choice, and Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.’"

Mearsheimer finds the source of the problem in an ideology that took hold in Washington upon its advocacy by the Clintons, an important fact since the frighteningly hawkish Hillary stands on the threshold of the presidency. (It was the Clintons, not Bush Jr. as so many believe, who set post Cold War U.S. foreign policy on a belligerent course as far as Russia went.) Mearsheimer identifies the advocates of the new Clintonian policy as "liberals," as opposed to realists like himself. He explains their views and goals thus:

"The United States was not only the "indispensable nation," as Secretary of State Madeleine Albright put it; it was also a benign hegemon and thus unlikely to be viewed as a threat in Moscow. The aim, in essence, was to make the entire continent look like western Europe. And so the United States and its allies sought to promote democracy in the countries of eastern Europe……"

But here Mearsheimer’s argument is noticeably thin. Was democracy promotion the real goal? If so, then it is hard to understand why the U.S. has ended up allying itself with "neofascists," as Mearsheimer correctly labels them, in Ukraine. A much more satisfactory explanation is advanced by Jean Bricmont in Humanitarian Imperialsim: Using Human Rights to Sell War, where he demonstrates that in the end the democratic or humanitarian rationales for the moves of the U.S. Empire are covers for a more brutal agenda of domination by all means necessary. (Some advocates of humanitarian imperialism may, and no doubt do, believe what they say about their motives, much as the British missionaries did in the British colonies; but that is all the more dangerous since such true believers are notoriously refractory to learning from experience.)

But what about Mearsheimer’s realist rationale, in his case the "offensive realist" version, for reversing policy and leaving Ukraine as a neutral nation lying between NATO and Russia? When one looks more deeply at it, it is not as comforting as might appear at first. As Mearsheimer turns to explaining his rationale for policy toward the Ukraine, and that of other realists, we are quickly confronted with the following jarring declaration: "But most realists opposed expansion, in the belief that a declining great power with an aging population and a one-dimensional economy did not in fact need to be contained." (Emphasis, jw) In the end it comes down to the same old imperial mindset, the U.S. must not allow any other country to rival it. Mearsheimer’s prescription is in fact very much like Obama’s when he trumpeted his belief in "smart" wars.

It gets worse. Toward the end of his piece, Mearsheimer makes the following point:

"Sticking with the current policy would also complicate Western relations with Moscow on other issues. The United States needs Russia’s assistance to withdraw U.S. equipment from Afghanistan through Russian territory, reach a nuclear agreement with Iran, and stabilize the situation in Syria. …The United States will also someday need Russia’s help containing a rising China. Current U.S. policy, however, is only driving Moscow and Beijing closer together." (Emphasis, jw).

And here again we have the notion that the U.S. must remain the dominant military power (and therefore dominant economic power) on the planet. Thus China definitely will need to be "contained." That of course will condemn the Chinese to a living standard far below that of the West, as explained here, something the Chinese will certainly not accept. They have been there before under the Qing and the burden of the opium trade, opium wars, compradors and Japanese occupation. They will not go back.

So in the end Mearsheimer, helpful though he is on exposing the West’s lies and culpability for the events in Ukraine, remains well within the bounds of a hegemonic imperial mentality. We should welcome the assistance he gives in the current moment; and if you have a friend who doubts the criminal actions of the West in Ukraine, have them read Mearsheimer’s tidy little piece. But in the end he is far from conceiving of a multipolar world or a win-win relationship among nations. So long as his philosophy stays away from that, he will be kept around by the imperial elite and allowed access to its journals. But in the end his philosophy, like that of Hillary Clinton or Dick Cheney, is a threat to world peace.

John V. Walsh writes for the Unz Review,, and He can be reached at

25 thoughts on “Mearsheimer Pins Blame for Ukraine Crisis on US, But…”

  1. Amazing how most western media do not inform their readers of the facts that the Ukraine conflict was planned by the US using the members of the EU as their stooges to jump start their favorite stunt of Regime Change . Putin is no fool . Beware those who under estimate him . European Leaders , in particular , the Polish politicians are suckers ( Monica’s ). They will be the first to get nuked in the event of war . The American public have also been totally blinded by their own media . God bless them all ” the long , short and the tall ” .

  2. Quite surprised that the Ukrainian people are treated by the antiwar left, and by Mearsheimer, as irrelevant, as the mere puppets of Western nations.
    The fact that Ukrainians of every political orientation and of every religion and ethnicity protested, in their millions, for three months over the brutally cold winter, and despite brutal government attacks, including the murder of dozens of people and the hospitalization of hundreds, if not thousands, simply does not register in many leftist, antiwar, and also realist analyses. Whatever role the West played in all of this, no foreign government can orchestrate a protest of the sort seen in Ukraine, one that–in case antiwar readers actually want to know–was lead and driven by the Ukrainian center left. A center left that was against economic plutocrats, government corruption, and foreign domination. For all the talk of “fascists” in Kiev, the right in Ukraine attracted less than 3% of the Presidential vote–far less than in any Western European nation, and far less than in Russia itself, where the far right is actually in power. For all the talk about the fascists in Ukraine, the Russian language is in freer use in Ukraine than in Russia itself, where the free press is now fully extinct. The antiwar left in the United States and elsewhere needs to think more deeply about this conflict and start to actually engage the Ukrainian public, to treat them as the aspiring democrats they are, and recognize, for starters, that they now overwhelmingly in favor of Europe and probably NATO too. One good antiwar policy to advocate in all of this is that Western countries provide massive energy support to Ukraine in the form of energy efficiency initiatives and renewable generation. Freeing Ukraine from Russian dependence on energy would go a long way to bolstering its status as a sovereign, democratic, and peaceful nation.

  3. Whatever role the West played in the Ukraine crisis, it could not have compelled the millions of Ukrainians to protest against their corrupt plutocratic regime for three months, to withstand a brutal winter, as well as brutal, and often lethal, state repression. The international left, the antiwar movement, and also–oddly–the international far right, all treat these Ukrainian protesters as if they are non-entities, not worthy of recognition, let alone dialogue. The irony is that the movement was driven by the Ukrainian center left–it was a movement opposed to the plutocrats, opposed to corruption, and opposed to foreign domination. For all the talk of the "fascists" in Kiev, the Ukrainian far right polled less than 3% at the recent Presidential election–this despite the crisis the country is facing. 3% is far less than the far right polls in any Western European country, and it is far less than it polls in Russia, where the far right is actually in power. For all the talk of repressing the Russian language, Russian is in far freer use in Ukraine than in Russia itself, which has no free press. The international left and antiwar movement is right to be skeptical of US foreign policy but is very wrong on Ukraine. There is a middle ground between the per-emptive strikes of the Bush era and the current advocacy of "do nothingism". Given that Ukraine is a nation striving for democracy and peace against the odds, the antiwar movement should give thought to helping Ukraine overcome one of the key impediments to that end: dependence on fossil fuels from an authoritarian and cynical nation. The antiwar movement should advocate massive initiatives to ramp up energy efficiency in Ukraine and to roll out renewable energy generation. There is plenty of potential for both, and, compared to supporting arms, or to doing nothing at all, it would be well worth the cost.

    1. How conveniently you skirt the issues. You seem to be very educated on all the problems of Russia but the EXACT same things you accuse Russia of can be said about USA.

      USA spent 5 billion to over throw the Ukraine's government. And let me tell you, all thse people in Ukraine protesting were most likely paid to be there. Very easily paid. I'm from Bulgaria and not it is normal to pay the Gypsies to vote for a particular party. It's a well known fact and everyone talks about it but nobody does anything. SO much for "freedom" in EU.

      You talk about the press in Russia but can you point to the "free press" in USA? Just last week it was found out so called "journalist" from the LA Times were checking with the CIA before they would publish an article. SO much for "free press".

      Just by using hollow words such as "democracy" is obvious you are just a shill who is parroting the official talking head points without adding anything.

      1. Actually, I am no shill. I fully agree that current and former US administrations deserve the harsh criticism they receive in many areas of policy. The invasion of Iraq is but one of many. I also agree with you that the US press is far from perfect, and the mainstream outlets are sometimes biased in a systematic way. But the US press is far freer than the Russian press. In any case, I am glad that, in principle, you value press freedom. Regarding the protesters, I have seen no credible report that they were paid. Perhaps some were, but will we ever know? Many opinion polls show, in any case, that an overwhelming majority of Ukrainians oppose the Eurasian Union and want to join Europe. My key point was that it's time we recognize Ukrainians as people, not as the inconvenient inhabitants of important geopolitical turf.

        1. You claim the Us press is freer. Free to lie constantly. The respected Us journalist Seymour Hersh said the whole msm ought to be closed for having lied to the Us people. The Us media constitute just another variant of weapon system. Its use is for propaganda not to inform people.
          According to wellinformed americans the Usa evolved into something more like Georgs Orwells 1984 in particular since 1937!!

          1. Seymour Hirsch, who in the United States is free to speak his mind and has a massive following. name some free Russian newspapers now, would you? And please, tell me who popular bloggers have to register with in Russia. MSN is garbage, but it is but one of hundreds of freely accessible media outlets. No government can legislate for the content of the free press, after all.

          2. Seymour Hersh is not at all free to speak his mind. Why do you think he says those damning words??
            If you think Russia and other countries are less free its because they are threatened to their existence from the Usa. And cia and mi6 etc use all so called liberal media to disseminate aggressive propaganda lies.
            It is a highly asymetric situation. Us/Uk want to subdue the rest in debth slavery an they surround their competitors with miltary bases. All other nations would be content if there were no more Us sponsored regime changes, such as the coup in Kiev.

  4. Three groups run the US – right-wing white christians, zionists, and sold-out Democrats acting as liberals. The first two groups have long and visceral hatred for Russians as a people and as competition. When you consider the vast resource wealth of Russia, they would love to turn it into a disabled child ripe for exploitation by the West. They were heading this direction under Yeltsin, but Russian leadership woke up and put a harder man in control, and the Russian people support him despite his firmness, and why not, when the West continues to provoke him despite our promises that the Cold War was over.

    The West is run by maniacs, drunk on power and money, who will allow noone to compete for their pre-eminence. They are by nature paranoid and thus, endlessly violent. Their insanity is now being matched by their stupidity, and their insane violent bneahvior has been noted by other world powers like CHina, India, and Brazil, who are deeply questioning whether this cabal of freaks in DC and NYC can be trusted, or if someone with more reason will not throw this lot of fascists out of power and install a more reasonable group of people. But of course, two wildcards remain – Israel and Saudi Arabia, and since US foreign policy has to serve those two, no globally rational solution will be found.
    We are at the mercy of a broken death robot, which we can only hope does not kill too many people, when it finally keels over, which it must.

  5. Superb book review that goes beyond review to offer true insight into an imperial culture that one must distance oneself from to ever perceive, let alone understand.

  6. The western powers are increasingly delusional about their 'rightful' place as the ultimate arbiters of global history for the rest of the century and beyond. I recently attended a talk given by members of a think tank at my university that opened my eyes to what may be going on in the minds of western policymakers. Among the ideas floated was a long term plan to neutralize Russia by repeating the demise of the Soviet Union with the Russian Federation. It was asserted that Russia is not a nation but a state ruling a mass of diverse conquered peoples and cultures, all dominated by ethnic Russians from the west of the country. Therefore, Russia is not truly a nation in the same sense as Britain or the US, and observers should view it as a modern Austria Hungary, ripe to be broken up. It was argued that the west should finally embrace the idea of Chechnya, Dagestan, and Ingushetia as sovereign states, empower pro-democracy forces in that region, and aid the Muslims of the Caucasus in becoming independent from Moscow and creating democratic societies on the Turkish model. The Tatars, Bashkirs, etc. were similarly discussed as 'natural' extensions to a Central Asia free of Moscow's influence.

  7. It was said that one could argue there is a historical and cultural basis for a Siberian or Far Eastern nation independent of Russia, as well as a Kuban/Don state, and that such nations would be naturally democratic and pro-western in order to define themselves as non-Russian. Finally, it was proposed that the territories of Ukraine, Finland, and others should be expanded at Russia's expense to reverse historical Russian gains against them. In this view, Russia must be reduced back to "Muscovy" in order to curb its imperialist tendencies, and, of course, keep it a democracy.

    Supposedly, this would also cascade into greater demands for independence in Xinjiang and Tibet, the fall of the Chinese Communist Party, the unification of Korea, and the end of anti-American Iran.

  8. Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point. You obviously know what youre talking about, why throw away your intelligence on just posting videos to your site when you could be giving us something enlightening to read?

  9. I can't fucking understand why nobody ever mentions Thomas Barnett's 2004 Naval War College strategy and book, "The Pentagon's New Map" — which should have more honestly been titled, "The Disguised Global Empire's New Map" to carry-out with a combination of soft and hard super-powers of its American based global HQ, and which is substantially based on the facade of 'humanitarin intervention"??

  10. To Cesare Borgia

    Rubbish. Nobody is out to get Russia. What silly paranoia. The West does not need Russia. Look at the crash in oil and gas prices. However, people are very very worried about Putin and with good reason.

    About empires. First, some facts. The Russian Federation under Yeltsin before Putin's recent aggrandizement was far closer to a true nation state and was mostly a peaceful international actor until the Chechen wars of the 90s. They allowed the Baltic states to secede, Ukraine became free in 1993, central Asian republics also. This was an extension of the fall of the Wall and the freedom of Eastern European countries. And in the early Yeltsin years, Russian Federation was trying to transform itself into a normal nation state and it showed.

    But it IS a historical fact that the Russian Federation is still in part an empire. The Russian Federation is the remnants of the USSR which itself was the remnants of the czarist Russian empire. It is also true that the Russian empire was in no wise a nation state–it was an empire with a core ruling state (Russia)–similar to the Ottoman Empire or the Austro Hungarian empire. All three empires were more or less broken up after WWI leaving their core states Austria, Russia and Turkey as nation states. Like the other empires, Russia shed much of its territory to independent nation states under the principle of national self determination popularized by Woodrow Wilson. The Baltic states, Finland, Poland and Ukraine became independent.

    Russia settled a peace with the Germans at Brest Litovsk in 1918, before the German defeat in November 1918. they initially applauded this principle and their peace negotiations with the Germans and talked about peaceful cooperation with newly independent states.

    That did not last long. The Bolsheviks were wolves in sheep's clothing. After all, the Bolsheviks themselves seized power in October 1917 from democratic coalitiion headed by Kerensky (note NOT from the Czar!! who abdicated already in February 1917) . It did not take long for Lenin to start to reincorporate republics by force. He tried and failed to reconquer the Baltic states in the early 20s.. Stalin continued this practice. He crushed the Ukrainians as a nation with the terror famine of 1933. In 1939 he entered into a non aggression pact with Hitler and as a prize took half of Poland. He tried to take back Finland in 1940–the bitter "winter war". After 1945 with victory in WWII he resurrected much of the old Russian empire from before 1914–taking back the Baltic states, and parts of Poland to incorporate into the USSR, as well as occupying and installing puppet governments in East Germany, Poland, Rumania, Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia, Albania and Yugoslavia. He lost Greece by a hair.

    The single nation Russia IS a nation state. But do NOT think of Putin and his ambitions as legitimate defense of a legitimate nation state or of the Russian people. Opposition to Putin is not opposition to Russia or the Russian Federation as such. Putin behaves like a violent and arrogant emperor abroad. And because of his attempt to retake much of what the USSR lost, the Russian Federation will have an empire's problems with violence and illegitimacy–think of the Caucasus. to the degree the US behaves with violence and arrogance the same is true of them.

    Putin is not Russia! His reckless behavior is wrecking the Russian economy, he is threatening to start an atomic war and generally ruining prospects for peace and prosperity not only for Ukraine but Russia and many other countries. The truth that Russia has a sad history of mistreatment by men obsessed with power–the Mongol hordes, Napoleon, Hitler should not obscure the much greater truth that the Russian people have an even sadder history of exploitation and mistreatment by their own.

    There is no need to stop Russia as a nation. The Russian nation state is not the problem! There is a need to stop Russian leaders run amok. As long as Russian leaders can use the resources of conquered and oppressed peoples including their own, to spread fear and destruction, yes they should be stopped, just as Hitler was stopped.

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